Photo by Julian Mark

Mission De Flores, a flower shop whose storefront at 22nd and Folsom is usually bursting with colorful bouquets, is now empty.

Its owner, Steven Rubenfaer, confirmed that the business, including its online sales, has “totally closed down,” but declined to comment further.

In a recent — and very prescient — interview with the San Francisco Business Times, he talked about the death of brick-and-mortar retail: the ballooning costs of labor, space, and bureaucracy.

There’s no future in retail in San Francisco,” he said in April. “It’s a very unfriendly environment.”

Yet in the interview, Rubenfaer said that the business was seeing success in online sales for deliveries, weddings and events, and he even mentioned plans to expand. “We definitely have expansion plans, but retail stores are not the answer in San Francisco,” he said.

That, apparently, didn’t work out.

Mission De Flores once had three locations: a small stand on Valencia Street, a shop on Mission Street in the Excelsior that took over the storefront of a longtime flower shop, and another shop on Folsom, its first store. Rubenfaer embraced the Mission District, showing up at events with floral backdrops so that potential customers could take Instagram selfies, and introducing himself to other businesses.

In April, the business had 11 employees.

But all of his work failed to translate into revenues. One by one, each of the locations shuttered. After the small stand closed on 22nd and Valencia by the V20 apartments, he told Mission Local, “It was horrible,” noting that the stand’s conditions only made business harder.

Then the main store on Folsom Street closed sometime in May.

Rubenfaer founded Mission De Flores with his business partner Ezekiel Steffens in 2013, but Steffens died a year later, and Rubenfaer had to grab the reins. Even as he opened the new locations, he found little success in an increasingly harsh retail landscape.

“Retail is slowly dying in San Francisco,” he told the Business Times.

Now, it all makes sense. 

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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  1. While I sympathize with the plight of the owner I’ve noticed a trend in Mission businesses ‘blaming’ everything but themselves and not asking ‘if my business is to survive, what do I need to do?’ then plan the work, and work the plan. Its like the merchants on Mission who claim gentrification is pushing them out, no that’s not the root cause, its the goods you offer and readily available elsewhere, perhaps at a lower or comparable cost, and made more accessible (i.e. door to door shipping). Its easy to blame the internet or a myriad of other trends but you have to apply science to your business. Hope is not a plan! Case in point the florist on 18th street at Noe Urban Flowers is doing a great business? Why well as a consumer of that shop I can tell you its presentation, availability, cost, and accessibility. Flowers seem to be half foot traffic and half booked business so if you’re in a crappy location then you’re going to suffer.

  2. I’ve lived on this block for over a decade and it started dying when the corner grocery store closed. Zeke was a sweet young man but had his demons. My kid used to visit the shop and hang out, help make his avant- garde floral displays wrapped in barbed wire. He was a good neighbor and person. Thank you Steven for trying to keep it going.

    We can only hope that the Vietnamese restaurant will help, otherwise the corner will just be a giant homeless camp so all the kids in the neighborhood live in fear of their future as they step over their elders on the way to school or the playground.

    1. I’ve lived on this block for about 7 years, literally less than half a block from Mission de Flores and I remember that grocery store. It didn’t do great business, but was OK for grabbing things in a pinch. The produce would often rot, as they didn’t generate enough foot traffic to sell it off before the flies and mold took hold. The revamp was interesting, with the deli and coffee bar, but that didn’t last very long at all. Folsom St has the “wrong” kind of foot traffic for businesses, it’s not 24th Street, and most are just neighborhood people on their way to someplace else.

      The Vietnamese place–what’s the deal with it? It’s been promising to open for months now but there’s next to zero activity on that site.