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.