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Poetica finds its community

Traci Teraoka is the proprietor of Poetica Art & Antiques at 3461 Sacramento Street.

Traci Teraoka is the proprietor of Poetica Art & Antiques at 3461 Sacramento Street.


There was no place to put “1,000 Monks.” Artist Andrea Speer Hibbard was frustrated when trying to find a store or a gallery to exhibit the giclee prints of her drawing.

Until she walked into Poetica Art & Antiques on Sacramento Street.

There she found the proprietor, the expansive Traci Teraoka, only too happy to show and sell the luminous work in her store. Hibbard had created the drawing in tribute after her father died in 2001; her son had the original and encouraged his mom to make prints.

The creation was just the right fit for Teraoka’s eclectic and wide-ranging collection of furniture, art and decor at 3461 Sacramento Street. After six years in business, Poetica has drawn a devoted following.

Teraoka credits her lifelong interest in art and community for the shop’s success. As co-head of Healing Environments, a company that designed spaces for the hospitals and hospices, Teraoka devoted herself to the work of comforting the suffering by creating beautiful settings.

“Life is short and can change very suddenly,” she says. “Through the experiences of loss and suffering, beauty and comfort came to be the way I wanted to interact with people.”

After the economic downturn of 2008, Healing Environments closed and Teraoka transformed its space into Poetica and created a business that allowed her to pursue her long-held interest in furniture, antiques and quirky pieces of craftsmanship.

“Since I co-own the building, I had the opportunity to open the store here,” she says.

It’s an intimate space, so she’s demanding about what she displays in the shop. “There are only a handful of people whose pieces really work for the audience I have here,” she says.

Photographs of Poetica by Erik Anderson

Photographs of Poetica by Erik Anderson

Teraoka thinks that the constraints of the San Francisco housing market help her. “Sometimes people find themselves living in cells without much furniture — and God forbid you inherit your parents’ estate,” she says. “I find myself being a kind of furniture counselor sometimes. I help people figure out how they want to live and how they want to make a home. People who come into my shop have an appreciation for beauty, design and comfort.”

While shoppers will find their fill of whimsy in Poetica, people frequently come in looking for a piece with character, a kind of anchor for a home or a room. And they often find what they seek. A large wooden trestle table — old, but reconstructed — recently dominated the shop space. And a massive, glossy Maitland and Smith screen shielded the far corner. Teraoka pointed to a Welsh linen press, which she said she could see “in a very contemporary environment in a room with warm wood.”

Some of the varied and eclectic merchandise comes in on consignment. But, “Send me photos first,” she cautions. She prefers to deal with suppliers familiar with her taste and needs.

“I have a couple of sources who are my pickers — former store owners and designers I knew from my work down the peninsula in the ’90s,” she says. One of them recently sent her a 10-foot by 3-foot Douglas fir table and a French linen daybed.

Frequent customer and neighbor Carol Solfanelli says she saunters into the shop at least once a week, drawn by the store’s warm and neighborly aura. Solfanelli says she bought some of her favorite jewelry there. “I only wish Traci had more merchandise in the $75 to $200 range,” she laments.

On some items, Teraoka is willing to negotiate. Another longtime customer asked for the “best price” for a poufy cushion. They made a deal.

Teraoka is avid in promoting not only Poetica, but all of Sacramento Street. She serves as president of the Sacramento Street Merchants Association and has spearheaded a number of promotions for businesses on the street, including a shopping map for visitors.

Teraoka attributes much of the store’s welcoming aura to her mutt, Huckleberry, who greets visitors and appears to have his own fan club.

“The shop is so much about being a neighborhood shop,” Teraoka says. “People check in every day to hear about what’s going on, to visit Huck. It’s a huge part of what I love about being in a San Francisco neighborhood shopping area.”

Artist Hibbard recalls the time when both she and Teraoka learned of a woman who was grieving her murdered husband. Together they sent the widow a copy of “1,000 Monks” — a poignant reminder of the death of a loved one.

“That’s the kind of person she is,” Hibbard said of Teraoka.