10 Awww-Inducing Love Stories From S.F.'s Cutest Creatives

Us S.F.-dwellers are obviously head over heels for our stellar supply of shops and restos. And how sweet is it that some of the powers that be behind some of the coolest local companies are actually in love with each other? To warm your heart this Valentine's Day, we've gathered 10 of our favorite creative couples and asked them to share their totally awwww-inducing love stories. From the dapper fellas behind Unionmade to the curio-curators over at The Curiosity Shoppe and General Store, get to know all the happy pairs after the jump, including how they met, what makes them click, and where they like to hit the town come date night. Seriously, it's all so sweet it'll have you believing in cupid.
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Serena Mitnik-Miller and Mason St. Peter, owners of General Store

How did you meet? Mason: “We met through our mutual admiration of the ocean and of surfing. At the time, Serena was working at a local surf shop, Mollusk, and I kept coming in to 'see if there were any new boards for sale.' Ha!”

Was it love at first sight? “It was for me, but Serena didn't know I was interested. I had to make some changes to my life before we could make things happen and so I did and then the love came.”

Did either of you use a pick-up line? “If ‘Hey, I have a crush on you’ is a pick-up line then, yes. I'm not very subtle.”

How long have you been together? “Almost 5 years now. How time flies!” 

How did you know she was “the one” and what makes you click? “We pretty much love all the same things in life and we seek to discover and understand in a similar way. We also balance each other out. When one thinks one way, the other thinks about the other side of it and we're pretty good at meeting up in the middle.”

How do you make time for one another with your busy schedules? “It's not easy, but we make it happen. Sometimes, it's planned like date night, or sometimes it's just, okay, let's go away for the weekend and spend some time together.”

Where do you like to go for date nights? “We have a cabin we're building in Topanga, so Saturday night by the campfire has been our best date night in recent months. We also go locally from time to time to Outerlands, Pizza Place, Balboa Theater, and for long walks on the beach.”

Photo: Courtesy of Erin Kunkel
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Carl Chiara and Todd Barket of Unionmade

How did you meet? Todd: “As old school as it sounds...we met at a bar (it was the ’90s).”

Was it love at first sight? “No...we dated weekly for a while.”

Did either of you use a pick-up line? “No. I was the first to speak...”

How long have you been together? “We have been together, we think, for 13 years. We forget what year we met. We know it was January.”

How did you know he was "the one" and what makes you click? “We both seem to like similar things and we both worked in 'fashion.' Carl worked for Levi's at the time and I worked at Gap.”

How do you make time for one another with your busy schedules? “We actually see more of each other now. We're together all the time since we now have a business together.” 

Where do you like to go for date night? “Our favorite thing to do is have dinner and lay in bed with our greyhound Buddy and watching a Real Housewives episode.” 

Photo: Courtesy of Todd and Carl
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Nick St. Mary and Sarah Dunbar St. Mary, owners of Watermelon Sugar Salon and Pretty Penny

How did you meet? Sarah: “We officially met at my food-service job when a co-worker brought him in for lunch. I gave them a salad and it had feta on it. He said 'I'm a vegan' and I said 'It’s free, so I wouldn't complain.' He loved the sass!”

Was it love at first sight? Nick: “I would have to say yes. There was some cosmic pull that drew us together. One of the first days we hung out was with some friends on a hike and we had so much fun. I had plans to leave the Bay Area, then I didn't want to leave. I knew that I might never see her again, so I took some pictures of her (without her knowing, like a stalker!), so I wouldn't forget her or that day.”  

How long have you been together? “We just celebrated our 9-year anniversary. We dated 5 years before we got married, and we have been married for 4.” 

How did you know he/she was "the one"? Sarah: “When he never gave up on the hard stuff in the first couple of years.” 
Nick: “Sarah told me once that she loved me till death. After I heard her say that, I felt she was mine and I was hers forever. At that point I knew that there was no one else for me and there is no looking back.”

Where do you like to go for date nights? “We love to go out to dinner at Pizzaiolo, Chai Thai Noodle, and Koryo Sushi. We're now having a family member watch our baby daughter Vienna on Fridays so we can have a date night."

Photo: Courtesy of Sarah and Nick
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Carly Yu and Otto Zoell of MAAS & Stacks

How did you meet? Otto: “We met on a bizarre triple blind date set up by my best friend Max. Carly was supposed to be his date, but we ended up hitting it off. The funniest part is that he never told Carly or her friends it was a date, so it was more like a triple blind date that none of the girls knew they were on!” 

