The pink cabinets and loud salsa music at Javier Rodriguez’s booth were all new to the veteran barber. He had enough space for his blue mobility scooter, a necessity for the 71-year-old polio survivor, but his hair cutting equipment was down to a minimum.
Until recently, Rodriguez was the only full-time barber at Willy’s Barbershop at 3227 22nd St., one of the oldest barber shops in the Mission. But on May 29, San Francisco Sheriff’s Deputies arrived with an order to vacate, rushing Rodriguez and his clients out before changing the locks and posting “no trespassing” signs.
“One of them said, ‘Sorry, we know you’re just doing your job but so am I,’” Rodriguez said in Spanish.
Now he’s here, working at a beauty salon down the block. The music is louder, the decor is pinker and he’s essentially having to start over from scratch. All of his gear is still locked away at his old booth at Willy’s.
“I keep asking when I can go back and grab my things, but I never get a response,” says Rodriguez, who was profiled by Mission Local last year.
Court records indicate that Makras Real Estate, which manages the 22nd Street property, filed an illegal detainer — an eviction notice — on March 21 claiming that the business was in breach of its lease by failing to provide proof of business insurance. The notice gave Willy’s owner Ricardo Zamudio three days to renew the license or face eviction.
Zamudio said he wasn’t notified or served with eviction papers in March and had no idea he was in breach of his lease. When he eventually did renew his business insurance April 5, nine days after the eviction filing, Zamudio and his wife, Lori, said they were told by Makras’ attorney that it was “acceptable” and were made to think the eviction process would end.
Receipts provided to Mission Local show that they kept paying rent into May. The Zamudios were surprised when they were locked out of the building later that month.
“They take $2,700 and hit us with an eviction? That’s so shady,” Lori Zamudio said. “If they knew we were being evicted, why would they still take our rent?”
Our messages for Makras Real Estate principal Victor Makras were not returned. His attorney, John Zanghi, said that the eviction was spurred by unpaid utility bills and liens, along with problems in paying the rent in a timely fashion — and the lack of insurance, dating back to at least 2018. On some occasions, Zanghi said, rent was two or more months behind.
Still, Zanghi said there were many attempts to reach an agreement, including one in which the eviction in April was rescinded so long as the Zamudios maintained a payment plan. But when the Zamudios failed to keep their end of the agreement, Zanghi said he was asked to refile the eviction in May, essentially ending Willy’s for good.
“Our client has been going in the hole to collect rent, they don’t want a vacant storefront. They’ve been going through this for two years,” Zanghi said.
Sometimes bills were paid late, Zamudio admitted, but he emphasizes that they were always paid.
Willy’s has been a Mission mainstay since the 1960s. Zamudio, who bought the business from his father in 2005, said he grew up in the shop and even learned to cut hair there. With low haircut prices, old-school hairstyle posters and even a black-and-white photo of the same building in the early 1900s hanging on its walls, the barber shop was a Mission District heirloom.
Zamudio said he was in the process of applying to be a city legacy business right up to the eviction. The shop employed two other barbers, including Rodriguez. But Zamudio said “getting good help was hard to come by.”
“I met most of my friends here, friends I still have to this day,” Zamudio said.
Zamudio said he had been keeping the shop open out of sentimental value, even as his rent was recently increased to $2,700 a month. But unless something drastic happens, the shop is unlikely to reopen.
“Maybe we’ll open up a new shop. I don’t know yet,” Zamudio said.