A rendering of the potential Jack Spade store on 16th Street. (Courtesy of Jack Spade)

The battle over Adobe Books’ former location heated up last week when the site’s new tenant, the high-end men’s retailer Jack Spade, had to halt construction. Work was stopped after a group of business owners with the Valencia Corridor Merchants Associations (VCMA) filed an appeal with the Planning Department alleging that Jack Spade, affiliated with luxury retailer Kate Spade, is a “formula retail” chain store, making it subject to more stringent planning rules.

In September, the Planning Department decided that because Jack Spade has fewer than 11 locations in the United States it is not formula retail as defined by the Planning Code.

With this determination, Jack Spade can bypass much of the additional processes required of formula retail, including approval by the planning commission at a public hearing.

The retailer officially moved into the 16th Street storefront on June 15 and began renovations on June 27, but was forced to stop just a few days later when the VCMA filed its appeal. On Aug. 21, the Board of Appeals will host a public hearing to determine the future of the space.

“We don’t have anything against Jack Spade or that brand. This is about protecting our community from formula retail. We just want to protect local small business,” said Jefferson McCarley, general manager of Mission Bicycle and a VCMA organizer.

When Jack Spade first requested a letter of determination about its status as formula retail, it had seven locations in the United States. That number has since risen to ten, making the proposed San Francisco location its eleventh location. The retailer also has three stores internationally.

To protect the local character of neighborhoods, the Planning Code defines formula retail based on whether businesses operate more than 11 stores in the United States and if those locations have a standardized look, feel, and merchandising.

According to the VCMA, the international locations and their connection to the large parent company Fifth & Pacific (formerly Liz Clairborne Holdings), whose brands also include Juicy Couture and Lucky Jeans, should be part of determining whether or not Jack Spade is indeed formula retail.

“They’re still one store under the legal limit, but we think it’s reasonable that the other [international] stores should be counted,” said McCarley. “There doesn’t seem to be anything that we’ve found that says parent companies or sister companies can’t be counted.”

Daniel Lahkman, Jack Spade’s director of marketing and creative, asserts that Jack Spade operates independently from other Fifth & Pacific brands. With 11 locations in the country and no plans for other stores, Lahkman believes that Jack Spade shouldn’t be considered a chain.

“The reality is that we’re a small niche, lifestyle brand, that operates as an independent business,” said Lahkman. “Fifth & Pacific doesn’t pay our rent, we pay our rent.”

McCarley finds the claims of Jack Spade’s independence dubious. “Money is accessible from brand to brand, they’re clearly sharing resources,” he said.

Fifth & Pacific’s website refers to Jack Spade as a brand under the umbrella of Kate Spade and doesn’t distinguish between the two in its earning reports. In the first quarter of 2013, Fifth & Pacific reported that net sales for the entire Kate Spade segment were $141 million.

Melissa Xides, Jack Spade’s vice-president of global sales and retail, argues that Jack Spade has separate design teams and strategies than other Fifth & Pacific brands. She also notes that each Jack Spade is customized to its location.

“We wanted to pick a neighborhood that fit our brand’s aesthetic,” said Xides. “We looked at other neighborhoods, but they just didn’t have the charm of the Mission… We have a history of going into characterful neighborhoods, and not mainstream retail spaces. This is no different to what we’ve done in the past.”

Jack Spade has locations in trendy shopping areas such as the Pearl District in Portland and Venice Beach in LA. Among numerous props and homey design elements, each store also contains a lending library. In its proposed Mission store, Xides says Jack Spade actually plans to partner with Adobe Books owner Andrew McKinley to curate the new library.

McKinley, who recently moved his bookstore to 24th Street, said that although a Jack Spade representative bought 15 boxes of books from his store, he doesn’t consider that a partnership.

“Early on they made a vague offer to share space with us,” added Kyle Knobel, who manages Adobe’s public relations. “But we felt like it would be more of a service to them than to us.”

Xides believes that much of the dispute over Jack Spade’s presence in the Mission derives from a general lack of brand awareness. She asserts that if people better understand the “eclectic” style of Jack Spade, they’d appreciate how it fits in among the vintage stores, cafes, and art galleries of 16th Street.

