It appears that the doors have officially closed at Viracocha at 998 Valencia, the quirky, vintage shop and spontaneous art space that opened in 2010. Its last listed event took place on July 31st.

Even after getting a license in September 2014 to have entertainment, it appears that making the rent was still difficult. Although the owner Jonathan Siegel could not be reached for comment, several neighboring local businesses and a musician who appeared there, said the store had been closed.

Rumors have enveloped the space ever since SF Weekly reported in 2013 that owner Jonathan Siegel, who is also an actor and writer had about $40,000 in debt from the $10,000 a month Valencia corridor rent. Although, Siegel’s landlord has been lenient with rent being paid late, the shop always struggled to survive.

In part, it was often difficult for those walking in to tell if it was a museum or a store. Siegel told Mission Local in 2011, “I wanted this to be a fallout shelter for the artists,” and added that he never intended to create a simple vintage store. In that he succeeded. Friends often worked for free and the space was always adding elements including a lending library and open classes.

Few of Siegel’s endeavors were concerned with commerce.

“I’ve been working here since 2011 and as long as I’ve been working here they’ve always been opening and closing and I can imagine how stressful that would be,” said Adam Carcamo, the office manager at Valencia Optometry across the street from Viracocha. He said Siegel has come to Valencia Optometry on occasion for contacts.

Carcamo also mentioned that Siegel may be looking for someone else to take over Viracocha, saying that Siegel was planning to move to Colorado to get married.

“He has bigger plans for the future,” said Carcamo.

Siegel could not be reached for comment.

Viracocha's doors are closed and locked on August 3, 2015. Photo by Meira Gebel.
Viracocha’s doors are closed and locked on August 3, 2015. Photo by Meira Gebel.

Testimony from neighboring local businesses have been different and varying. An employee from Blue Fig next door at 990 Valencia said that she has seen Siegel frequently since the space’s last event calendar date and has heard of no further plans for the space other than its definite closure.  She called the latter “inevitable.”

Andrew Blair, a musician from Oakland who called Viracocha his “home away from home” and was a frequent volunteer, said on Saturday that Siegel was not a businessman and was unable to push sales, which ultimately led to the store’s fate.

Blair also commented that the space meant a lot to him and his other bandmates in We Came As Owls, who have performed at Viracocha many times back when it wasn’t licensed as an event space, and was essentially a speakeasy.

A previous story by Mission Local showcases some of Siegel’s struggles to maintain business.

“Viracocha will seriously be missed. It was a lot more than an art space, it was a space that people could come and express themselves with no pretensions and now it’s gone,” said Blair.

UPDATE August 3rd, 3:37 p.m.: 

Viracocha took to Facebook to explain their situation, saying that although Viracocha will be closing for good, there are still efforts to keep the basement performance space afloat for possible new tenants. A community meeting will be held on August 3rd at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the future of the space. The perspective new tenant will also be at the meeting to discuss new possibilities for the building and efforts to keep the art space alive. There has been little financial backing, and the meeting will discuss ways to help keep this performance space in the building. 

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1 Comment

  1. If the owner truly wanted this to be a place for artists and didn’t care about making money, why would he choose one of the most exensive rents in all of SF? Anyone would have known that this is the inevitable fate of paying large rent and not having any revenue. If the long term plan is to have a space for artists to hang out, work, and perform, then a long term lease in a cheaper area is what is needed. Just 5 blocks away on Folsom or Harrison are many places that are cheaper, bigger and offer longer term leases.

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