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Cesar Avila, 26, started selling clothes at Dolores Park in 2022. He’d break out a table with a stack of folded clothes and yell, “$10 a bag of clothes! Fill your bag ‘til it breaks!”
Today, thanks to Mission Economic Development Agency’s small business incubator, Avila has his own shop, called Bay Area Revives. The store is ideally located, with two big street-facing windows, at Plaza Adelante, right at the corner of 19th and Mission streets.
Saturday is the shop’s grand opening party, with homemade pupusas, horchata from scratch, Salvadoran chicken sandwiches, champagne and a keg from Ghost Town Brewing.
When Mission Local visits Bay Area Revives, the grinning, animated Avila is wearing head-to-toe 49ers. “My whole room is filled with Niners,” he says, picking up a baseball hat from a rack packed with San Francisco gear.
Bay Area Revives is cozy and well-organized, filled with hand-picked used and vintage clothes, and everyday pieces like business-casual button-downs, knit halter tops and old Levi’s.
Even though Avila’s moved operations off the street, clothes in the store are still a steal. The motto, says Avila, is “browse, pack and snap — $20 a bag. In Spanish, it’s ‘buscar, empacar y apretar.’
“For me, it’s a solution to poverty and pollution,” says Avila. “I want to keep apparel accessible to everyone and anyone.”
It’s a family affair: during our conversation, Avila’s girlfriend, Raquel, is pasting the logo onto one of the windows. Avila’s 20-year-old brother, Moises, arrives and joins in.
The shop’s mannequin, Linda, has a cute outfit on, looking brunch-ready. “She doesn’t have arms, but it’s okay. Linda’s still swaggy,” Avila says with a nod.
Avila, who lives in Oakland, got started thrifting as a kid growing up at 16th and Valencia streets. His parents, who immigrated from El Salvador and Nicaragua, would take him and his younger twin brothers to the Oakland Coliseum swap meet to sell clothes.
Avila’s parents have a classic San Francisco love story; they met on a Muni bus. “My mom asked my dad what time it was, and he thought that meant she liked him.”
Their first date was at the old Burger King at 16th and Mission. They both got whoppers, and the rest is history.
At the Coliseum swap meets, young Avila got the hang of negotiating and sales, talking to all kinds of shoppers and making the stacks of used clothes seem worth their weight in gold.
“These are pretty saucy,” Avila says, pulling two raincoats off a rack and holding them up. They would, indeed, be stylishly appropriate for that day’s downpour.
According to Avila, the current trend is an artful blending of styles from different periods. “It’s reviving; putting together random stuff.”
Every week throughout his upbringing, the whole Avila family would make the rounds at thrift stores all over the Bay Area — Goodwills around Alameda County, Community Thrift on Valencia, 25-cent bags of toys every Friday at the old Thrift Town at 17th and Mission streets.
Since then, Avila has become a pro thrifter, and he loves it. “I go crazy. The Goodwill at 35th and MacArthur? That’s my spot. The best stores are on the borderlines,” he says, explaining that shops on the edges of neighborhoods usually have the best clothes for mixing and matching. The MacArthur Goodwill he’s referring to is right between the Oakland hills and Fruitvale, so a good range of clothing will be donated.
“I was made fun of, growing up,” says Avila. “They’d say, ‘Where’d you get your sweater? At Goodwill? Hahaha.’ What now? They’re laughing with me; they want my stuff.”
With a space in MEDA’s incubator, Avila is “bouncing off the walls every day,” excited to get his own business going and to do something he truly loves.
Although Bay Area Revives “doesn’t feel like work,” Avila is still holding down a full-time job at Ghost Town Brewing in Oakland to help pay the market-rent rate MEDA charges. The organization does offer him much-needed support, like grant assistance and small-business workshops.
Once he makes it big, Avila hopes to get out and thrift for his community. “I want to hit foster cares. I want to hit schools, and just show up and say, ‘fill up a bag.’”
Bay Area Revives’ grand opening is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at 2301 Mission St., Suite 301A. Clothes are $20/bag. Follow the store on Depop and Instagram @bayarearevives.
What a great concept! Love this guy and his outlook on life. Good luck buddy with your new shop
It makes me happy to know that a young man with compassion for people in need is making headlines from the Mission ! Excited for what the future brings him !
New Interesting clothing store, can’t wait to check it out and only few blocks away on my same mission street
Muchas felicidades y que siga para adelanté