Declining sales have forced Thrift Town on Mission and 17th streets to close its doors permanently as of Wednesday afternoon.
“The retail landscape is changing drastically and despite our exhaustive efforts to meet the ongoing challenges of increased costs and declining sales, we are unable to generate the sales necessary to sustain our long-standing business in San Francisco,” a letter from the owners taped to the door Wednesday afternoon read.
Thrift Town had been in business since 1972 – the place where the poor, hipsters and others found style, Halloween costumes, Day of the Dead gowns and last minute items for Burning Man.
A tipster wrote to Mission Local and several other local outlets Tuesday evening to report that the store’s last day would be March 31. Employees said they could not confirm the closure and indicated they expected to continue working there. A regional manager did not return a call for comment or confirmation. (Update: Many customers arrived on Thursday expecting to find one last bargain.)
Then Wednesday afternoon business owners made an announcement, according to Gerard Koskovich of Preserving LGBT Historic Sites in California, that the store would shutter effective that day. A rent increase was not to blame.
“The building’s ownership has been very helpful and tried very hard to work with us on ways to keep our doors open including a rent reduction,” their farewell letter states.
Thrift Town co-owner Wendy Steinmetz said in a phone interview Thursday morning that the owners had not even made a final decision about closing until last Friday and were developing a communication plan to alert crew and customers, but that media reports came out before they could do so. Nonetheless, Steinmetz said, staff had some sense that the store was not doing well.
“Our crew has been very supportive. They’ve known that we’re not sustainable the way we are, and they were willing to stick with us,” she said. “The closure came abruptly because we weren’t even sure until we met with city and our landlord last Friday.”
The family’s 11 other Thrift Town locations throughout California, New Mexico and Texas will remain open, and the owners’ letter indicates that employees of the San Francisco location are encouraged to apply for positions there.
“We salute everyone for their time, commitment, dedication, and loyalty to Thrift Town over the past many years,” the letter concludes.
It’s unclear what will become of the building that has become a fixture in the Mission. Long before it was a thrift store, the building was the home of Redlick Furniture, which opened after the 1906 earthquake. And even after Redlick closed in 1975, it was the host to the sign 17 Reasons, which remained up until 2002 and like Bernal Hill or Twin Peaks, became a navigational icon for all who lived in the area.