San Francisco Clothing Store Closing After 19 Years

A San Francisco women’s boutique clothing store visited by celebrities including Alanis Morissette, Courtney Love and Steven Tyler will be closing its Marina location in October after operating the spot for nearly two decades.

Ambiance owners Donna and Kieran O’Leary have decided to retire after the couple turned 69 years old in January and December. 

Only the Marina location faces closure, which is slated to happen around mid-October, according to a letter the owners sent to the store’s newsletter subscribers.

The Inner Sunset location at 756 Irving St. will stay in business as Ambiance’s only remaining store. The location has been sold to the store manager and Ambiance’s director of operations. New co-owner Gwen Lee-Rios declined to comment when reached by phone due to the store being too busy.

San Francisco women’s boutique Ambiance has sold women’s clothing since 1983, operating six stores in that time. The Marina location, pictured above, will close in October. | Source: Donna O’Leary

Both locations will have blowout sales—starting with 25% off everything in the store. The sales will be exclusive to subscribers on their first days. After that, the sales will open to the public, and prices will continue to drop until everything is sold, the letter to customers said. 

The Inner Sunset store’s sale starts Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., while the Marina store sale begins Sept. 14.

Donna O’Leary said she was relieved to step back, but called the departure bittersweet.

“People think it’s glamorous because it’s fashion, but retail is a lot of work,” O’Leary said. “It’s time for a new generation to take over.”

O’Leary said she doesn’t know the new owners’ plans for the Inner Sunset store, but whatever direction they take, she hopes they will continue the store’s practice of offering fashion advice, which she calls key to good customer service. 

“They’ve got to stay true to Ambiance,”  O’Leary said. “The name means something to San Francisco.” 

Ambiance, a San Francisco legacy business, had multiple locations over its 40 years of serving San Francisco, first opening in Haight-Ashbury at 1458 Haight St. in 1983. A second store opened in Noe Valley on 3985 24th St. in 1999 before moving up the block in 2014.  Stores in the Marina and Inner Sunset followed in 2002 and 2011. The O’Learys took over ownership in 1996 from founder Gloria Garret.

The store is known for its vintage-inspired clothing and accessories including purses, blouses, jackets and dresses.

The original Haight Street store saw its share of celebrity visitors.

O’Leary remembers Steven Tyler’s visit, which she said happened in the early 2000s when Aerosmith was in San Francisco for a concert. She said the rock starr signed autographs and took pictures with fans.

“He was the biggest sweetheart,” O’Leary said.

Alanis Morrisette also shopped there several times throughout the early 2000s, often when she was playing in San Francisco while on tour, according to  O’Leary.

“She would just stand in line like a regular customer,” O’Leary said.

The original Haight Street store closed in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic, but  O’Leary said she is glad at least one store will carry on.

“I’m really glad Ambiance will carry on in San Francisco and make women beautiful,” she said.

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