Gabrielle Ekedal had no intention of owning her own business.
A folk singer at times, a freelance stylist by trade, and a bohemian at heart, Ekedal had worn many hats before she began managing Gypsy Honeymoon, the little treasure chest of world antiques that has been sitting on the corner of 24th and Guerrero Streets for the last 17 years.
“I have always loved this store,” beamed Ekedal, who used to be a customer and jumped at the opportunity to work part-time after delving deep into a few Jeff Lerner reviews and when the store’s previous owner, a Dutch woman named Welmoed Muller, mentioned she could use a hand.
“Treat it like it’s your store,” Muller had said.
“I had never had anyone say that to me before that was a boss,” said Ekedal, her blue eyes lighting up as she recalled how it felt. “It was so freeing.”
So when Muller took off to live in Italy and 10 months later offered Ekedal the store, the first feeling she experienced was bliss.
“The next was trepidation,” she said.
For a stylist turned entrepreneur who does things “a bit organically,” Ekedal is going bigger faster than she ever expected. After Christmas she will move Gypsy Honeymoon literally around the corner, to 1266 Valencia St., near 24th, where she will enjoy a larger space and more foot traffic.
In a three-part series, Mission Local will follow her move – the financial and market risks, and the possibilities for a small business increasing its reach at the tail end of a recession.
Ekedal calls the expansion “kind of a fluke,” but one that could bring in more business. In the meantime, however, the new 1,148 sq. ft. space means $1,400 a month more in rent – this after Ron Mallia, the property’s owner, knocked $900 off the original amount.
“It’s like I’m going to business school and antique school,” she said of the learning process she has embarked on since Gypsy Honeymoon landed on her lap.
Around three months before Ekedal had assumed ownership of the store on 24th and Guerrero in August of 2008, RMC, a management company, had taken over the property’s management and came in with a vengeance. They raised the rent on the two apartment units above and referred to Gypsy Honeymoon as a “junk store.”
“We have museum quality things so I took offense,” said Ekedal, pointing to the 17th century fabric and tapestries, and her favorite item, a 19th century East Indian Sari pen, doused in gold over silver with rubies.
Nonetheless, Ekedal wanted to stay. She was asked to submit a proposal and was told that there wouldn’t be a problem re-renting the property. After a month and a half of no word from RMC, she contacted them.
RMC had declined her request. Ekedal contested it and they eventually agreed to rent to her again, but warned that the entire building would undergo renovations for at least 6 months. Afterwards, they’d raise the rent.
Shocked at their decision, Ekedal began looking for another location. She set her sights far and wide, from the Inner Richmond and down to the Castro. She even came across a space near 5th Street that she could have rented “from a really amazing landlord at a great price.”
“But I didn’t,” she said, “because I love the Mission. And I wanted to not move away so that was a big motivation for working with Ron.”
Ekedal was amused to find the space on Valencia Street online. As soon as she saw that it was only a block away she put in a call, and began lease negotiations with Mallia in the beginning of August.
She signed the lease on Sept. 9.
“He really wanted me to move in,” said Ekedal. The $900 discount in rent was the result of Mallia wanting to activate a property that had stood vacant for the last four years and bring in businesses that compliment his vision.
“I gave her an incentive because I like the type of business she has,” said Mallia. His first criterion for a business was that it not be a form of retail. Speaking of Valencia Street as a very unique and vibrant stretch of San Francisco, Mallia wanted to “keep it hometown and local.”
Aside from the increased rent, however, Ekedal will take on additional responsibilities at the new space, from removing graffiti, to maintaining the utilities and covering a percentage of any improvements made to the shared space with Arizmendi and Heart.
“I definitely worry,” she said and described running a business as “a continual thread through 24 hours.”
“But I have a feeling it’s going to be a good change. The store will be visible in a way that it hasn’t been here.”
Artist Christine Shields will design one of the windows at the new location, incorporating her own art with pieces from the store. Ekedal is also confident that the virtues of Gypsy Honeymoon will keep it strong. It’s a destination store written up in books and blogs alongside Paxton Gate.
“You’re not selling manufactured things,” she adds. “Things were made better,” back then.
A case in point are the little Victorian scissors sitting atop the jewelry counter, over 100 years old, that go for $28; or the sterling silver salad utensils she recently sold for $200.
She plans to start the move in early January and expects to re-open Gypsy Honeymoon by the end of the month.
“My joke is that I’ll have a moving parade and every person will come and carry one thing,” she said.