“I think when people get to know what Jack Spade is about, that we don’t belong in places that are more commercial, they’ll believe we will be a good fit in the Mission and that we’ll respect what goes on there.”

For the VCMA, Jack Spade’s aesthetics matter less than the economics of a company with an international presence opening shop in a highly competitive environment.

“The majority of every dollar spent at a local business goes back into community,” said Eileen Hassi, owner of Ritual Roaster and member of VCMA. “This company is based in New York; the higher paying jobs are going to be in New York. That has a big impact.”

Though Jack Spade plans to hire San Francisco residents to manage its new store and says it will work with local groups in the Mission, members of the VCMA have been frustrated in their attempts to reach the company for discussions.

“They stated that they reach out to community, that they’re very involved in local neighborhoods, but they won’t even return our phone calls,” said McCarley.

For his part, Lahkman says he has no knowledge of any attempts by the VCMA to contact Jack Spade.

Mission merchants have long been opposed to formula retail. When American Apparel tried to open a store on Valencia Street in 2009 it faced large-scale community opposition during the Planning Commission’s initial conditional use hearings. Following this response, the retailer ultimately chose not to go forward with its plans.

Although American Apparel had over 200 international locations in 2009 while Jack Spade has only 14 internationally, the VCMA believes that Jack Spade will face similar opposition during the appeals process.

“I’m more optimistic than ever before. I actually believe that we’re going to win this,” said McCarley.

Xides says that she was aware of the American Apparel debate before Jack Spade came to the Mission, but that “It’s laughable to be compared to American Apparel… We’re not that company.”

Until the Aug. 21 hearing, both sides will continue their efforts. While finalizing its case for the Board of Appeals, the VCMA will continue to gather signatures on a petition and put up posters on Valencia Street. Jack Spade has hired a local store manager who will try to “connect and share our story,” said Xides.

Meanwhile, the storefront on 16th Street with the long and increasingly contentious history sits boarded, shuttered, and gutted, awaiting an uncertain future.

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Daniel Hirsch is a freelance writer who has been living in the Mission since 2009. When he's not contributing to Mission Local, he's writing plays, working as an extra for HBO, and/or walking to the top of Bernal Hill.

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  1. Jack Spade claims they fit in with the character of the mission–no entity that displaces Adobe Books fits in the Mission.

  2. The language from both sides is, I think, quite revealing in that neither one of them says anything that requires an actual commitment to, um well, something.

    The Mission Bicycle guy says “We don’t have anything against Jack Spade or that brand.” Then why are you arguing that JS should not be allowed to open a store in the Mission? If you don’t want them to open a store, you are against the company. Dude, seriously, pick a side, argue it and stop being so conciliatory.

    The JS “person” asserts that a lack of brand awareness is what is creating opposition to JS’s presence in the Mission. No worries bro, once we open our eclecticism will win you over. Only then will you be able to “better understand” how our garbage belongs in your neighborhood.

    Thank you for blaming me for JS’s utter irrelevance to human existence. I apologize for knowing nothing about your garbage.

    Chase, Wells Fargo, B of A…now those are some chains and they are all in the Mission. These are criminal institutions that literally take your money (predatory lending) and launder drug money….huge amounts of drug money. But yeah the presence of these drug dealing gangs who rob entire families and communities is not a problem.

  3. Wouldn’t it be in the best interest of the neighborhood to let JS open to bring in more business? More business brings in more money so if in fact their rent does go up they can pay whatever outrages price it goes to. It’s funny that people are complaining about adobe books closing when it just opened up on 24th. If it went out of business then you would have a point. Or that person that thinks JS is gross for buying books from them…. They just sold more books in 1 sale than they did while hosting every poetry night in 2012. The fact that people are still going to be able to go into JS and read the same books they could have before should be enough to make you reconsider. You make friends with the bully so they can have your back when you need it, make enemies with him and get the shit kicked out of you by him and all his friends.

  4. The ship has already sailed as to high-end businesses & chains coming into Valencia St.

    As to $300+ jean & shirts – That already is happening with many stores like Self Edge & Voyager that keep opening left & right.

