After 20 years, Mission Thrift is going out of business — the third longtime business on Mission Street between 19th and 20th to announce its closure in the last month alone.

“The last two years have been a nightmare,” said Werner Werwie, the owner of Retro City Fashion, Inc., which runs Mission Thrift, as well as Held Over in the Haight and Mars Mercantile in Berkeley.

During a phone interview, Werwie attributed the closure of his business largely to the loss of its once-steady client base of artists and creative types who value vintage clothing. “What used to be my customer base is not in San Francisco anymore,” he said. “They’ve all moved to Oakland or Oklahoma.”  

Instead, he said, he and his staff have been subjected to more shoplifters and others from off the street who, he claims, harass and make trouble for his employees. Werwie said this has had a “demoralizing” effect on his staff. Last week, he said, he found his manager on the floor, crying, having a breakdown in response to troublemakers and shoplifters repeatedly coming into the store.

“That’s when I said I was done with this nonsense,” Werwie said.

He added that finding employees, let alone retaining them, has also been a struggle, despite reasonable wages (a starting $18 an hour, with paid vacation and bonuses). “It’s a mix of all of the above,” Werwie said.

Mission Thrift began in 1998, and its tall pink sign soon became an icon along the corridor.

Werwie closed Clothes Contact on Valencia in February 2015, when he was stuck with a purported rent hike from $4,000 to $12,000.

The face of the somewhat iconic 2300 block of Mission Street will have a different look in 2019: Siegel’s Clothing Superstore announced its closure this month, and Mission Loan, a pawn shop, will be closing perhaps by year’s end — confirmed to Mission Local by Darryl Kaplan, the owner, who was wounded in a robbery at the shop last December.  

Independent thrift stores are increasingly a dying breed in the Mission, once a thrifting oasis. The two-story Thrift Town shuttered in March 2017 after 45 years, two years after Clothes Contact. And now Mission Thrift is closing its doors. Luckily, the Mission will be getting a Goodwill at 17th and Mission for what looks to be a very long time.

From here on out, Mission Thrift will only be open Saturdays for half-off closing sales, Werwie said, until the last of the merchandise is gone. But he said he’s content to keep open his two remaining thrift stores — Mars and Held Over — as his other four vintage stores have gone out of business.

“It’s sad,” Werwie said. “But then you can’t stop progress or gentrification or whatever you want to call it.”