Among the variety of bodegas and clothing stores along Mission, many addresses have been boarded up or have had their metal shutters lowered permanently. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

Take a stroll along Mission Street and you’ll see two sides of the ever-changing city: the family-owned, brick-and-mortar stores that go back decades, and the new-school minimalist design of the more recently opened shops.

No matter their tenure, nearly all of the 59 active businesses along the two blocks between 21st and 23rd streets on Mission Street are trying to bring in the young tech crowd that has moved into the neighborhood during the past decade. And that crowd seems to favor experiences over commodities.

“Seems like the trend is having a lot of customers just coming in for entertainment, such as restaurants and the theater,” said Etta Yung, the co-owner of the Bonita Trading Company, who said she would be retiring and closing soon.

Etta Yung, co-owner of the Bonita Trading Co., has owned the building with her husband Kai where their shop has been for 25 years. They are considering closing their store and retiring as business declines. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

Indeed, with some exceptions, it is the bars, restaurants and movie theaters that are thriving. A new watering hole, called Mission Sports Bar, is packed with the much-coveted young crowd, as are Lazlo, Lolindo and El Techo. The New Mission Theater, run now by the Alamo Drafthouse, has become the second-most successful of the Alamo properties, according to concierge Eric Reyes.

For her part, Yung’s discount business has dropped by 70 percent over the last decade, a period of time in which the Latino population, which stopped in to buy shoes and boots, also dropped, from 58 percent to 48 percent, between 2000 and 2010 — and by another two percent in the last eight years. Moreover, like other retail stores, Yung’s business has been hit by e-commerce.

“The whole block, it’s only us. Only one retail,” said Yung, whose store is on the east side of Mission Street between 21st and 22nd streets.

Unlike the two blocks further south that we reported on previously, fewer of the independent retail or service businesses in these two blocks said they were doing well, including two that are new: The Refinery Grooming Club and the clothing store Novedades Yoli. The three other independent stores that said they are doing well are all long-standing businesses, including Elite Soccer, The Smile Center and California Check Cashing.

Another five businesses said they were doing okay, but eight more willingly said business was going poorly. One clothing store, Kicks, will be moving to find a location with lower rent. Greetings Fashion Store’s owner said he planned to close soon.

Across the board, everyone is worried about rising rents.

At the family-owned Latino Bridal Store, in the Mission since 1991, owner Ed Ferrusquia says most customers now come from out of town via referrals, or from elsewhere in the city.

“There’s a bit more variety now. We’ve seen a boost from the African-American community and Asian communities as well,” Ferrusquia said. But even with these new clients, he said, business is down significantly.

Small businesses feeling pressured by City Hall

Atef Karajah and his father co-own That’s It Market on the corner of 23rd and Mission streets. He and his father have been involved in the community since the 1990s, and he says crime has gone down, but the city has been “overdoing” code enforcement.

As an example, he pointed to what he described as an overzealous concern about pigeons that roost on a city-owned electrical pole. When one of the pigeons broke into his sign and began to build a nest, the city warned him and threatened to issue a fine for allowing the pigeons to congregate on his property.

“The homeless issue, they don’t even care. But when it comes to taking money out of your pocket, especially us businesses out here, they’re real quick to come and fine you,” Karajah says.

Karajah said they are doing okay with their sandwich shop, but he feels that the small operators on Mission Street are poorly organized and represented.

“I don’t think small business are represented in this city like they used to be,” Karajah said.

At Elvita’s Joyeria, located at 2689 Mission St for the last 14 years, owner Elvita Flamenco said she’s been impacted by rising rents, loss of foot traffic and increasing troubles with crime.

“It’s not the same. When I moved over to this location 14 years ago I could open and close without worry. Now you have to have cameras and watch your back,” Flamenco said.

“Things have definitely changed, and I think it’s necessary that we have a little bit more security. Look, you won’t see a police officer here. If something happened, if someone yelled, where are the police?” she added.

Elvita Flamenco, right, has been a San Francisco resident for 30 years and says she’s concerned about the lack of care for the homeless population and feels unsafe in the area. Her sentiments were echoed by Patricia Baldocchi, left, a 20 year resident of the city. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

Juana Laurel, who runs the six-year-old Qosqo Maky jewelry shop, specializing in Peruvian artifacts, said that business is just okay.

“A lot of people complain about the difficulty of finding parking and the people who do manage to come in sometimes leave without buying anything,” Laurel said.

She said parking became more difficult with the arrival of valet parking across the street at El Techo and Lolinda, and the stream of rideshare pick-ups.

Shop proprietor Juana Laurel says that foot traffic along her side of Mission Street has declined with the removal of parking spaces and introduction of the red bus and taxi lanes. Valet parking across the street is the priority now, she says. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

Elite Sports, a soccer store at 2637 Mission St., was definitely doing better than its neighbors. Some of its clients first went to the store as children, and they continue to return as adults, according to  Juan Serrano, who works there. He said this loyal customer base and foreign tourists have helped keep sales up.

“There’s a lot of new faces here, a lot of tourists who come in and say they’ve never seen anything like it in Europe,” Serrano said.

Offering a service, however,  does seem an easier way to survive.

Nearby, the two-year-old Refinery Grooming Club is thriving. Stylists snip away as pop music plays loudly in the background and patrons await their turn. An employee, who called herself Julia, said the owners were happy with their new home and were experiencing a “good” amount of business

Nabeel Silmi, native Mission resident and owner of Grand Coffee, said his small coffee shop is managing to stay afloat.

“I’m proud of what we’ve built here,” Silmi said. “I think we’ve become part of the neighborhood.”

A Mission district native, Nabeel Silmi moved back to the area and opened Grand Coffee in 2010. Since its opening, Silmi says Grand Coffee has become a natural meeting place in the neighborhood and enjoys popularity among locals. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

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  1. This article could be titled “Small Businesses Failing To Adapt to a Changing Marketplace”

    It is a business decision to hang on what worked decades ago, even when the surrounding world is very much different. 🙁

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    1. I’m sorry but corner stores and jewelry stores still fill a need!

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  2. it is indeed sad. but it should be noted that s.f. also used to have an abundance of blacksmith’s shops, and horse carriage equipage shops. the new technological innovation of the early 1900s, the auto, and the new technology hungry “rebellious youths” of the “jazz era” wiped out those business models. san francisco’s last blacksmith’s shop is closing. (or has already closed) it will become a weed dispensary.

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  3. i’m developing a tick where every time someone complains about not being able to store their private vehicle in a dense urban area i bang my head on my desk three times. always three.

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  4. Bodegas? Those are in New York City. In San Francisco, we have corner stores — the standard term for small markets even when they aren’t on a corner.

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    1. per Mmerriam-webster: “a usually small grocery store in an urban area; specifically : one specializing in Hispanic groceries” i mean it’s the internet, might as well argue ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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