LOCALS | Photographs & Text by Carina Woudenberg
At only 350 square feet, Mureta’s Antiques doesn’t take up much space at 2418 Fillmore, yet the wares inside originate from several continents and span centuries of time, from the Georgian era of the 1700s to the late Art Deco period.
And much of the shop’s contents — from the teacups stacked in the front window to the jewelry encased inside — is sourced from homes right here in the neighborhood.
Gary Mureta, who has owned the shop for 29 years, knew he wanted to be an antique dealer from a young age.
He describes the mother of his best friend in high school, back in Vermont, as “very much into antiques.” Though his friend had little interest in ancient treasures, Mureta says his friend’s mother used to take them to farm dumps to look for discarded old bottles of tonics and cough syrups.
“About three feet through barbed wire and metal parts, and all of a sudden you’d come across a beautiful green bottle that had surfaced for the first time in 100 years,” he recalls.
Mureta would bring the bottles home to his own mother, who loved them so much that she lined them up in a bay-facing window, where they’ve remained for the past 40 years.
When he got to college, Mureta studied liberal arts but yearned to go back to his teenage passion for antiques. So at 21 he dropped out of school and opened a shop in his hometown of Montpelier, Vermont, where he collected New England country antiques that were still in place in nearby Vermont homes and attics. He owned the shop for seven years, and says it provided much valuable learning experience.
After a brief stint in the corporate sales world in New York, the West Coast beckoned.
“I had visited San Francisco 10 years earlier and fell in love with the city, but never dreamed I’d live here,” Mureta says, adding that he’s glad he made the move. “People here love beautiful things.”
In 1983, Mureta was walking the streets of his new city looking for a good place to house an antique shop when he stumbled across a small shop on Fillmore. The business was serving as both an antique store and office space for an interior designer. When Mureta approached, he found the door was locked.
“A woman in her 80s was asleep in a chair in the middle of the room,” Mureta recalls. Startled awake by his knock, she let him in.
When Mureta explained that he was looking for a similar place to house his own antiques shop, she told him they were planning on giving up their spot the very next month. So with little hassle, Mureta got in touch with the landlord and secured the place as his own.
“It’s kind of a wonderful story,” he says.
In the last five years, Mureta has brought in more jewelry — diamonds, rubies, sterling silver, emerald and jade — along with his good friend Adele Pomeroy, who has a long history of working with estate jewelry, and is now helping with the business.
“There’s so much out there,” Pomeroy says. “People in San Francisco have traveled a great deal, so you can imagine what they’ve inherited and brought here over the years.”
“We meet a lot of wonderful people,” Mureta says. “We celebrate a fantastic clientele developed over 29 years.”
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