Brindissy Garcia was just a teenager in 1989, when she first arrived in San Francisco from Honduras with her one-year-old son. She dropped out of school, and was too young to get hired. But she needed money.
Someone at a flea market advised that she buy at the Salvation Army and other donation centers, and then turn around those items at a flea market.
She took the advice.
Now she owns Pikitos, a thrift shop at 2336 Mission St., and helped her sister and cousin open two new stores nearby. But she started on the street, she said.
Even when two of her boys were only 7 or 8, they helped her set up the stall in the early morning, and then loaded and unloaded her truck every day.
That truck, full of secondhand objects, was her treasure, she said. She drove it to Oakland, Modesto and Turlock to sell her merchandise. Sometimes she had to get up at 4 a.m. and drive 12 to 14 hours to sell products the next day.
While Garcia never had a chance to further her education, her kids did. Her eldest son graduated from Stanford University and works as a producer; another son is a chef, and another plans to be a fireman. Her youngest daughter is in middle school.
“They have to work for their dreams and then believe in themselves. Everything’s gonna work,” Garcia said. Watching her has made them understand what it takes to succeed. “They’ve been seeing how hard it was at first, especially the first two (children). In the end, when they see me here, they go, ‘wow.’”
By 2013, Garcia had finally collected enough money to settle down in the Mission District and open her own thrift shop, Pikitos. She and her family spent three to four months cleaning the place and pricing all the items.
Nowadays, she wakes up at 7 a.m., and sorts and prices items from 8 to 10 a.m. as she prepares to open the store at noon. Her three older children may come and help her during their free time and ask her to stop worrying about her store for a little while.
But Garcia finds it difficult to simply walk away, even temporarily, from her business. It’s intertwined with her life. When she has free time, she still goes to flea markets to see what people are selling, and sometimes she will stay for three hours or so, selling clearance items. At the end of the day, she gives away what’s left.
At her stores, customers can buy a variety of goods: Clothing, accessories, jewelry, and electronic devices. She selects themed items based on the season, too: She just took down decorations for Burning Man and is thinking about hanging out more Halloween costumes.
In all her three stores, she sets up a dollar rack in front. “We just tried to make it as cheap as we can, to support the neighborhood. Lots of people come and say things like ‘we don’t find $1 jeans easily,’” said Garcia.
The pandemic hit her business hard, and she couldn’t pay the rent on time for almost a year. The building owner let her stay, and promised more time. Now, things are getting better, said Garcia; more customers are visiting. She was glad that Pikitos was chosen as a top thrift store in San Francisco, both by Google Review and Yelp.