    Chains: Look at Tacolicious – Checked it out the other day; thought we were in the Marina; we left.

    And of course, don’t forget the $1Milion+ condos that are going like hotcakes!. Definitely becoming another Noe Valley / Marina / Chestnut Street!

    There is a Jack Spade in Venice Beach; it had taken over a blighted, run down cottage. Of course, the neighbors did want someone to buy the home & renovate it as VB was the original beach shack getaway. However, nobody stepped up to the plate, except for JS. 3+ years later that stretch of Abbott Kinney has greatly improved.

    Not too long ago VB was closer to the old Valencia St – Do we really want more of that?! Just loved having to watch out for gangs & bullets!

    As for Mr McCarley/Mission Bicycle as well as the VCMA – They are definitely hypocrites! Check out MC’s website. BIkes starting at $799!!! Come on! Clearly they are not gearing this to the middle/working class residents of the Mission/Bernal Heights.

    Let it go! These people already been granted the proper permits over a year ago.
    Most likely what will happen if JS is shut down, the storefront will be empty for who knows how long.

    1. Your claim that we have to chose between gang violence and chain stores is possibly the most forced false equivalency I’ve ever heard. Seriously, you should get some kind of award for that.

      As to high prices in the area, that’s an unrelated issue to any of this. If you’re bringing it up for a reason, you should actually explain yourself instead of assuming we can read your mind.

    2. Tacolicious is ethnic food for people who like their food less ethnic. Similar hipster interpretations of ethnic food include Little Chihuahua, Mau, and Curry Up Now.

      Why would you eat at tacolicious when you could go to a real Mission taqueria?

    3. This is 100% true.

      The only different between Jack Spade and Betabrand is that Betabrand would die to be Jack Spade…Same with every other upscale nouveau riche brand on Valencia st. At the end of the day, it’s all capitalism. All those assholes would be Target or Walmart if given the chance or opportunity.

      1. I agree – I call on Campos to propose a ban on all stores in the Mission. It should be illegal to operate a for profit business in our neighborhood. Stop the exploitation!!!!!

        1. Amen. Businesses striving to be a “business” should be BANNED. Expansions? NO! Profits? NO!

      2. Not that I like BetaBrands hipster garb, but I appreciate that at least they are based in San Francisco.

        1. at least Betabrand/Voyager/Taylor Stitch are giving back to the local economy. Jack Spade’s $ just goes to its parent company. if we are going to let landlords raise storefront rents to 12,000/month, obviously companies that can afford that are going to be companies with parent companies and sell $300 denim. the rent is what needs to be stopped

  5. They like moving into “characterful” neighborhoods? Why? So they can kill that character? Off to the Marina or Union Street with you where you belong.

  6. the amount of culture washing and hypocrisy here, coming from Jack Spade’s claims to wanting to be more “community” makes me want to puke. I truly hope no one is naive enough to fall for this tactic anymore. They are trying to co-opt culture, pure and simple. They are predatory and they steal ideas and cultural capitol from others who actually created it. The fact that they displaced an artspace and bookstore to have their fake “lending library” is evidence enough of their hypocrisy.

    1. Yeah, how dare they displace a business that couldn’t figure out a way to self sustain or convince the neighborhood to sustain it? This space should have been turned into a memorial to bookstores for future generations to learn from. Campos, you have failed the Mission once again.

  7. Adobe Books is a unique, authentic reflection of the culture of the Mission. Beyond selling books, it gives artists, poets, musicians, and those in need a place to belong and thrive. Jack Spade sells 100-300 dollar suede backpacks. Beyond the legality, you should ask what you want in your community.

  8. Sorry, Jack Spade is douchey and corporate. Don’t let them open in the Mission.

    Upper Haight, which had a Gap, might be okay. But not the Mission.

    1. That’s right, here in the Mission we prefer vacant storefronts, abandoned lots, and urine. Lots of urine.

        1. I got some locally sourced, sustainable urine fresh from the 16th and Mission BART plaza. It’s artisan as well, it’s produced by those who live locally in our fine SROs and who are master craftsmen at the art of public urination. A bargain at $20 an ounce, own a piece of the diverse and historic Mission District of your very own. For an extra $10, David Campos will give it his personal endorsement as well.

