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Where expert shopper Gina Pell scores bargains

"I like originality, so I haunt small shops, consignment stores, and five-and-dimes," Pell says. Here are some of her favorites.

Gina Pell is easily the town’s most glamorous Internet executive. As CEO and founder of Splendora — an online shopping and lifestyle guide to San Francisco, New York, and L.A. — she’s the ultimate resource for finding a perfect hostess gift or distinctive home accessory. With wide-ranging tastes, she’s as adept at scoring inexpensive knickknacks for a dinner party as she is at unearthing an heirloom set of Victorian sterling forks. “I like originality, so I haunt small shops, consignment stores, and five-and-dimes,” she says.

Currently, Pell’s obsessions revolve around furnishing a nursery for her first child, due in June. Instead of hitting the usual Union Square department stores, she heads to Clement Street, a bustling multicultural strip in the Inner Richmond with some of the city’s tastiest cheap eats — from Burmese tea-leaf salad to cabbage-stuffed piroshki. “Clement Street is the real deal,” Pell says. “It’s one of the best places in town for a little adventure.” It’s also a neighborhood of unexpected shopping finds, such as a family-run fabric store spilling over with bolts of luscious material.

Afterward, Pell does a circuit of Hayes Valley — formerly a down-and-out enclave in the shadow of the Central Freeway, now a full-fledged boutique paradise. It’s almost impossible to wander the main strip from Franklin Street to Laguna Street without making a purchase, and even a discriminating shopper such as Pell isn’t immune. But despite all the rarefied wares on display, she’s most captivated by a $22 wooden pig on wheels at the whimsical Scandinavian Details. “Mixing high and low takes a little more creativity,” she says, “but it’s a lot more fun.”

Info: Splendora

Gina Pell’s picks -- On Clement Street

Fleur’t. Floral studio and home-accessories boutique with a chic European sensibility (as in minimalist moss arrangements and bistro chairs). Closed Sun–Mon. 15 Clement St.; 415/751-2747.

Green Apple Books. Still going strong after almost four decades, the cult emporium packed with new and used books can command an entire day of browsing. The vintage-cookbooks section is excellent. 506 Clement; 415/387-2272.

Kamei Household Wares. A mecca for inexpensive kitchen supplies, Asian dinnerware, and gadgets. “This place is great to visit right before a dinner party — everything’s so reasonably priced, you can really spruce up your table,” Pell says, grabbing a $3.75 jade green miniature tray for hors d’oeuvres. 547 Clement; 415/933-8508.

Period George. Crammed full of merchandise that runs the gamut from museum-quality (a 1780s potpourri jar from France) to kitsch (goofy bird vases from the 1920s and ’30s). Owner Donald Gibson goes on worldwide scavenging trips. “We take old, fussy things and put them in an edgy environment,” he says. 7 Clement; 415/752-1900.

Satin Moon Fabrics. Run by two sisters, the store isn’t cheap — but their decorator and upholstery selections are outstanding. With her nursery in mind, Pell instantly gravitates to a roll of 1940s-inspired material called Alphabet Soup. 32 Clement; 415/668-1623.

In Hayes Valley

Alabaster. The exquisite store comprises four rooms and a Balinese courtyard garden. “This feels like Paris,” Pell says, practically cooing over the vintage glassware, antique globes, and esoteric fragrances. Not for budget shoppers — a set of tortoiseshell Lucite stacking tables is $2,100 — but it’s catnip for refined design sensibilities. 597 Hayes St.; 415/558-0482.

Azalea Boutique & Z Beauty Lounge. The truly genius draw of this edgy men’s and women’s clothing boutique is the manicure and pedicure station in back — a boon for weary shoppers. 411 Hayes; 415/861-9888.

Propeller. Streamlined designer furnishings share space with irreverent objects of fun — purses made out of pull tabs from aluminum cans and the hilarious Dial O for Old School, a bulky pink telephone earpiece meant to be attached to your slimmest Motorola Razr. 555 Hayes; 415/701-7767.

Scandinavian Details. All the greatest hits — Marimekko, Iittala, etc. — combined with irresistibly chic and clever kiddie designs. 364 Hayes; 415/552-1100.