Grown men clamored and pleaded with security to let them in. Just beyond their reach hung the suits, hats and paraphernalia of a night well dressed. And on Saturday, the final day of the Siegel’s Clothing Superstore, those suits were at super-sale prices.
“Back up,” a broad-shouldered security man hollered while emphasizing the bass in his voice. His calls to the 20 to 30 men went unheeded, and those at the front of the crowd continued to push their way in. They did not succeed – at least not immediately. One by one, the security let new shoppers in as others exited.
This battle of wills between customers and Siegel’s security persisted through Saturday, the store’s very last day in business (See update below.). The building was sold last month for $6.5 million. Siegel’s departure from the Mission is the laster marker in the 90-year-old story of an institution that served the Mission.
The zoot suit – a popular suit among black, Latino, and Filipino youth never went out of style at Siegel’s. The store kept them in stock along with pieces of clothing that appealed to Latino Mission dwellers.
Signs promising 30-50 percent off plastered the front windows as customers took the opportunity to fill their closets with Siegel’s timeless apparel. Some came out of the store carrying suits in one hand and shoes in the other. Others plowed their way through, dragging trash bags full of clothes behind them.
“Watch the bag, I don’t want to hit nobody,” yelled an elderly looking man to the startled customers. Several minutes later, the gentleman trudged back into the store because, he said, “I got two more bags to get.”
Unlike most, 31-year-old Jesse Aviles wasn’t in line to haul piles of Dickies and bright colored suits. He heard about the blowout sale and was hoping to purchase a Kangol hat, an English designed cap that gained popularity with the rise of hip-hop in the 1980s. “I definitely appreciate the Kangol selection they got,” Aviles said. The Mission native failed to notice until Saturday that Siegel’s was closing and was disheartened by the news.
He grew up walking along Mission St and looking up at the black and white Siegel’s sign. He became interested in the suits and enamored with the classic décor of the downstairs boy’s clothing section. Today’s Mission looks drastically different than the neighborhood that shaped him, and he’s conflicted.
“The only thing that’s consistent is change but I miss the way it used to be, the way it used to look, and the feel it used to have,” Aviles said. “The flavor is less and less, it’s becoming more stale, and gentrification is making it more stale.”
Daniel Salazar, 47, also grew up in the Mission, and Siegel’s was always his go-to store. He estimated earlier that he had between 50-100 pieces of clothing from Siegel’s.
Salazar’s wardrobe has increased this past week thanks to “good deals and to support his [Michael Gardner, owner] closing,” he said.
He spent about $250 the first day and $150 every day after that. “It’s historic. When you walk in, even if you look at the walls hella famous people have come through.” Those famous people include three former U.S presidents – George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – and the comedian Will Ferrell.
There weren’t any celebrity sightings Saturday, except maybe Siegel’s regulars who could be heard sharing their stories about the clothing shop. Noel Romero, 55, was one of them. He worked at Siegel’s in the 1980s when he was a teenager.
“I worked here back in the days with Mike, and it was good quality clothes, people never stopped coming in. Now it’s sad to see it close, but he had a good run,” Romero said.
He reminisced over the Mission he grew up in – one full of Latinos from Mexico, El Salvador and other countries. The Latino population has dropped to 38 percent from more than 50 percent. “You rarely see Latinos anymore,” Romero said. “Now change is good cause they cleaned up the streets pretty good, but this is one of the stores that’s gonna be missed for sure.”
When Romero got to the front of the line, he called out to the owner Gardner whose face lit up when he saw his old employee.
Update: From owner Michael Gardner: “As such, so many people could not get into Siegel’s Saturday before we closed, our staff decided to open again for regular retail business on Monday February 4 around 11:00 a.m. …. we will try to bring all clothing left in the basement up for all to see.