Yaron Milgron owner of Local’s Corner announced that the locus of neighborhood controversy, though critically-appreciated restaurant, will be closing at the end of this month. The restaurant became a symbol of gentrification and a flashpoint in the neighborhood for allegations that it intentionally denied service to prominent community member Sandy Cuadra, who died shortly thereafter. Its exterior was vandalized repeatedly.
In a letter published on Inside Scoop, Milgrom says it wasn’t the vandalism or protests, as we reported on at length in July, the real thing that did it in for his second restaurant in the Mission was lack of customers. Even before the months of unrest and a boycott, the restaurant at the corner of 23rd and Bryant never could gather enough of a crowd. Here’s Milgrom:
When we received our San Francisco Chronicle glowing, three-star review, we felt certain we’d be around for awhile. Yet diners did not come. Then came more accolades—San Francisco Chronicles Top 10 New Restaurants and Top 100 Restaurants two years in a row, Rising Star Chef, and others. All held the promise of success. Yet it never translated into a busy restaurant.
Before ACCE and vandalism, we were not in good shape. Certainly, neither helped. Though its impact was less financial than emotional. More than the sting, it was the cumulative wear.
Talking with Milgrom outside of Mission Local Market Wednesday afternoon, his mood was undoubtedly humbled.
“I’m sadder today than I was yesterday,” said Milgrom, though he explained the decision was a long time coming. When his chef du cuisine Timothy Malloy recently announced he was leaving, the choice became more urgent.
“Honestly, we’ve thought about it a lot in the the two and half years, whether or not we should shift because Local’s Corner never really took hold,” said Milgrom.
Milgrom said that the restaurant’s focus on seafood and small plates may have kept Local’s Corner from being a “week night restaurant.”
“When I think about what I’d change, I don’t know. We were really proud of the food,” said Milgrom. “We thought about making it an easier sell, but we wanted to be proud of the product.”
Milgrom asserted that Local’s Corner struggled even before the controversy around it brewed into protests and vandalism. “We were operating with three star reviews and Rising Chef awards, if that’s not putting people in seats, what will?” he said. “It was just the wrong product at the wrong place.”
Though they “didn’t help,” Milgrom said he didn’t think the boycotts or protests were the root cause of Local’s Corner’s struggles. When asked, he did say that he’d learned from the experience and would have done some things differently if he could live through it again.
“There’s always something to learn from all of it, as a business owner and human being,” he said. “We always need to work to be friendlier everywhere, to everyone. We’re a neighborhood business, serving this neighborhood, we always need to be as welcoming as possible.”
Much of the hostility towards Milgrom and his restaurants, in addition to the claims of discrimination, seemed to stem from what appeared to many as a growing restaurant empire. His family of businesses opened four locations in a four-block radius in just a few years.
But Milgrom doesn’t think he expanded too quickly, saying business has been good everywhere else. Despite Local Mission Market struggling in its first year, Milgrom says business has been strong in recent weeks.
Would he open up another restaurant or business in the Mission anytime soon?
“Definitely not any time soon,” he said noting that he’s the father of three young children and we’ll focus on taking proper care of existing businesses.
Local’s Corner will be serving its last meal on November 29. His other three businesses in the Mission—Local Mission Market, Local Mission Eatery, and Local’s Cellar—will all stay open.