Staff Spotlight: Giselle Gyalzen


Giselle Gyalzen is the owner of Rare Device and with the help of her husband, Phurba, she successfully runs both Rare Device stores. She moved to San Francisco from the Philippines 18 years ago. She bought Rare Device from the store's previous owners Rena Tom and Lisa Congdon in 2011. Over the years, she has moved locations, expanded certain aspects of the store, and opened a whole new location in Noe Valley! I sat down with Giselle to ask her some questions about herself and the stores. 

Logan Evans: How long have you been running Rare Device?
GG: Since February 2011.

Aerial view of our Divisadero store 

LE: Why did you choose to open a new store in Noe Valley?
GG: We've always liked this neighborhood and we think we can bring something unique to the street and community as a whole. We also live nearby and frequent 24th Street to eat and do our shopping so we have a special fondness for it.

LE: Was the process of opening this store more or less how you expected it to be? In what ways?
GG: I knew it was going to be a challenge, especially since we have an infant and a pre schooler. Phurba also broke his arm in the midst of everything, so that didn't help. The entire RD team pulled together and after the walls were painted and the shelves put up, it only took us about a week and a half to get everything up and running. What a team! Kehau, Lexi, Derek, Ellie, Grace, Steph and Logan all had a hand in getting this store up and running.

In addition, I took the time to curate a slightly different mix of products for this store. The research for new vendors and buying from new brands was the really fun part for me. 

Noe Valley storefront 

LE: What is your primary goal in running Rare Device?
GG: Primarily, to share my love of well designed and functional things to the world. Also, to support all the great talent that we represent at the store.

LE: When did you move to San Francisco and what made you want to move here?
GG: I moved here in 1996 from the Philippines. I came here to study college as a 16 year old. No, I'm not a genius. We didn't have 7th and 8th grade in the Philippines when I was going to school there and my birthday is late in the year, which is why I was so young when I started college. 

LE: What are some of your favorite things to do in San Francisco?
GG: Walk around and explore. I've lived here for almost 18 years and I am still discovering new things all the time.

LE: What is you favorite thing about having your own small business?
GG: I've learned so many things about myself as a small business owner, I continue to learn and grow as a person each day. Having my own business has tested my character and my patience so much, it's also made me strong and more confident. I also like the freedom to set my own schedule, which is so important now that we have small children. I wasn't always able to set my own schedule, especially when we were just starting out, but now that the business is more successful, it has allowed me to do so. 

LE: Why do you think working with local artists is important?
GG: Art is such an important component of a community. Anything I can do to support an artist, whether they are my neighbor, or if they live thousands of miles away, is a good thing.  

LE: What inspires you day-to-day?
GG: My employees inspire me. All of them are hard working, dedicated and committed to being here. They are also all artists and each of them bring fresh and new perspective to the business and to me as a person each time I interact with them. 

LE: Do you do any art in your free time? What type?
GG: I make art with my kids, but other than that, these days between 2 kids and 2 stores, I don't have time to make anything else! However, pre-kids, I used to sew and I've taken a ceramics throwing class that I enjoyed.  In the future, I'd love to get back into sewing and I'd also like to make jewelry and take a watercolor class. 

LE: What are your favorite products in Rare Device?
GG: This is always such a tough question to answer since I pick everything that goes into the store. It's like asking me which of my children is my favorite. I'm really excited about the bags from Pine + Boon and Soap Stones by Pelle Designs that we got for the Noe Valley store. I can't wait to see how people will react to them. We are also getting some ceramics from Linda Fahey for both stores, I'm looking forward to getting those as well!

Soap Stones by Pelle Designs, available at Rare Device - Noe Valley 

LE: Do you have any advice for someone wishing to start a small business like Rare Device?
GG: Oh, where do I even begin? Before you jump in, talk to other small business owners that have similar businesses to what you want to have. They will have lots of great advice for you and most of us are more than willing to share. Also, work in the industry that you want to be in first, this gives you a taste of what to expect.  And be prepared to not get much sleep or rest for the first few years. Running your own business is a lot of work. You really have to love what you are doing in order to make it here long term. 

It has been great working with Giselle and seeing Rare Device grow as a business under her amazing guidance. To learn more about Giselle, you can visit the about page on the RD website or our Instagram page that Giselle frequently updates.

- Logan

Photos by Sarah Deragon