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Emotional Baggage

As the proprietor of the Michael Bruno store, Lou Briasco will help you select luggage, picture frames, clocks and more. Ask him nicely, and he just might tell you about Archduke Ferdinand, too.

By Mark Ewert

What is your job?

Helping the people that come into the store make decisions on what they need.

How did you get started?

I had just given up teaching at Bowdoin College. The subject was 19th- and 20th-century European diplomatic history--I know a lot about the Austro-Serbian war of 1906. I ended up working at Club Baths, a gay bathhouse in Boston, for a year, and when they offered me a managerial position, I decided I wanted to do something else. I tried getting a job at a card store, because of my interest in art history, but they weren't hiring. But the luggage store down the street had an opening. ... After watching that man run his store for two years, I thought I could do a better job than that. A friend from San Francisco said the Castro needed a store like this. His name was Michael, my middle name's Bruno, hence the store name. And here I am, schlepping bags.

How long have you been doing this?

Eighteen years next month.

Who or what was your inspiration to enter this career?

Michael. Michael Lafrance. He really was the one who pushed me to move out here. After spending a week with a couple in L.A. I called Michael and said, "Please. Please. You said I could come stay with you for a month. Can I please please please stay for seven weeks?"

Do you have any pet peeves about this career?

The only thing I do not like is I detest dealing with people who try to cheat me, or who think I'm trying to cheat them.

If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?

I'd love to go back to framing and matting pictures full time.

What are the perks of this career?

I really have met some wonderful people. I don't know of any store that has a better client-base: more loyal and genuinely nice people. We have a lot of regulars that come here faithfully, even people who live in other countries, and only come to SF once or twice a year, and they always stop by.

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From the March 20, 2000 issue of the Metropolitan.

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