Was it love at first sight? Carly: “There were sparks! But Otto moved to Tokyo for a few months while I stayed in LA. A few postcards and a ton of g-chats later we went on our first official date the night he got back!"

How long have you been together? “Almost three years now!”

How did you know he was "the one"? Carly: “About 3 months into dating, I went to China for two weeks and I missed him so much! I was so lovesick, I ended up spending most of the time either at an internet café, or trying to find one. After that I knew it was the real deal!”  

What makes you click? Otto: “We have a lot of the same interests and even more complementary ones. I like to cook, Carly likes to eat.”

Where do you like to go for date nights? Carly: “He'll usually make one of his famous meals or we'll go to a special dinner. Zuni Cafe is one of our favorites.”

Photo: Courtesy of Carly and Otto  
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Leah Bershad of Reliquary and Brad Roberts of Temescal Alley Barber Shop

How did you meet? Leah: “We met on the Plaza in downtown Santa Fe. It was during Fiestas, which is an annual celebration where the city burns a giant Papier-mâché effigy called Zozobra, which symbolizes everyone’s gloom for the year. It’s a kind of new beginning celebration. I was 15 and straightedge and Brad was 24…and drunk.”

Was it love at first sight? “Ha! No, not so much. We became unlikely friends that remained in touch over the years through various moves and life changes. I think we were always kind of touched by one another. We finally reunited in Oakland six years ago. Brad was sober and I was an adult."

What makes you click? “When I asked Brad this question he said, 'I just really like the way your brain works,' and I think this kind of sums it up. We are lucky enough to have a relationship where we both feel this way. We really see eye-to-eye, and have an easy time communicating, and inspire one another. We are truly partners.”

Where do you like to go for date nights? “We rarely have ‘date nights.' We don’t have young kids, so it’s a bit easier to find time alone together. We eat at Pizzaiolo in Oakland a lot, the food and drinks are superb and it’s in Temescal, right by Brad's shop. For really special occasions I always like a trip to the House of Prime Rib.”

Photo: Courtesy of Leah and Brad
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Derek Fagerstrom and Lauren Smith, owners of The Curiosity Shoppe

How did you meet? Derek: “We met in the computer lab at UC Santa Cruz. I was in need of technical assistance and Lauren was the only soul around.”

Was it love at first sight? Derek: “Understanding the fact that Lauren was far, far out of my league, I was fully prepared for a lifetime of unrequited love and admiration from afar. But we lived in the same dorm, and after bumping into each other around campus week after week, I finally mustered up enough courage for some good old-fashioned chitchat. 

How long have you been together? Lauren: “Our first recorded outing (a casual hangout with a small group of friends) was February 11th, 1994. Just typing that date and realizing that was 18 years ago is indescribably amazing and mind-boggling.”

What makes you click? Derek: “The honest answer is ‘Who Knows?!’, or perhaps even closer to the core of the truth, ‘Who Cares?!’. Whatever it is, it's beyond us.”

Where do you like to go for date nights? “Having a 10-month old son means we're pretty tethered to home in the evenings. So, our current favorite hot-date spot is our bed with a pint of ice cream, two spoons, and an iPad for watching movies.”

Photo: Courtesy of Derek and Lauren
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Evan Gross and Christine Schmidt, owners of Yellow Owl Workshop

How did you meet? Christine: “It was the age of dial-up, Da Brat's film debut in "Glitter," and Smirnoff Ice. I had just graduated from art school and Evan had just started law school. I met Evan when I went to visit my roommate at her job at a record store in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in D.C. He was sporting a khaki jacket with a tiny embroidered dragon emblem and laughing at his own emails on the checkout counter computer. There was a brief flirtation and a sort of ‘Nice meeting you’ departure.” 
Evan: “That next weekend, Chris and her roommate had an opening at this space near the store, and I went in with the hopes that she would talk to me. We ended up hanging out all night, and the rest is history.”

How long have you been together? Evan: “Almost 11 years. We first lived in D.C., moved to NYC, then S.F., and married almost five years ago.”

