Indie Interview: Deborah Genet, Chrissy Bee

Just in time for le weekend, we’ve got a dose of indie reading material that you don’t want to miss. Miss Deborah Genet was kind enough to bestow her words of wisdom upon us, and, for that, we are grateful. How else would be know that Kiera Knightly was recently boozing it up in San Fran? Or that 80’s shapes kinda suck (okay, most of us already know that)? But we (yes, the royal we) digress.

Genet, who owns Haight shop Chrissy Bee with her longtime pal Anya Zebroski, gives us the lowdown on the store and how went from a space with dungeon-like qualities to the super cute venue it is today. Read on for an update on current designers and, bien sur, the trunk show this weekend.

Vital Stats

Name: Deborah Genet

Company: Chrissy Bee Boutique & Gallery, 622 Shrader St, SF. (415) 221-3020

Opened: August 28, 2006

Why is the store named Chrissy Bee?

Christine Genet, a.k.a. “Chrissy” is part of the name sake of Chrissy Bee. Chrissy was my stepmother and one of the most amazing people I was blessed to know. Chrissy fought a courageous battle with lung cancer which eventually took her life in the spring of 2006. To honor the memory of Chrissy and carry it on into the future, we (myself and co-owner Anya Zebroski) decided to combine the names of Brooklyn a.k.a. Bee (Anya’s daughter) and Christine, therefore merging the past with the present and future into the name Chrissy Bee.

You’re at a cocktail party, and you start talking to someone who’s never been to your store. What do you tell them?

I’d tell them about all the designers we carry and how we strive to find labels that aren’t already represented in the Bay Area. I’d mention all the local jewelry designers we work with and how a lot of the pieces we help co-design so you won’t find someone else rocking the same piece as you. And then I’d invite them to come to one of our monthly art openings, because they are always fun and who doesn’t appreciate a free cocktail?

What led up to you and co-owner Anya’s opening the store? How did you get where you are today?

Anya and I have been friends for a long time. Anya has an extensive background in retail management, working in the industry for 10+ years managing local San Francisco boutiques, but my background is in art history. A little more then a year ago, we started talking about going into business together, opening a small boutique and gallery merging both of our interests. We were both ready to channel our efforts into something for ourselves, and we were kind of in a “now or never” mindstate. It seemed more like a dream than a reality until we came across the 622 Schrader Street location. Two days after seeing the space, we signed the lease on June 1st 2006, marking the beginning of Chrissy Bee.

What part of the store are you most proud of?

This might sound kind of crazy, but really it’s our back storage area (that our customers don’t see). When we got the space, it was a dirty, dark dungeon back there. We spent a lot of time gutting and cleaning it out and turned it into a cozy hangout for us to do office work in or for Brooklyn to hangout and play downstairs when she’s at the shop. She even has her own bed back there and a TV to watch her favorite movies on.

Tell us about the designers and labels we can find at Chrissy Bee. Any locals?

Like I mentioned before, we strive to present different and local labels here at the shop. For instance we work with local designer Josh Podol and carry both his women’s and men’s lines. Gytha Mander is another local favorite for amazing menswear. And of course we carry Orange Button designed by local Wendy Wagner. We just got back from market and found some insane European labels like Lundgren & Windinge that we are excited to be carrying in the shop. But we also carry lines like Saint Grace and LA Made that we consider “staples.” Our denim lines Freedom of Choice and Denim of Virtue are amazing. I can find a pair that will fit just about any body type, and we also offer free pant hemming with any denim purchase (added bonus).

If I walked into the store tomorrow, slapped $50 down on the counter and said, I need to spend this, like, right now, what item would you suggest?

I’d probably show you the Erica Weiner jewelry and chances are you’d walk away with her bee necklace that sells for only $33 bucks. We blow them out of here…they are insanely cute, and you can’t beat the price.

Your fashion icons:

I hate this question…everyone always says the same things: Audrey, Jackie, Kate…

I credit my aunt Dale Goodman for buying me my first pair of designer jeans and introducing me to the world of contemporary designers. Dale always looks chic, and put together in a Miami sensibility way.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve witnessed in the Haight since opening?

I ran into Keira Knightly at the liquor store the other day. I invited her to our next opening.

What’s the most challenging aspect of running your own boutique?

Having to know and do a bit of everything, from marketing, advertising, book-keeping, customer service, chasing down vendors, sourcing new lines etc… I mean it feels crazy sometimes. Like the amount of work is never ending and always changing, but luckily I have Anya to help, too.

What advice would you give others who want to open their own boutiques?

Pick a location where you feel confident about understanding the market needs there. Oh yea, and find a good accountant!

If you were an article of clothing, what would you be?

Hmmm, probably a boldly-patterned silk shirt-dress piece.

The trend you like the most right now:

Billowy shirt dresses

The trend you hate:

80’s inspired prints and cuts. Get over it, it was bad then and it’s still bad now.

Really important question. Tupac or Biggie?

My loyalties to the West Coast make me say Tupac. But I still love Biggie’s Ready to Die album. I used to play that track “Juicy” over and over again in my dorm room. But Tupac’s “California Love” is like a personal anthem.

What item of clothing have you owned the longest?

I still have my old camp t-shirt from sleep away camp like a bazillion years ago. I still think it’s cool and rock it every once in a while. it’s like one of those ringer style tees with contrast stitching.

Tell us about your upcoming trunk show:

I think it’s going to be really great. We are having local designer Wendy Wagner of Orange Button & Accessory designer Cara Lyndon showing their new spring collections here at the Bee on Sunday, April 1st. We really love these girls and have worked with them since the beginning. They have a way of taking something basic and making it desirable and special. Plus our store events are usually a blast because our customers know how to have fun and enjoy a good party. Once we get the champagne flowing, it always turns into a special event.

What else is on the horizon for you and your store in 2007?

We are just going to keep moving forward and try to consistently outdo ourselves. We want to throw even better events, find more unique designers and strive to establish our presence in the San Francisco fashion world. We are working on our first Chrissy Bee label products and hope to have them in the shop soon.