Less is More: In Conversation with Morgan Mapes
Community Voices is a series shining a spotlight on Black-owned, small businesses in the Bay Area. We talk about the COVID-19 crisis, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and how living simply and empathetically is our future.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your shop?
My name is Morgan Mapes, I grew up in Oakland and I’m a native of the Bay Area. I’m the owner of The Golden Hour in San Francisco on Clement Street and I've lived in San Francisco for about half my life now, I really love it here.
I'm a studied, fine artist. I went to school for architecture and majored in interior design. I started my shop about five years ago, and it was really a passion project of mine. I was working for a design firm at the time and I just really loved the idea of sustainability and creating, recycling and saving pieces that have been so well-crafted. That’s really why I wanted to start this business and my ethos is really based in sustainability. It's really important to me.
We're a vintage shop. We sell vintage clothing, accessories, shoes. I do carry a lot of sustainably sourced baskets and curated Home Goods. We sell a lot of plants. I also carry many local jewelry and handmade Market pieces. I'm really into Artisan work and supporting local businesses, especially women of color owned businesses, queer-owned businesses and locally owned businesses. That's basically the criteria that you have to meet to get a spot in my shop.
What is your business philosophy?
My business philosophy is really just capturing the specialness of pieces. I think vintage is really fun, and it's good for the Earth. One of my favorite Architects Bjarke Ingels has a concept called “hedonistic sustainability” and that’s saying that you can have everything that you want in a really beautiful space and a beautiful way that really focuses on caring for the Earth and sometimes even giving back to the Earth. So you can have a quality piece that has already proven the test of time and has longevity, that's already in existence in circulation, without buying something new off the rack. I think some of the conditions in which people make clothes these days are horrific and horrendous, people are underpaid, and it's really important for me to source those amazing, beautiful pieces that really tell a story, and give a lot of character to your wardrobe.
What challenges have you faced as a small business owner in San Francisco?
The overhead is the biggest one. This is the most one of the most expensive places to live in the world. So we make sure that we strategize to reach our bullet points every single month. Also, this is very casual city and I'm not a super big fan of some of the more casual, common things that you see a lot of people wearing. I think a lot of people rely on that kind of uniform, which is why I integrated different products into my shop in case people aren't always into the clothes. They can pick out a plant or a really cool pair of earrings or some cool cowboy boots for their Halloween party.
What do you love about being a small business owner in San Francisco?
I love the community that exists here. We have such an amazing shop community. I'm the vice president of our Merchants Association here on Clement Street. It’s really fun to do outreach and connect with some of the different shop owners. We get to know the people behind all of the cool shops on this corridor, and I really love that sense of community. I love having a space that feels like it's my own where I can create the environment, I can create the vibe. We have a piano, so we often have Wine and Whitney events, where people will come and do open mic, and sing and we’ll pour wine, and it's just fun for everybody. At the same time, we're selling stuff, so it's wins across the board.
As vice president of the Merchants Association how have you stayed connected with the shop owners on the street during the corona virus shut down?
During COVID-19 a lot of the shop owners have taken a very hard hit. I think everyone in existence is taking a hard hit from this. As a shop owner, my experience has been to diversify my business ¾ to find new ways of selling things and creating that same community that I love so much. What we're doing as a Merchant’s Association is actually creating the Richmond Merchants Cooperative. So that is the Balboa Street Merchants Association, the Geary Street Merchants Association as well as the Clement Street Merchants Association, all coming together to create one big umbrella of the Richmond District.
It's been so cool to really get to know some of these other really cool businesses that I love ¾ the restaurants down Balboa, and the ones that are on the outer side of Clement Street. It's just really fun to create ideas, and to be a united front. Right now, we’re working on a campaign for the Black Lives Movement. It's called Richmond District for Black Lives. I'm spearheading that, and we're just going to create some content and get it out there that we really support this movement as one, and everyone is safe and welcome in our neighborhood.
What do you envision when you reopen The Golden Hour?
We’re going to have a lot more to consider in terms of social distancing and maintaining cleanliness, disinfecting the store after every single person. My mom's a nurse, so I've been disinfecting things my entire life. We’ll make sure there's hand sanitizer available. I moved out all the center racks so that people can move about freely without getting wedged into a small space and allow that required six foot distance. We are going to require folks to wear masks and each time the dressing room is used, we’ll sequester those clothes for 24 hours, steam them out, and then spray disinfectant down the fitting room. We’ll make sure that we wipe down our payment terminal with disinfectant after each use, and then just Windexing the countertop throughout the day, which is something I do every day anyway. We’ll just make sure that the store stays really clean, open, and we limit the amount of people in the store at any time.
How can people shop with you right now?
People can shop with me through my online shop and on our Instagram. We also take part in A Current Affair, which is a huge Vintage Market. It’s the best vintage under one roof, it's amazing. They have something called A Virtual Affair and we’ll be participating in that. I think they're going to start doing it monthly. So that'll be really exciting. You can also shop us on Etsy, eBay, Poshmark, and there's a new, online platform called Neighborhood that's fantastic and carries more of our new, curated products.
Tell us about the events you host at The Golden Hour?
