Little Joy on Valencia — Circa December, 2008

Therapy on Valencia Street will be closing after 13 years of business.

Therapy on Valencia Street will be closing after 13 years of business.

This article was first published on December 21, 2008 and is a reminder that Valencia Street had rougher times. 

In what many retailers on Valencia Street said is the worst holiday season they’ve experienced, furniture stores reported the greatest pain while thrift stores said they were benefiting from the more cautious spender. Only a store that sells pricey jeans reported an increase in sales.

“Honestly, I was not prepared for this,” said Wayne Wheam, owner of Therapy, which sells modern furniture such as vividly colored $2,000 sofas.Wheam said his sales are down 50 percent this December compared to the same period last year. Moreover, he added, the downturn has been worse than both the dot-com bust of the late 1990s and the period after 9/11.

Therapy, which opened in 1994 as a thrift shop and moved to retail after five years, usually begins sales after Christmas Day. This year, however, they marked 20 percent off starting Dec. 13. Still, sales continue to be slow. Wheam said buyers mostly want inexpensive items.

“I bought a bookshelf because I thought it was original and I’ve never seen something like this before,” said Cynthia McCape from Los Osos, who purchased an $11 metal bookshelf. “I’m being careful about what I buy.”

Therapy

Wheam said he’s partly to blame for his store’s lackluster sales by failing to stock more inexpensive merchandise. “It’s tough for people to justify spending thousands of dollars on a sofa when they want to spend only $50 or $100,” he said. “We just have to work harder to find more value to our customers and more products moderately priced.”

David Chen, owner of The Touch, an antique and used furniture store at 956 Valencia Street, said he too has seen sales fall since October. So far in December, he said, sales are down 20 percent compared to the same period last year.

“We sell something that people don’t have to buy right now. They maybe wait for a month or some other time,” Chen said.

However, Chen was more relaxed than Whean because he doesn’t have a lot of inventory he needs to move.

“We’re not pushing up the sales promotion. That starts after Christmas Day,” Chen said. “But I’ll always give a discount if somebody finds a piece they really like, to sell as much as possible.”

For many of the Valencia corridor’s hip fashion stores, holiday sales have also been particularly poor.

“I’ve been in the fashion retail industry 12 years, but I’ve never seen something like this,” said Lisa Palella, a sales associate and stylist at Weston Wear. The store, which sells clothes designed by a San Francisco-based designer, also moved up its 20 percent off sale.

“This particular season is horrible. No one is shopping, “ said Dema Grim, designer and owner of Dema at 1038 Valencia Street.She said sales in the third quarter of this year were down 35 percent from the same quarter of last year.This has been her worst year since she started business 11 years ago.

Dema Grim, owner and designer of Dema

“Cashmere socks make a great Christmas gift if you can only spend $30 dollars on somebody,” Grim said.

Bracing for the worst to come, Grim said she’ll use less expensive materials for next year’s designs. “No more silk, no more camel. I have to cut my margin,” she said. “But I’m not going to compromise the quality.”

Quality, some shoppers agreed, was still important. But they were willing to buy someone else’s cast-off quality merchandise.

Community Thrift, a nonprofit thrift store at 623 Valencia Street that carries everything from $1 T-shirts to $100 Manolo Blahnik shoes, reported a 5 percent increase in sales.

Community Thrift

“Our businesses seems to be depression-proof so far,” said Zarin Kresge, executive director of Community Thrift.

Linda Khatami, a local shopper who had just scored a big discount on a pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes that generally sell for $400, offered her recession philosophy. “I don’t shop downtown anymore. I shop at the thrift store because the economy is so bad and I cannot afford to buy anything new anymore,” she said. “I actually think we have more fun if we go to a thrift store, because we don’t know what we’re going to discover.”

Other shoppers liked the prospect of some of their money going toward charity. “It’s great. You can get the good deal. At the same time we can help people,” said Phyllis Wong, who shops at Community Thrift every couple weeks. “This economy makes me think twice about waste.”

4 Comments

  1. mark

    Where is this Valencia Street you write about? The Valencia Street I am familiar with in the Mission is mainly known for its trendy restaurants and bars: Range, Bar Tartine, Cha Ya, Limon, Luna Park, etc. etc. How are they doing? Not too shabby say some. A bad week maybe after Thanksgiving, but now it seems fine. Little specialty like Therapy do exist, but there are far more than the three or four you mention, and again, mostly I hear they are doing OK. Hard to compare with last year, since last year was the best ever for some. One such specialty shop is Good Vibrations, which is between Therapy and Community Thrift, which would be hard for the reporter to miss. A Mission institution (over 30 years?), GV is a world famous sex shop. How are they doing? Do people buy more sex toys/vidoes/books during a recession/depression?

    In short, a remarkably thin piece. How can such sweeping generalizations be made from so little and unrepresentative a sample? Where was this reporter? Where are her editors?

    m

  2. Thank you for your comments. I too was shopping on Valencia street and felt that Odsu and the Curiosity Shop were fairly full–826 as well and I asked the reporter if she had checked these shops. She had. They were getting business, but it was down from last year. You may be right about the restaurants–we would have to do more reporting to find out, but the story assignment was to focus on retail. But, you’re right, our reporter should have checked on Good Vibrations and maybe you have given us a story idea if we discover that sales are up. It would answer the question–do consumers turn to one another when the economy is bad. Thank you, Lydia, ME, MIssion Loc@l

  3. Ayako Mie

    Thank you very much for the comment. I did ask Good Vibrations, and the store manager said that people are coming, however, the sales are not as good as last year. However, she did not have the actual figures, and as the Christmas closed, the sales may have gone up.
    I will check again. Thank you very much.

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