Instagram is a glorious tool for stalking other people's cute baby and cat pics, and it's also really addictive if you like food and food porn. Another thing that one of the fastest-growing social-media platforms is good at: selling stuff! For many smart San Diego retailers, Instagram's become a very popular and useful vehicle for engaging with customers who otherwise wouldn't know where to find them. With real-estate prices what they are, you won't find traditional brick-and-mortar shops for most of the city's most talented designers and small-business owners. What you will find are exclusive sales and promotions, beautiful photos of high-quality, handmade products and even a glimpse into the lives of the people who make our retail scene what it is. Here are some local brands to check out from the comfort of your couch:
Company name: San Diego Vintage
OK, so this relatively new shop specializing in restoring vintage furniture does have an actual store you can go to (605 East Valley Pkwy.), but it's in Escondido! Nobody wants to go to Escondido in a heat wave! Luckily, these photos do this shop justice. If you've ever been interested in seeing before-and-after pictures of beat-up vintage furniture, with emphasis on the beautiful craftsmanship of the aftermath, then consider this your signature furniture-porn brand. Owner Seth Karaein gets his eye for interesting pieces from his days as a TV and film set designer. He's a master of turning vintage throwaways into must-have credenzas and sofas, lounge-y pet furniture and more.
Designer name: Emily Calabro
One of my favorite kitchen tools, unfortunately no longer available on the Internets, is a spoon rest that has a picture of Lionel Richie and the words "Hello, is it me you're cooking for?" Bungalowboo's custom-engraved Walter White (Breaking Bad) cutting board also ranks high on my list, especially because it's made from bamboo (hello, sustainability!). If you have experience in the kitchen, you know bamboo cutting boards are superior: They resist water (and bacteria), are low-maintenance and hold up nicely to even the most intense choppers. Scroll through Bungalowboo's photos, and you'll find that Emily Calabro is wonderfully creative in her designs. Also, enjoy the dog pics. etsy.com/shop/BungalowBoo
Designer name: Marissa Kovach
I.can't.stop.looking.at.these.baby.shoes. I don't know what's better: adoring these moccasins from afar and imagining how cute your baby's little roly-poly feet will look in them or actually squeezing your baby's feet into them and then taking a million pictures and posting them to your own Instagram account. (Obviously, I have plans to do both.) Kovach's Etsy shop says she's on maternity leave, but there may be some baby booties left at Make Good down in South Park. etsy.com/shop/CageandLantern
Company name: Natural Log Skateboards
There's a lot of back-and-forth about whether or not skateboarding is on the decline. You wouldn't know it by looking at what Natural Log Skateboards has to offer. What began as a project on Kickstarter back in 2012 eventually turned into one of the coolest skate shops around. Each one of these bad boys is handmade, hand-lacquered, hand-everything. With clean lines and minimal designs or screenprinting on the decks, they're actually quite elegant. And with beautiful San Diego as the backdrop for many of their product images, the pictures are really fun to look at. naturallogskateboards.com
Got tips on local retail? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @polinjun.