Tommy Pham poses in his new storefront on Valencia Street. Photo by Julian Mark

San Francycle, a bicycle apparel shop, opened last weekend on Valencia Street, leaving the Tenderloin when business slowed after October 2016 when Twitter laid off some 350 employees — 9 percent of its total workforce.

“The firings just killed us,” said Tommy Pham, the 40-year-old owner of San Francycle.

With a loan from the Mission Economic Development Agency, as well as sales from a storefront at the San Francisco International Airport that he recently closed, he was able to afford moving onto Valencia Street – which, while friendly to bikers, is less friendly to small retailers.

San Francycle gives Valencia Street, considered by some to be the Mission’s designated biking corridor, four stores geared toward cyclists. There are at least another five in the Mission.

Mission Bicycle has been on Valencia for the better part of a decade, and Valencia Cyclery has sold bikes on the corridor for more than 30 years. But by end of the month, VanMoof — a bicycle maker with seven other worldwide locations — will open on Valencia, joining San Francycle.

Pham is welcoming the new climate. “We always wanted to be on Valencia, because that’s where a lot of cyclists are,” he said.

San Francycle offers mostly biking-themed shirts and bags, but is also looking into selling some bikes as well. However, Pham promises to carry no bicycle brands the other stores are offering, he said. “So we’re not gonna step on anyone’s toes.”

Valencia is, indeed, a sort of cyclists’ paradise. In addition to wide bike lanes and flat terrain, the city recently installed flex posts in certain parts of the street to deter Ubers and Lyfts from squatting in the bike lane. And Lyft recently began preventing pickups and drop-offs on the corridor.

At one time, Pham, however, felt positive about his location on Larkin Street in the Tenderloin, where he opened his first storefront in 2014 — the year Twitter moved into the mid-Market area.

“We were seeing all this potential,” he said of the business activity on Larkin after Twitter opened. He said the area got cleaned up and felt “nicer and safer” with new business activity on the neighborhood.

But in addition to the layoffs, tech workers also began to move into new developments in SoMa and Mission Bay. Soon, the foot traffic dwindled. “People who could afford to leave left,” he said.

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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. That sounds like a great offer, Mr. Conway, I’m sure ML would be happy to repay you in a slew of glowing articles about how AirBnB guests help keep little old ladies in their childhood homes, create jobs and nurture local small businesses in the Mission.

  1. You spelled ‘laid off’ wrong and failed to disclose that this article was literally written in MEDA’s offices. Is this a press release or an article from a legitimate news outlet?

    1. Dear sir —

      Thanks for the heads up. Autocorrect is a bitch.

      We like to write about new businesses opening up in the neighborhood. In the course of speaking to this business’ proprietor, he informed our reporter of the loan. If he’d told us about a loan from his uncle or Vladimir Putin, we’d have tracked that down and reported that.

      If you’re insinuating that our coverage is colored by the fact MEDA is our landlord, maybe you can help us get a break on rent. As in: We pay rent. We don’t occupy space in MEDA’s “office,” we rent a room in a large building. We get no breaks.



      1. Thanks for the clarifying response, Joe, and in turn I need to clarify as well. Given ML has no ostensible ad revenue and offers nothing but obsequious coverage of anything MEDA related, my question is not whether rent is paid, but in what currency?

        1. Shaun —

          Considering MEDA’s involvement in this story turned out to be an after-the-fact coincidence, I think the ground you’re standing on is pretty shaky. We rent space in their building, at the going rate — full stop. The only communication I have ever had with MEDA was to ask them to change the towels in the restrooms. Which they eventually did.

          Frankly, I think most of the past Mission Local coverage I’ve read of MEDA’s work has been pretty straight. We have reported, accurately, that they have acted as an unsought third party in local real-estate and development issues, insisting on 50-year leases for community-serving businesses on the ground floors of potential housing sites. We have quoted people involved in these deals as expressing surprise and displeasure at an unsought-after third party getting involved in a real-estate deal. I do not feel our readers are so mentally atrophied that we must insert terms like “This is bad” or “this is good” at the end of every sentence; I feel people can read the reporting and come to their own conclusions.