If you’re looking for some bone soup, scurvy prevention supplies and leeches for various ailments, look no further than 826 Valencia, an independent pirate supply store located in San Francisco’s lively Mission district. But don’t be misled by the store’s appearance or its workers’ pirattitude: far from inspiring mortal fear, their jolly roger promises learning and fun.
Founded by writer Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genious), since 2002 the 826 Valencia ship has been sailing on the forefront of literacy efforts as a reading and writing lab/tutoring program “in disguise.” The lure of its brand of piracy is undeniable. Students ages 6-18 get free tutoring from some of the most creative and qualified people in town, and anyone visiting the “store” can barter for a cup of lard, be mopped (!), buy pirate trinkets (a clam opener, anyone? how about a magenta eye patch?) and discover a world of treasures hidden in countless drawers that beg to be opened. Behind all the whimsy, though (literally, at the back of the store, behind a curtain), there are young minds at work, learning new writing skills, getting ready for SAT exams, experiencing mind growth through creativity and fun.
826 Valencia is just around the corner from my house—lucky me!—and I often visit with my daughter, who, in spite of being too young for the workshops, is clearly lured. Upon entering the store for the first time a couple of years ago, she exclaimed, half scared, half thrilled, “I didn’t know there were pirates in our neighborhood!” The neighborhood hasn’t been the same since.
If you missed International “Talk Like a Pirate” Day, a fun-filled occasion dedicated to pirates and their vernacular and celebrated worldwide on Sep 19, check out 826 Valencia for your fix: there are always fun things happening. Today, for instance, there’s a locksmith workshop that will teach kids “how to not pick locks, how to make keys, find keys, lose keys, and more.” Land lubbers of all ages will feel compelled to join in on some of these piracy ventures.
For accounts of actual events that occur in the shop, check the store log. And here and here for a couple of good reads for little ones contemplating buccannering as a career.