Andrea Paz, the owner of Copper Arts Gallery, was one of those able to offset the loss of tourists with local visits. “It may be that people stopped coming here because of the fires and the smoke, but I noticed fewer tourists and more locals that told me they hadn’t noticed the shop before,” she said.
Full of stocking-stuffers, gift stores like Needles & Pens tend to be the champions of the season, but always under threat by online retail. Owner Breezy Culbertson attested to another successful year, and many local shoppers in search of candles, socks, jewelry and fanzines.
“You never know with online shopping, but a lot of people came here and told me they made an effort to support the community instead of supporting Amazon,” she said. “It is really nice and really appreciated.”
Online retail didn’t always present competition. In some cases, they served an ally to local retailers. Scarlet Sage, an apothecary in Valencia, sold enough herbal products through its online store to offset the decline in tourist visits, and even beat the store’s 2017 results.
“We did not register as many transactions, but the earnings were still slightly higher than last year,” said general manager Danielle Benjamin.
For San Francycle Valencia, its holiday sales brought the first month of profits since the shop opened this branch last June. “We had been taking substantial losses, and then we sold over $20k in December,” said owner Tommy Pham. Pham said its website’s sales were strong, “but not even close to in-store for December.”
Not everyone was able to deal with nature’s contingencies or technological novelties. Valencia Cyclery sold 25 percent less than a year ago, a loss attributed to the bad air, then the rain, and a change in the kinds of gifts that kids ask Santa to bring them.
“More and more kids are getting electronics, a new phone, a laptop, instead of a bicycle,” said owner Paul Olszewski. “It used to be traditional that kids got a bike for Christmas, but it’s happening less.”
At least for bikes, there will always be spring and summer.
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A Changing Landscape
Among those thankful for the foot-traffic were Casa Bonampak and vintage store Wallflower, two shops waving goodbye to the neighborhood at the end of January. Wallflower is retiring after four years with a closing sale in late January; Casa Bonampak is holding its final sales until mid-month, when the business is slated to move to an online and wholesale afterlife.
“Sales this December were as good as last year, which is pretty good, expectation-wise,” said owner Nancy Charraga. Her store’s hottest gift of the season: Donald Trump toilet paper, with a record 75 rolls sold.
But, as much as the Mission changes, whoever is around will still need something to read, said Dan Weiss, new book buyer and salesman at Dog Eared Books. “The book is uniquely positioned for everyone: people that have a lot of money and people who don’t; people who have been here forever, and people that are new to the neighborhood,” he said.
The bestsellers of its strong season: Becoming by Michelle Obama, and There There by Tommy Orange.