Denise Gonzales had barely opened her gift and antiques shop, Luz de Luna, three years ago when she got a visit from Anabelle Bolanos, a volunteer with the Lower 24th Street Merchants and Neighbors Association.
Bolanos thought Gonzales should relocate to 24th Street, where she would get more customers. “I said, I can’t do that,” Gonzales said, adding that she didn’t feel ready. But when she saw that a retail space had opened up on 24th Street, she jumped at the opportunity.
Today she’s opening up shop in a 1,200-square-foot space at 3182 24th St. — almost three times the size of the old store.
“It’s huge!” Gonzales said.
The move opens up new opportunities, including access to more foot traffic than on 25th Street. Gonzalez can’t wait to try out bigger displays, and customers won’t be turned away because her shop is too small.
As Gonzales organized her merchandise for the Friday opening, her family kept the boxes coming. They also helped her replace the old tile floor with wood, and wash and paint the walls.
Many friends and customers have also jumped in to help Gonzales open the shop. Local artist Elliott C. Nathan hand-painted the store’s sign. Originally a customer, he now sells wallets and matchbooks of his own design out of Luz de Luna.
Laura Campos, who painted the mural along the shop’s exterior, and Denisse Ogata, who painted the Christian altar at the rear of the store, also got to know Gonzales by shopping in her store.
“Denisse came to buy Buddhas from me, rushed home to get cash, but when she came back she just bought jewelry,” Gonzales laughed.
Looking at the shop’s red and orange interior walls, with ocean blues in the Christian altar, Gonzales seemed happy.
“I love colors. Everything is flowing nicely,” she said.
Gonzalez worked in the medical profession for 16 years and was a nurse’s assistant at Bay Meadows racetrack. When the track closed, she knew she needed a change. Through Luz de Luna, she combined her two passions: helping people and collecting antiques.
Religious antiques are her favorites. Inside Luz de Luna, this is pretty obvious.
At her new location, she has installed shelves at the rear of the store with back-to-back figurines of the Virgin Mary, as well as small, detailed paintings of Jesus. Just next to this, Gonzales has built a Christian altar and a Buddhist one because customers asked her to.
She hopes that she can offer something unique on 24th Street, which she thinks is currently in flux.
“I see more different cultures getting together here,” she said, pointing out Chilli Cha Cha Thai Restaurant and the new Wise Sons Jewish Deli amid a largely Hispanic population.
Luz de Luna has its grand opening party June 15 at 5 p.m., featuring refreshments and live music by local Cuban band Santos Perdidos.