A sale rack at Weston Wear to entice the frugal shoppers who were prevalent this holiday season.

It was a frugal holiday season in the Mission, but after a rough year for local stores, even frugality looked good to shopkeepers. Bicycle shops didn’t sell bicycles and furniture stores didn’t sell furniture, but everyone sold accessories or knickknacks, either inexpensive or discounted.

The Mission Holiday Block Party and the days before Christmas brought more traffic to suffering art galleries, and boyfriends and husbands searched for cheap jewelry, perfume and cutesy stocking-stuffers at boutiques, merchants said.

On 24th Street, Minxy optimistically put a shiny blue party dress in the window for New Year’s Eve, but sold mostly $20 necklaces throughout the winter. Another clothing boutique, Sunhee Moon on 16th and Albion, had luck with unique jewelry pieces made by local artists and basics like purses and scarves, said shopkeeper Amanda Maldonaldo.

To sell new clothing, discounts had to be involved. Weston Wear on Valencia offered 20 percent off everything during the Mission Holiday Block Party, and will offer up to 30 percent off in January. Apparently, many women are wearing the same red dress in the Mission, Weston’s most popular item.

These cardboard trophy animal heads were the most popular items at Therapy’s home store.

A few doors over, Therapy‘s home store didn’t move much furniture, even though the entire store is 20 percent off. But one odd item was a hit — cardboard trophy animal heads, priced from $12 to $52.

Among the vintage shops, where discounts need not exist, people came to find very specific items or seasonal wear. Women came into the girly Idol Vintage clothing shop on 16th near Guerrero — to buy ties for their dads. The only thing that surprised shopkeeper Steve B. was that everyone wanted a retro Christmas sweater. “Those sold so…fast! We priced them pretty high, too.”

Although no one was left out in the cold this holiday season, only two shops described it as their best.

One was Dog Eared Books, at Valencia and 20th streets. “It was the busiest Christmas since I can remember,” said employee John Wolfe. People bought “Just Kids,” by Patti Smith, and Mark Twain’s autobiography. “We have a lot of sale cart books, and those tables were barren,” said Wolfe.

The other successful shop, Mission Bicycle Company, is considering hiring another employee if sales keep up. It didn’t sell many bikes for Christmas; instead, people bought bicycle accessories for their friends — like $8 bicycle mustaches. “They’re handmade, and they’re pretty funny,” said manager Jefferson McCarley.

ArtZone hung a Christmas tree from its ceiling and sold a robot painting.

Still, Mission skateboards sold better than Mission bicycles, as parents and kids spent their Christmas money at Mission Skateboards at 24th and Treat streets. Each complete skateboard is $100. The store also sold 12 of its $20 “Mission Ultimate Stocking Stuffer” bags, which include a shirt, a skateboard magazine, a skate video and stickers. That may not sound like a lot of sales, but “it’s a lot for our store,” said owner Scott Thompson.

It was a decent month for art, after a bad year.

For Christmas, ArtZone 461 on Valencia Street sold a $5,500 painting of a robot. It had been significantly marked down, but even so, increased foot traffic after the Mission Holiday Block Party has partner Steven Lopez energized. He’s looking forward to next month, when he’ll be showing smaller, less expensive pieces he expects will appeal to more buyers.

The gallery is “out of resources,” said Lopez, so he is selling some of his family heirlooms as financial support. “I could give them away when I die, but I’d rather use them to help my gallery,” he said.

Junko Van Norman’s work at Artist-Xchange. Empty spaces were occupied by paintings that sold for just under $40.

The outlook for art was even dimmer on 16th Street.

December, always “a good month” for Artist-Xchange gallery, came too late. Over Christmas, owner Scott Mitchell decided that the last day of the year would be the gallery’s last day in business. Everything was 25 percent off, luring many visitors to eye its $100 to $500 pieces.

But the paintings people actually bought were $40 to $80. Junko Van Norman‘s tiny paintings of female figures and animals flew off the walls. “I think we had to call her three times and ask her to refresh her wall,” said Mitchell. “She was really excited.”

An empty-handed customer paused on her way out of Artist-Xchange in its final hours on New Year’s Eve. “I feel kind of sad,” she said to Mitchell. Walking away from the gallery this holiday season is a strange feeling for Mitchell, too, after putting in “seven years without a vacation.”

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J.J. Barrow began reporting for Mission Local in 2010. She once rode the 49 Van Ness-Mission for six hours straight while the rest of the city tuned in to the World Series — until revelry ended the route. She misses hiding in Guerrero's quiet Cafe Petra (now defunct) to write.

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  1. Although it’s very sad to see Artist-Xchange go, I can definitely see that things are improving. Many are embracing the fact that we all have to work smarter and harder to sustain that which we hold dear and there’s more than enough passionate, positive energy to go around.