For those who take the time, though, they'll discover objects with more humanity than creepy mannequins staring back at them: carefully preserved and cared-for books.
Focusing on "hard to find, out of print, used and rare books," G.F. Wilkinson packs a lifetime of reading into a small space, with subjects ranging from Americana/Antiques to Wine/Spirits.
G.F. Wilkinson, a corporation of one, runs his bookstore Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy
The man behind this human folly in the middle of an enormous tech boom is G.F. Wilkinson. Wilkinson caught the fever of bookselling in 1978, and it never left him. He ran the Albatross Bookstore in the city's rough Tenderloin area from 1986 to 1997.
"Providing books for people has always been rewarding for me," he explains.
Even if you're not in the market for a book, G.F. Wilkinson Books offers something else rare, maybe even rarer than his limited edition copy of Two Kitchens in Provence: actual human interaction.
Here are two interactions witnessed at G.F. Wilkinson Books, the kind of experiences only brick-and-mortar bookstores can offer: a young man with a ponytail buys a book on the Tao, then leaves happily on his "way."
And a man in a suit excitedly asks for "anything by Herb Caen," a San Francisco icon larger than the Golden Gate Bridge – at least for local writers and readers.
"And just yesterday," Wilkinson recalls, "A teenager was on cloud nine because his mother agreed to buy him four volumes of George Orwell."
It's the kind of warm and memorable transaction that rarely happens when there's a computer screen between people.
Trinity Plaza, where G.F. Wilkinson is located, is an easy walk from New Montgomery BART — Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy
"Nobody should give up the pleasure of holding and reading an actual book," Wilkinson adds.
Wilkinson believes his bookstore fits in the tradition of the street stalls of London and Paris, public places where the human transaction is just as important as the financial one.
"A colleague's wife is from Morocco, and when I told her about my plan, she understood because they have the tradition of these small stalls in her home, too."
Wilkinson doesn't try to get "in between a person and a book." People are free to browse as long as they want, but he's happy to help at any moment.
And these books are not for everyone, which is exactly the point. While most media tries to program us to like the same food, laugh at the same advertising and enjoy the same movies, this modest bookstore reminds us that books remain as stubbornly unique and complicated as the people around us.
This beautiful fact is at the heart of G.F. Wilkinson Books.
"I'm like the midwife of people's passions," Wilkinson notes, with a chuckle.
If you need a break from the fast pace of San Francisco that only the slow pleasure of a book can offer, then head over to G.F. Wilkinson today.