Levi Strauss founded his dry goods company in 1853, after moving to San Francisco from Bavaria. His business became as much a part of San Francisco's hagiography as sourdough bread, cable cars and the 49ers - miners and team.
Upon his death in 1902, bequests from Strauss benefited the Bay Area, serving children and the poor. The company factory built at 250 Valencia St. after the 1906 earthquake and fire is now the San Francisco Friends School. As a testament to the company's progressive bona fides (including a GLAAD award for a Gay History Month ad campaign, "Gay History Is: American History"), conservative radio host Glenn Beck in 2011 called on his fans to boycott the company "for using ... progressivism to sell their products."
Levi's survived and earlier this month opened a new flagship store with a tailoring shop on Market Street, which takes all those San Francisco notions and adds to them. The new store is smaller than Levi's former digs on Union Square, 7,000 square feet of selling space versus 11,000, but with 100 more jobs, according to Lance Relicke, Levi's global vice president, implementation and brand presentation. He said the company is also experimenting with increasing its percentage of U.S.-made items.
The location - at the intersection of Market and Stockton streets - is covered by 17,000 pedestrians per hour. The company's Commuter line of clothes for cyclists gets prominent display, as do its Wasteless jeans, each made with...