Was it love at first sight? Christine: “I knew I loved him when he told a customer, without laughing, that the store did not have any copies of the 'Space Cowboys' soundtrack.”
Evan: “Absolutely. The day I met her at the record store, when I got home I told my roommates that I had just met the raddest, cutest girl around. I believe the exact term I used was ‘sexy little minx.’”

How did you know he/she was “the one”? Christine: “I was walking across Dumbarton Bridge after our first ‘date’, and I knew I never wanted to be without him and I would never be the same.”
Evan: “I knew she was the one when on the first night she came home with me all she wanted to do was play Tekken, which we did till 7 in the morning."

Where do you like to go for date nights? Christine: “We just had a baby girl, Emilia, on February 4, so our dates will involve DVR gems and Henry's Hunan. Pre-Babytown, I would like to beat Evan at mini-golf in the suburbs before lobster rolls at Old Port Lobster Shack. And like all good San Franciscans, we sneak beers into Do Re Mi karaoke in Japantown on occasion."

Photo: Courtesy of Chris Walter
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Gabriel Yanez and Miguel Lopez, owners of Sui Generis

How did you meet? Miguel: “I saw Gabriel for the first time when I was walking out from a rock concert at the Roxy in Guadalajara. On the same night, I went to a gay bar for the first time and he walked in later on and our eyes met once again.”

Was it love at first sight? Miguel: “I think it was. I knew I liked him a lot and something just clicked even though we didn’t even talk.”
Gabriel: “Kinda, sorta, maybe…;-)”

Did either of you use a pick up line? Miguel: “After I ran into him a couple of times, I asked him for a ride back home. We talked in his car and we just kissed when he left me outside my place, and five days later he asked me to be his boyfriend.”

How long have you been together? Gabriel: “It'll be 19 years next month, but it has just felt like a few minutes…under water! Just kidding!”

What makes you click? Gabriel: "The way we see things and how we do them. Both our relationship and business are collaborations. Sometimes we don’t even have to talk, we almost read each other's minds. I am better at some things and he is good in other things, so we complement each other.”

Where do you like to go for date nights? “We like relaxing at home, but for date nights we usually pick a neighborhood or strip like Valencia, Fillmore, Union, etc., and just go there, walk around, get into a restaurant or coffee shop that we have never tried before and have a great time discovering new places around the city.”

Photo: Courtesy of Miguel J. Flores
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Jill Giordano and Brian Scheyer, owners of gr.dano

How did you meet? Brian: “We met at an interactive agency during the dot-com days. Jill was on her way to interview with my company, and we bumped into each other in the elevator. I remember telling my boss later in the day ‘I highly recommend you hiring the cute, (then) blonde.'"

Was it love at first sight? Brian: “It was a very strong ‘like’ at first sight. It took me a little while to get her to the love part.”

How long have you been together? “It'll be 13 years this June.”

How did you know he was “the one”? Jill: “We quickly realized we could both show our stupidly ridiculous and quirky selves around each other that we keep hidden from most everyone else we know.”

Where do you like to go for date nights? Brian: “We love playing tourist in San Francisco. When we are participating or attending a big event, we like to stay in boutique hotels in different parts of the city and take in the various neighborhoods.”

Photo: Courtesy of Jill and Brian
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Alexei Angelides and Marie McCarthy, owners of Fiat Lux

How did you meet? Marie: “We had been traveling in the same circles since just after college, but had never met. One day Alexei saw a mutual friend at the laundromat and she was all 'Why haven't you met my roommate Marie yet?' So, she introduced us by throwing a house party at their place. We met on February 13th two years ago, and started dating shortly after.”

What makes you click? Alexei: “Marie is intelligent, hilarious, beautiful, successful, grounded, creative. I'm crazy, analytic, and often lost. I'd say opposites attract, but there are also so many touchstones for us that that's not entirely true. We both love art and art history, but have rich enough disagreements about them to make it interesting. We both love shopping. We both hate PBR.”

Where do you like to go for date nights? Marie: “We live at Church and 18th, just a few blocks from the shop, and typically we like to stay in the 'hood. When we're feeling fancy it's Frances. We also like Sushi Zone, the Monk's Kettle, and Bi-Rite for cooking at home. We often go to art openings at small galleries like 111 Minna and stop at Terroir on the way home for a nightcap. Alexei is obsessed with the ballet, so we have season tickets for some killer West Coast cultured nights.”

Photo: Courtesy of Alexei and Marie
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