I expected San Franpsycho’s store opening to be mellow. But when I arrive, there’s a line that goes halfway around the block, and the store doesn’t open for another 15 minutes. It’s not like we’re talking about a new iPad at an Apple Store. And 50 people are lined up. What the hell is going on?
When I finally get inside, the store is packed to the gills with people milling around. I can see that Andy Olive is stunned. “Dude, this is gnarly,” Andy tells me with a grin. Pretty much everyone who surfs Ocean Beach knows Andy. He’s tall and has a curly red Mohawk/Afro/mullet and a mustache, and he teaches at the cooperative nursery school on the Great Highway. And he is half of the team at San Franpsycho.
Christian Routzen, the other half of the brand, is working the register. The party goes late, and the place is packed with hipsters, surfers, old people, dogs, you name it. I stop by the next day to say hi, and Christian is just where I saw him the night before – behind the counter, and still a bit stunned. “I never left this spot, the whole night,” he says. “People just kept coming in.”
San Franpsycho is a lifestyle brand that Christian, Andy, and a bunch of their buddies conceived about 10 years ago. It sprung out of a tight-knit crew of regular Ocean Beach surfers – guys who surf hard and party without restraint. Christian got the idea to make a movie about the group’s antics, showcasing everything from aggressive surfing to drunken brawls to running every stop sign in the Sunset. To properly glorify their young, thrill-seeking lives on the western fringe of San Francisco, they needed a name. They co-opted a line they heard from a local rapper, and San Franpsycho was born.
Christian screened their movie San Franpsycho at San Francisco State in 2002, and it was a huge hit, with standing room only and a second night added to accommodate demand. They followed up with a sequel, aptly subtitled San Franpsycho 2: Wet and Wreckless, and started to think they might actually have a viable brand on their hands, sort of like San Francisco’s equivalent of Zoo York.
“As a crew, we were partying anyway,” Christian explains. “But we realized, ‘hey, maybe we can do something with this name.’ Beyond just throwing parties, let’s learn to silk-screen, and make shirts at the parties we throw.” Andy and Christian took their equipment, friends, and bravado out to bars in the city to silk-screen shirts, on the spot, right off the backs of the people wearing them. When you host a party, and attractive girls willingly take their shirts off for you to silk-screen, you know you’re doing something right.
What started out as unofficial parties at bars grew into something much bigger, and quickly: the first step-up was street fairs, then music festivals, then they bought and painted a van, and then they opened a storefront in North Beach at 1314 Grant Street.
As the brand grew, its values shifted, too. “The more I became involved in San Franpsycho, the more people I met,” Andy tells me. “And the more I found that I love San Francisco. When you encompass the community, the brand sort of builds itself around the communal love that is part of this city.”
A huge part of the brand’s re-imagining came from Andy’s second job as a teacher at the Sunset Co-op Nursery School. Andy says that meeting the parents of his students, many of whom were surfers that he might otherwise vibe out in the water, had a huge impact on rethinking his concept of community. “I realized how much more beneficial it is to be cool with everyone, rather than just your local crew of boys.”
No anecdote tells the story of San Franpsycho’s transformation better than a run-in Andy once had with Bobby Truelove, one of the original Kelly’s Cove local boys. They were locked in a silent, unfriendly détente – a classic case of the old guard and new guard of surfing not seeing eye to eye. One day in the parking lot, Bobby was suiting up and called Andy over to him. “I’m a surfer, and you’re a surfer. Aloha. Even if we don’t get along, we’re still of the same tribe.”
Andy went home and made a San Franpsycho design out of Bobby’s saying – “I’m a surfer, you’re a surfer, aloha” – and the brand’s ethos has followed suit ever since. They now silk-screen onesies for kids, sponsor beach cleanups, and fundraise for local organizations like Surf For Life. They used to stand out in a crowd for their debauchery. Now people know them for stunts like the impromptu, 200-person group hug they started at the Treasure Island Music Festival in 2011.
The new storefront at 505 Divisadero, at Fell Street, is sort of a crowning moment of the brand’s transformation. Andy calls the new store “The Mother Ship,” a place where they can silk-screen in the open (rather than in Andy’s basement like they’d been doing for years), and showcase the craftsmanship of many of their friends from the city. “We want this place to be a hub for creativity,” Andy says. “I see it as a stop for bicyclists on the way from the Mission to Ocean Beach, and a place for communities to mesh.”
Andy, Christian, and a friend named Jon Carr built most of the store themselves, tapping into the popularity of wood finishing, and complementing it with an industrial feel. The racks are full of San Franpsycho shirts, jackets, hats, and bags, and sprinkled throughout is the work of some of their friends, like jewelry by Adrienne Moore and Bryna Bags.
The main attraction is the massive silk-screening setup that’s behind the counter. It’s almost like a merry-go-round, with up to six designs secured onto arms that reach out of a central axis (and yes, it spins). While I was hanging out at the store, a customer had his heart set on a specific design that he couldn’t find in a size medium, so Andy found a blank shirt in the back and printed it for him while he got his hair cut nearby.
“I don’t think we’ll do too many custom shirts on the spot,” Christian tells me as Andy is screening. “It’ll be sort of like In-N-Out. If you don’t know about Animal Style, you just get what’s on the menu. Same thing here. What’s out front is what we have, but if you know to ask, there might be more.”
They seem happy and at home amidst the buzzing energy on Divisadero, although it’s much harder to find parking for the van in the Haight than it is in the Outer Sunset. Andy recently decided to leave his work at the preschool to focus solely on San Franpsycho, which means he’ll be less visible in the neighborhood he calls home. But he realizes the importance of Ocean Beach. “We’ll stay involved at the beach and in the surf community,” Andy says emphatically. “Even if things get busy, we need to make time for ourselves, and to surf, so we can stick to our roots.”
Granted, San Franpsycho’s roots were nourished with alcohol, and not just the ocean’s salty water, but the boys are all grown up now. And they readily admit that. “We’re not 22 anymore,” Christian says sheepishly.
San Franpsycho’s new store is located at 505 Divisadero Street, and is open 11–8 Monday–Saturday, 11–5 on Sunday. They also have a shop at 1314 Grant Avenue in North Beach. Andy and Christian are a permanent fixture at almost every major festival in the city, from Bay to Breakers to Outside Lands. Just look for the van and the red Afro/Mohawk.