It all started with a movie.
And it all started over a decade ago.
That’s just one thing that sets San Franpsycho apart from so many other small businesses: Instead of beginning with a business model, it began with a brand.
Christian Routzen grew up in Ventura, California and moved to San Francisco for college, where he became part of SF State’s film program. “I combined surfing and my passion for filmmaking and started shooting all our boys,” he told me.
He pulled all the videos together into a film that debuted to two packed screenings at SF State. “We threw around a bunch of names and the one that stuck, that we all identified with, was San Franpsycho,” he explained.
Then came a sequel … and then came the business.
In 2008, Christian and co-founder Andy Olive got into screenprinting, printing shirts — designed either by themselves of local artists — that reflected the vibe and lifestyle captured in the films, and branding the apparel with the same name.
“We decided to do live printing,” Christian explained. “We wanted it to be a fun experience. So people would bring their shirts to parties, we’d print on them live, and they’d walk away after having a good night and wake up in the morning and go: Holy s**t … this is a rad shirt.”
From there, things snowballed. San Franpsycho went from doing maker festivals to music festivals, from having a van to needing a website to needing brick-and-mortar location … to needing more brick-and-mortar locations. The boys are just now opening their fourth spot, the latest on 31st and Taraval. You can find the others on Divisadero, Noriega and 9th Ave.
“We were busting out of our seams at Noriega,” Christian said.
Andy agreed: “Our printing capabilities had kind of reached their threshold in our old shop due to size of the workspace.”
The whole city considered, all four locations are in a relatively tight cluster — but even that choice goes back to the authenticity and community-focus of San Franpsycho, two cornerstones of its brand.
“People like their neighborhoods and they like to stay and shop in their neighborhoods, so we said, let’s just come to them,” Christian said.
“We were looking into warehouse space throughout the city but a chance to remain in the Sunset arose. We jumped on it in a heartbeat … it's been a dream of ours to stay where the brand was born,” Andy said.
“This is where we started. We surfed. This is where we are happiest,” Christian added.
“San Franpsycho is run similarly to a cooperative; everyone involved with the brand has a say in the direction we go season to season.”
San Franpsycho is a brand that tries to support the local community as much as the local community supports San Franpsycho,” Andy said.
Before It Was Cool is a series showcasing the original San Francisco startup scene. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for ideas & inquiries.