We have a lot of events in the store and I really want to bring together a bunch of different stuff. I just want people around, creating a vibration, creating good energy, getting people's names out there, supporting my friends’ businesses and the people that I support who support me.
We do Marketplaces usually for women, or will have women makers come set up their booths between our photography studio and my shop and we'll blast it on the internet and everyone just comes and shops and it’s so much fun. I don't know when we'll be able to get back to that, probably not until next year, but I'm very excited. We do those with Queer Marketplaces, Women Marketplaces, and we also have a lot of piano events, because I was gifted a piano when I moved and I have a friend who is a pianist, so it worked out really, really well.
Every fourth Friday we do Fourth Fridays on Clement Street. It kind of started as an art walk, but now it's just all the stores stay open late, and we usually serve some sort of cocktail or beer or something delicious and you can just shop the shop. We usually have sales and we always have live music. It's just a vibe and I really can't wait to get back to that.
What would you like to see from large brands and small in terms of supporting Black-owned businesses and the Black Lives Matter movement?
In support of the Black Lives Movement, I think it's really important for people just to have representation and feel like they have a voice. In some of the larger businesses, I'd love to see people of color, a lot more diversity on the boards and in higher positions within these companies. For smaller businesses, I think it's really easy to support a Black-owned business just by supporting that business. Money is power. And where you put that money enables other people to do other things, and live their lives, and also hire people that matter, or that need it. It can change people's lives and it can improve people's lives. So I think seeing representation, and supporting brands is something that consumers can do. And then just getting people in higher power positions to make these decisions on behalf of everybody.
As an ally, I think it's really important for our white allies and non-people-of-color allies to listen and have an open mind. You know, as a queer, Black woman in San Francisco, there's just a lot to think about and it's a burden. So, if we could unburden people of the inequality, I think there'd be a lot more comfort in social spaces.
The Black Lives Matter Movement is at forefront of social issues in every country and most especially in America right now. As a black woman, what does this movement mean to you?
The Black Lives Movement means that we need to finally de-standardize prejudice. It has been ingrained in us through generations. And there's just been A LOT of bullshit. There have been a lot of things that happen to Black people, to queer people, to women, and it seems like a lot of people have gotten out of their oppression… Black people have not managed to do that yet. And because it is such an overt prejudice, it's based on the color of your skin something so out of your control, so it really is unfortunate. I think that there's a lot that we can do in terms of creating opportunities in impoverished communities. There's a big issue around food, which causes a lot of health problems.
There's just a lot.
A lot to uncover and dig up. So we're going to handle it one thing at a time, but I think right now policy needs to change and we need to de-standardize our personal prejudices.
Who inspires you and why in business, activism, life, and politics?
I am inspired by so many people. I would say first and foremost Oprah! She is just the most compassionate and strong. She doesn't take any shit. She is so wise and knowledgeable. She is calming and respected. So, I absolutely adore Oprah.
In terms of activism, I really respect and adore one of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, because he has just taught me so much about life. He's a mixed guy, just like me, and I think as a mixed person, we have this different understanding of race, because we're both, so we get it so much better, but then we don't get it at all, because it doesn't make sense. He says it so eloquently and he really does help people understand, he really acts as a bridge because he's so intelligent and well respected and just easy to understand. He speaks in plain English -- I read all his books, I listen to his podcast. And his newest book, Talking to Strangers, which was about the murder of Sandra Bland, was just really powerful and I think everyone should read it because it really goes into the way that we communicate and how it's so easy to misunderstand one another just based on facial expressions. And how I interpret a facial expression versus how anybody else interprets a facial expression can be two different things, and mean two different things to these two different people. So just basically putting intention behind language and standardizing the way that we treat each other. That’s basically the premise that he teaches and I love.
I'm really inspired by Elaine Welteroth because she is a Bay Area girl, a mixed girl just like me, and she was the first Black editor of Teen Vogue and she's just killing it. She's so powerful and doing her own thing. She just got married in the middle of COVID and she's just living her best life and I love to see it and I hope that one day I'll meet her.
Then my last person I would have to say is Banksy because he just gives zero fucks and he's out of control and I love his creative freedom and that he doesn't follow the rules but he really does have a point of view and I love him.
At AQUIS we go by the philosophy of “Less is More”. What does this term mean to you personally and in business?
The “Less is More” philosophy is really important because America is very consumerist. We are consumers. We consume everything. Everything is Maxi. More. We just buy it all up and there are these big box stores that as long as you're buying, they're going to sell it to us, and it's so damaging to the Earth. We have people working in abysmal working conditions in places that we don't even know about because they hide it from us. I think it's important to have fewer options because then it doesn't take you forever to get ready, like me!
I think buying quality. You don't have to buy so much. Like if you buy one great pair of boots, I wear my boots almost every day. They’re Coach, I bought them new, they were my Christmas present to myself a few years ago, and I've gotten them resoled a few times. But guess what? It's my only pair of Chelsea boots. I don't have to buy anything else, hopefully, for a really long time. Just buy it once, buy quality, and love the things that you have.
Visit The Golden Hour on Instagram @thegoldenhoursf