After losing much of their business to online sales and facing steadily rising rents, two businesses on San Francisco’s Valencia Street will shutter and two will relocate by mid-February. Another business has already shut down, and two others in the two-block stretch worry about their futures.
Lost Weekend Video, after 18 years on Valencia Street, will relocate to inside the Alamo Drafthouse lobby. Freewheel, a bike shop, will also relocate within the Mission following the end of its lease, though a new location has not yet been announced. Meanwhile, clothing store DEMA, and Mission Creek Cafe, along with gift and skincare purveyor Currents will both close permanently. Another two stores, Decamere Market and Retrofit vintage clothing, worry about their business slipping away.
Currents, a shop selling a variety of skincare products and handmade accessories, got hit by both a rent hike and a market that has moved online, the owner said. It will shut on February 15, citing an untenable rent increase and fewer buyers.
The owner, who asked that his name not be used, said he sees potential customers come in, take photos of items, and then leave without buying anything. “Seems like their smart phones make their decisions for them,” he said. “I’m tired of making for those people.” Regulars, he said, can call him if they want more of the soaps and lotions that he will no longer offer at a retail location.
Mission Creek Cafe closed last week. Its owners could not be reached for comment. Regulars said that business had been slow, but it is unclear if a rent increase factored into its closure. The cafe, known and loved for its unpretentious work space, also had a reputation for poor food hygiene. A health inspection in summer of last year found multiple violations, including bad hand washing practices, vermin, clutter and moldy food.
As Mission Local reported earlier, Clothier DEMA will leave the street in February because business has slowed. With its exit, the space will become home to 1234Go! Records, an Oakland record seller that moved in with Lost Weekend Video next door in March of 2015. At the time, it made the move to help Lost Weekend keep its Valencia space and expand to the East Bay.
While the video store’s 18-year-old Valencia location will shutter, Lost Weekend will move into the newly opened Alamo Drafthouse cinema’s lobby on Mission Street.
“Retail shops like ours, Le Video, Amoeba, Green Apple and many others in the entertainment wing of retail used to be the anchors of neighborhoods. That had a lot to do with why certain neighborhoods were more popular. That way of thinking has changed, ” said one of three Lost Weekend owners, Dave Hawkins.
Video stores have struggled for years as Netflix and then streaming became more popular. The move will allow Lost Weekend to retain some of its favorite features – a 27,000 video collection, in-person film rentals, and possibly even the comedy shows that became popular in its downstairs Cinecave.
Hawkins considers the changes on Valencia Street symptomatic of a larger industrial and cultural shift – away from brick-and-mortar stores with engaged shop owners and employees and toward tech-based, centralized delivery and streaming models.
“I want to know from the Tim Cooks and the Mark Zuckerbergs where they think this all going. How will we employ 175 million people once everything is fully automated? Socialism? A living wage concept? Or do they even care?”
Freewheel bike shop, also nearing the end of its lease and faced with a rent increase it can’t meet, will move from its 18-year location on Valencia Street. Owner Carlos Corujo said it will relocate within the Mission, but did not specify an exact location. Freewheel also has a location on Hayes Street near Ashbury Street.
“We’ve been in business for so long, so it’s not like business is bad. There’s a tipping point for rent hikes, and we’ve reached it,” Corujo said.
Corujo, too, competes with online sales. He said that offering services like repair, which cannot be ordered online, has helped keep business healthy.
“The perception of the value of a square foot on Valencia Street is higher than it is,” Corujo said. “People wander in here, they’re not necessarily spending all of their money on it. We’re still competing against mail order every day.”
That perceived value of a square foot is hitting the Decamere Market, particularly hard. Solomon Mehari, who runs the market with his brother, said when his lease expired at the beginning of January, the rent went from $4,102 a month to $9,306. But his business can’t keep up.
“These kids, they make a lot of money, but they don’t come here,” he said. “They order something to be delivered for them.” Mehari has not set up an online order system as others have and unlike delis like Rhea’s and Ike’s, he has no ready-made deli items he could set up online orders or delivery for.
The rent increase, combined with sluggish business, is troubling for him.
“We’re just working for the landlord now. Whatever we make, we give to them,” Mehari said. “We can’t leave … We have mortgages, I have two kids in college.”
In the retail space next door to Freewheel, part of the same building, Retrofit’s owner Steven Lemay is still creating new window displays and helping customers. Having owned the business for 12 of its 20 years, 17 of which were spent on Valencia, he nonetheless suspects Retrofit’s days are numbered.
“I would be naïve to think it wasn’t going to happen to me,” he said. Lemay, too, has lost some clientele.
“The demographic has changed. Unfortunately the people who live here are not very creative,” he said. “There’s this moment where it’s either fight it, or realize that it’s not my neighborhood anymore.”