  9. So ridiculous… they received permission almost a year ago from the planning department, and they have moved in and started renovations. Mission Bicycle should be ashamed.

    1. the VCMA was never on the city’s list of neighborhood merchants groups, so was never notified of this determination. I hear it’s trying to rectify that .

      also, the Mission merchants assoc *was notified, but the notice went to the guy who happens to have Jack Spade as a client – and was never shared with the other members of the organization

  10. the rendering of the store is gross, and the fact that they bought books from adobe is gross. I can’t believe they’d so nakedly try to bank on the vibe of adobe after getting adobe kicked out. It would be preferable to just have them embrace their mall roots and make an ugly brightly lit mall storefront than pretend to be somehow resurrecting adobe. Awful.

    1. rendering of library is like wall of taxidermied trophies– of what used to breathe in this space. their unwillingless to listen and have real dialogue with community speaks volumes: i’d like to see jack spade graciously bow out now.

  11. Ugh, that rendering provided courtesy of Jack Spade — don’t you find books terribly decorative? /sarcasm

  12. Daniel, thanks for the in-depth coverage. One point I’d like to add: When Jack Spade asked the city to *not* consider it a chain store, it claimed that “[b]eing affiliated with a Parent Company should not imply that the store can or will pay above market rent.” (Source: http://sf-planning.org/ftp/files/LOD/2012/3166%20-%2016th%20Street.pdf)

    In the span of roughly a year, from the time that Jack Spade initially expressed interest in the 16th Street location, Adobe Books saw its monthly rent climb from $4500 to $8000. (And even though Adobe was willing to pay, the landlord refused to renew their lease.) I’m told that Jack Spade is paying $12000 per month. That’s significantly above market rate, which is a big reason why small businesses in the neighborhood are so worried about the implications of Jack Spade moving in, and why the VCMA is fighting to make sure residents and retailers have an opportunity to be heard.

    1. Excellent point. When one chain store with deep pockets comes in, it alone can change the whole dynamic of the neighborhood. I can’t imagine that Jack Spade’s people think there is a true market for $250 blue jeans and $100 polo shirts on 16th Street; it will lend them some kind of cred for their other, more appropriately located stores.

      1. Unlike the $300 jeans at Self Edge on Valencia/18th or the $100 shirts at Voyager or Taylor Stitch on Valencia/15th?

          1. The issue is not the price of merchandise. The issue is who is selling the merchandise, and where profits are going.

            Neither Self Edge nor Taylor Stitch have publicly-traded parent companies. Jack Spade does.

            Self Edge has three brick and mortar locations; Taylor Stitch has one; Jack Spade currently has 13; Spade’s parent company has 479.

            Buying expensive things at Self Edge or Taylor Stitch will help put money back into the local economy. Buying expensive things at Jack Spade will serve to enrich the shareholders at Fifth and Pacific Companies.

            For what it’s worth, I’d like to see fewer high-end stores in the MIssion. But that’s a totally different battle. This is far more black and white–local businesses vs. a multinational corporation.

          2. This is my old neighborhood, so I would like to comment. Jack Spade is not taking over the block, building a huge, unattractive building, but moving into a space which has been vacated. According to Kyle, “Taylor Stitch does not have a publicly traded parent company”. However, they carry shoes made by Rancourt and Co. which is an offshoot of Allan-Edmunds, an upscale shoe manufacturer in Lewiston with 49 stores in the USA and more worldwide, and is partnered with Gladstone Capital Corp through a $19 million investment. So, I don’t think that the this is a valid argument. Why shouldn’t the Mission have stores which offer some diversity as well? If you don’t want to shop there, then don’t, but they were given the green light by the Planning Dept. and the code. They seem willing to work with the community. Why not let them develop the store? Do you think someone else is going to come in and pay that rent, another taco shop perhaps??

        1. Amen. So sick of this “high end” crap. Take a look at the restaurants around there serving $10 beers. Wake up people.

    2. You make a good point, Kyle. I’m worried the city is all too happy to pave the way for these big spenders to move in just like they did with the tech companies.