Shop Talk: Quality Goods And Vintage Finery At Handsome Oxford
Quality over quantity—that’s exactly what Handsome Oxford is showcasing their 300 SQ. FT space on Hyde Street.
Handsome Oxford, to most, is a hidden vintage menswear store collecting on-point selections of decade-specific fashions. It is a well-styled secret hideaway rather than merely a shop. Owner Mark Cruzada maintains a warm and friendly atmosphere that keeps customers returning time and time again.
With a background as both a manager and buyer for companies such as Premier Boutique, LTD Magazine, and 8FIVE2 Distribition, Cruzada has an eye for establishing a successful company - both from a sales and creative perspective.
What makes Handsome Oxford special?
This is my very first brick and mortar business that I opened up on my own. I usually try to start businesses like with other people and stuff, but this one is just like a solo, personal project. Everyone who comes into the shop, its as if you were walking into my home. So it’s just kinda like personal to me.
Where does the name “Handsome Oxford” come from?
The name came from my mom’s dog. My mom’s [dog’s] name was Oxford for three days. After a few days, my mom wanted to change his name and we renamed him Brooklyn. Ten years ago, from 2007 to 2010, I used to run an online shop, called Handsome Brooklyn. Then in 2011, when I started my new business I thought I would go with our dog’s original name, Handsome Oxford.
What do you look for when deciding on the clothes for Handsome Oxford?
When I first opened the shop, the store pretty much carried all American-Made Vintage. Everything was used and Made in the USA. But for the last couple of years, I’ve been stocking a few items of what’s been on trend- a lot of the 80s and 90s clothing (mostly not made in USA). There has been such a high demand for it. However, I’d say 80% of the shop is still American Made. I do also stock my friends’ brands (new clothes). Some are local as: Moon Collective, Leisure Rules, Snack Skateboards, Scribe 44, Muni SF, and, Downtown Book Club. Some are from Japan as: Legalize Tokyo, Peguirang, and Slow Squad International.
Where and how do you find them?
I’ve been doing like road trips and stuff since I graduated from high school. I like to drive all over, so it depends. Sometimes either just drive around California and if I have more time, maybe I fly out of the state and do like a crazy road trip on the East Coast to the Midwest and [hit the] flea markets and garage sales.
It is interesting that Handsome Oxford has a burger place in Nagoya, Japan. What do Handsome Oxford and Handsome Burger share in terms of concept and aesthetic?
Handsome Burger in Nagoya, Japan was actually opened up by one of my best friends whose name is Kentaro Goto. And my buddy Kentaro used to live in San Francisco. [While] the first two years that I had Handsome Oxford, he came to the shop every day and he always told me it was his dream to start his own business. And after two years like helping me but [also] shop[ing] here, he decided to open his burger restaurant because he also fell in love with the cheeseburger while he was living in San Francisco and wanted to take what he learned from San Francisco and bring it to Japan. When he moved back to Nagoya, which is his hometown, he finally opened up a burger shop in 2015 and we created the story, like the idea started from him hanging out at Handsome Oxford and living in San Francisco. So we decided to carry the name to Nagoya. The Interior and that kinda stuff are vintage and Americana [like Handsome Oxford], and it’s cool!
What is the proudest moment you've had at Handsome Oxford?
Oh man! The proudest [moment] is honestly just staying open for almost 8 years! I didn’t really think that I was gonna make it this far. Every year is like a proud moment. And when Handsome Oxford was printed in the NY Times (Thanks Jason Henry).
What is San Francisco/Tenderloin to Handsome Oxford?
I used to live 3 blocks around the corner before I opened up the shop. So I’ve lived and worked in the Tenderloin for a combination of over 10 years. I love everything about this neighborhood, the bars, the people, the food, the noise. It does get a little dirty at times with shit (literally shit) and dodging the needles can get annoying. I think Handsome Oxford fits in perfectly with this atmosphere.
When I first came in, I felt how super friendly you are and you seemed very close to your customers. Who are your customers and how do you describe your relationship with them?
There are a good mix of locals and tourists. Our location isn’t in a heavy foot traffic area so it is definitely more of a destination spot. When I first moved in, I got a lot of local customers, like people who lived in the neighborhood, that changed over the years because people who lived here seven years ago don’t live here anymore. So I get mostly like tourists more than I do locals.
I always just treat everyone as if they were like coming to my house or something, you know what I mean? I always try to be really personable to everyone who comes in. Also, building this kind of relationship, whether they live locally or internationally, gives me like opportunities [to] extend friendship like overseas or in different cities and stuff. It’s really cool just creating friendship, not just a shop. I'm thankful for anybody that steps into the shop- so I always try to get to know everyone who comes in. Why not?
Other than Handsome Oxford, can you share your favorite, secret stores to go to in the Bay Area? We want absolute faves!
I grew up in Fremont. Fremont is not too far from San Francisco and one of my favorite areas in Fremont is a small area called Niles. And it’s a really old part of Fremont that has a lot of antique shops, dive bars and stuff. There is a good pizza spot. You know it’s like one of the stops that I still revisit when I’m in the area. In the city, I like the Pin Lady in the Inner Sunset, Park Life in the Inner Richmond, that was like one of my first stores I went to when I moved into the city. Oh, Kayo Books around the corner is a cool bookstore and they are appointment only.
Being open for about eight years in San Francisco, no wonder why Mark feels such pride. He has been able to keep its presence in this competitive city. Handsome Oxford’s great clothes, sick interiors and warm hospitality certainly draw people in like a magnet and make Handsome Oxford a spot where they want to come back.
// 646 Hyde St, Tenderloin, instagram.com/handsomeoxford; photography by Anthony Rogers.