SF Boutique, Big Treasures: Alysha Cassis-Shaw, Co-Founder of Concept Forty Seven

Nestled in lower Haight past the hot dog shop there is a lovely store called Concept 47. The pieces are a mix of local vendors and vintage treasures. It was there I found beautiful dangled gold earrings and pieces I wanted to scoop up. Learn Alysha’s journey from NYC to SF and starting her store. 

1. By chance I happened onto your beautiful shop, Concept Forty Seven. What inspired you to open your store in SF? 

To be honest, it was serendipitous. I was interested in opening a shop in either SF or Oakland to house Neutral Ground, my women’s vintage and pre-loved brand, and was putting feelers out there to other retailers. My partners, Stevonne Ratliff and Xiomara Rosa-Tedla had just opened the Concept 47 store in SF and were looking for a partner to round out the selection with clothing and accessories. I’d already gotten to know them both socially and professionally and thought we’d work well together. That it meant we could share overhead, the workload, and collaborate while I “learned on the job” made it a no-brainer. 

2. As the vintage buyer for the store how do you choose what goes into your store? And where do you find such unique pieces? 

Prior to joining Concept Forty Seven, I was very specific about what Neutral Ground would be. The color scheme is neutral with metallics injected for pop. It’s lady-like, feminine and definitely has a dressier vibe. Now that the brand lives in a brick and mortar shop, the vibe really hasn’t changed much. However, the bay area has a much more relaxed vibe to it than NY, so I’ve started injecting a few more casual pieces into the mix so there’s a good approach point. My partners were both familiar with my brand and we all felt the color palette and selection would be pretty harmonious with the leather goods, jewelry, beauty products and lifestyle items they were already carrying. 

As for the pieces, I get them allover. I go to estate sales, flea markets, auctions, wholesale warehouse, thrift stores. I recently started a buying and consignment program so I’m hoping to get a lot more items this way. It’s amazing how many amazing pieces many people have hiding in their attics and closets. 

3. You’re also a designer, will we ever see a Concept Forty Seven line come to life? 

Anything is possible! I definitely think mixing vintage with contemporary clothing is a modern way to dress and I encourage it. Likewise, I’ve had vintage pieces that were to die for and they flew off the shelf immediately. But because they’re vintage they’re one of a kind. Sizing can also be tricky. So being able to make pieces I think would compliment the vintage and then being able to offer sizes and volume on vintage inspired pieces is certainly an idea moving forward. But anything would be under the Neutral Ground brand/moniker so it could even be placed in other outlets, not just C47. 

4. You’re a recent transplant from NYC to SF, what have been the best parts of your move west and what have been the most challenging? 

The best parts have been the weather, the pace and the space! I do not miss NY winters #2017bombcyclone. I also love not being on the NY treadmill. I always felt like I was in a rush, never doing enough or both. Californians simply do not seem to have that gene and that ease wears off on you. And lastly, while this is not an inexpensive market, I really think you get more for your money. I have a garage, laundry, a balcony AND a backyard. These felt like literal impossibilities in NYC.

As for challenges, I miss the energy and spontaneity of NY, as well as, the diversity. NY is going 24 hours a day. Even if my days of hanging out into the wee hours were becoming less and less, I enjoyed having those options.You also often stumble right into them since NY is such a walking town. Things in the bay tend to end a little earlier and the California car culture makes it harder to unexpectedly discover things.  

As far as diversity, I’d say the tech industry and rising costs have a lot to do with that. With tech being a leading employer and it becoming increasing unaffordable to live here, the creative class and lots of people of color are being pushed out. I worry about this area becoming too one note and lacking in cultural diversity. 

5. What are most excited for in 2018 both personally and professionally?  

I  really can’t wait to cement the DNA of Concept 47 in our SF neighborhood. There’s literally nothing like us in our neighborhood so we can be trendsetters, set the bar, and build a great retail community around us. I’m also really looking to take the Neutral Ground brand to the next level digitally. You really can’t compete in retail with a brick and mortar alone. And would it be terrible to say if my professional life improves, the personal only get betters? Becoming a business owner has really given me a sense of purpose. Being my own boss is something I’ve wanted forever.  It’s also a huge responsibility so it makes that private time with my husband, family and friends that much more special. Looking forward to working hard and playing hard. 

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