Our Favorite Shops in Sausalito
When I was dating my wife and I brought her home to meet my parents, one of the first places I took her was downtown for lunch and window shopping in Sausalito. We had to stick to window shopping since we were fresh college grads with student loans to repay, but a week later we were discussing marriage.
It’s been a few years since we tied the knot and I certainly can’t promise the same results to everyone who goes window shopping in Sausalito. Nevertheless, this remains a really fun place to wander shops and spend a day.
Even though we’ve lived in three different Sausalito neighborhoods and I’ve spent most of my life in the area I often find fun new items to admire.
This page represents the collected personal opinions of our editorial team on shopping in Sausalito, both for visitors and for locals. We made a list of everyone’s favorite places, then debated which to include and organized the choices by neighborhood.
If you’re shopping for wine we have a separate page devoted to wine tasting here, and if you’re looking for information on Art Galleries, click here. You can also click here for Grocery Stores and Markets.
If any of the stores we mention here (or anywhere else on this site) are advertisers or sponsors of OurSausalito.com we’ll note it in the listing.
If you’re looking to buy anything other than food almost all of Sausalito’s stores and shops are located in the three contiguous neighborhoods in the center of the city: Downtown near the ferry pier, to the south of Downtown along the Bridgeway Promenade, and to the north of Downtown in the area around Caledonia Street.
There are two special case exceptions to this shopping geography rule:
1. The Cavallo Point resort has an interesting shop called Mercantile, with a small Art Gallery where (among many others) they’ve exhibited the photography of OurSausalito.com Sr. Contributing Editor Sabine Stetson. Their art exhibits are each in turn very different from the prior one and they rotate their stock seasonally, which makes it an interesting place to stop by if you’re in the GGNRA or dining at Murray Circle or stopping for a drink at Farley Bar. The staff members are pleasant and welcoming, a nice break from some resort stores in other cities where the associates turn dour when you fail to ask them to demonstrate a 14 carat gold pen or a Swiss watch.
2. In the Marin City and Pohono St. área at the northern edge of Sausalito we have a regional shopping center that focuses on discount or value-based retail chains. Current anchor tenants are CVS drugs, Dollar Store, West Marine and Ross Discount Department Store. For routine items or things you forgot to pack this is where you’ll find the lowest prices in Sausalito, but everything you find here could also be found in Anaheim, Atlanta or Albany. Note: Best Buy and Babies R Us were previously anchor tenants here but have now closed.
3. They sell by appointment only, but Bob and Rosemary Tapia of The Tapia Gallery are a Sausalito institution. They have owned their own gallery where they sell their work here for over 40 years, which has to be some kind of record in the flighty world of selling original fine art. We own several Tapia paintings that grace the walls of our home.
We’ll break down the rest of our shopping suggestions by neighborhood, going from south to north, to facilitate your search if you’re exploring Sausalito as you read this on your phone or tablet.
This area of magnificent views and a pathway by the Bay is Sausalito’s traditional “Picture Postcard” location. The area of Bridgeway south of Princess St. holds several traditional souvenir and clothing shops on a long block dominated by restaurants, but some shopping treats are present here as well.
Venice Gourmet has been operating in Sausalito for about 50 years. The best way to describe it is to say that “Venice Gourmet is what you’d get if you crossed a classy deli with a wine shop with a boutique cooking-gadgets-and-decor-store.”
I admit that I often wonder at the incongruous mix of items on the shelves here, which range from the same basic kitchen tool I could buy at a market to the utterly unique. Every time I come here for a sandwich I’m vulnerable to falling in love with some new tool or exotic treat. Steel barbecue skewers with kangaroo shaped handles that draw comments from friends when you’re grilling. A scottish meat marinade with ingredients I’ve never heard of before. A dog-sculpture-wine-bottle-holder that looks like Miss T. that I’ve never seen anywhere else. Not every visit yields a new gem, but I have no idea what they’ll have in there the next time I walk in.
That — and the Italian Special Sandwich served by really nice people — are what keep me coming back.
Sausalito Ferry Company — Yes, they do sell ferry Clipper Cards here, but that’s the name behind which their secret identity lies! This is a hidden gem in Sausalito. People walk by the window and assume it’s a cross between a novelty store and a souvenir shop, but they’re wildly wrong. It’s one of the most diverse tiny toy shops I’ve ever encountered. If there were such a thing as a zillion vareties of something I think they’d have it. Some Japanese imports and anime style items. We lost long-time local retail treasure the Pinestreet Papery a few years ago, and this remains one of the few places I know anywhere that produces what Pinestreet did: regular moments of surprise and joy.
Games People Play — From the outside I think people sometimes mistake this place and think it’s just another tourists shop. It’s definitely not, and the best way to describe it as the toy store you’d go to if you were tired of Toys R Us. Games, toys for kids, little gifts, and lots of inexpensive little trinkets that are nevertheless “not the usual stuff.” A few predictable local items should not discourage you from checking this place out.
This neighborhood is focused on serving local customers, which at the height of the summer travel season sometimes feels necessary as downtown Sausalito fills with visitors and the sidewalks grow crowded.
This image of Caledonia St. as a secret local haven was so strong that for a generation in the 1980’s and 90’s its location was removed from visitor maps of Sausalito to “preserve an authentic, year-round small town retail district.” Of course, the move gained so much publicity around the country that “the secret street no one wants you to find” probably aroused more interest than it suppressed!
That interest did not turn into revenue for the local businesses, however, so after 20 years or so the secret existence of Caledonia St. once again was confessed to the world by Sausalito. No busloads of tourists have yet savaged the area and it remains possible to walk on the sidewalks without being trampled so it appears we’re all safe for now.
That said, we occasionally have local friends joke with us about how OurSausalito.com is breaking the Sausalito Code of Silence by writing about all the fun things to do on Caledonia St, So just keep it to yourself, please, and don´t mention where you heard about it!
Apart from art galleries and restaurants, bars and delis, much of what you find in this area are everyday services like dry cleaners, a hardware store, hair and nail salons and an organic market.
Some of our editors’ favorites are:
Driver’s Market — This spot on Caledonia was the location of a natural foods store for many years, and when that business closed there was a spontaneous wave of support from the community for a similar small locally-owned organics-focused “alternative to big box Whole Foods” store in the same location. The result was Driver’s, which is a cross between a modern farm-to-table food store and a throwback community gathering spot. This is probably the most likely place in town for you to see one or another of our editors.
Studio 333 — This entrepreneurial operation is part antique store, part art gallery, part bead and jewelry store, part ephemera shop, and sometimes the discoveries you make here will be very interesting. A number of part time and full time dealers show their wares here, and on different days you´ll see very different ítems.
Waterstreet Hardware — Water St. is a Sausalito institution, and since they´re part of the Ace Hardware network the prices are held down by the volume purchasing power of that retail group. This store is not very big, but they somehow pack an immense variety of hardware, home and even kitchen items into that small space. One time I had to go into San Francisco to buy an oversized porcelain clad stock pot for the Holidays, which I could not find in Marin County. A few days later I was in Waterstreet for something and what do I see, high up on a shelf The same big pot and at the same price. Adults who grew up in Sausalito remember the coin super-glued to the front doorstep, which many a child tried to pick up only to discover its true condition. A full sized statue of a grizzled prospector still guards the front door.