Casa Bonampak will officially close its doors to customers on July 31. And, after 23 years spent in the heart of the Mission, the journey to this conclusion hasn’t been easy.
“The cultural presence of Latino culture in the Mission is so important, as we go into more gentrification,” says Nancy Chárraga, Casa Bonampak’s owner. “I really was hoping to hand the cultural torch to someone else, that they could continue what I’ve built, and keep going, and make it even bigger.”
The store is quite simply a craft-enthusiast’s heaven. Near the corner of Valencia and Hill Streets, the inside is open and welcoming. And it’s filled with all kinds of treasures that bear significance to Chárraga and her proud legacy as “Tía de la Misiõn.”
She describes the sheer joy she felt when kids would run into the store — which to her, is the highest compliment — and how she would crack cascarones, or Mexican confetti eggs, over their heads.
“I think the second time around, this is a lot harder for me, because this is really final,” Chárraga said. “I think it’s been something that’s been such an interconnected journey with the Mission District. I’ve gotten to know the Mission on such an intimate level having a business like this — a cultural business.”
Due to a technicality with the prospective lease, her plans to merge her business with a non-profit didn’t pan out the way she had hoped. Chárraga says, “As a private individual, this falls on your shoulders. As a non-profit, with resources and funding, you can share the load.”
But she says, “I can tell you that it wasn’t for lack of goodwill. I can tell you that the interest was there, the will was there, the energy was perfect.”
She adds, “And it wasn’t the amount of rent either. I can’t say that, because I don’t want it to seem like this is about gentrification, it’s not. It’s just, unfortunately, things didn’t align as they needed to.”
Known best for her Trump piñatas displayed in the storefront, Chárraga’s business offered cultural classes, plus job training and internships for kids in the community. Now, the store will close when everything inside sells.
And she will keep the website running for the sale of wholesale items, custom orders and decorations.
“I couldn’t see my life after Casa Bonampak, because this is what I’ve dedicated myself to,” Chárraga says. She continues, “But, I did feel a sense of, that I want to travel again, I need to spend more quality time with my elders who are getting older and I don’t know how long I’m gonna have them around.”
She also wants to go back to her roots. “It’s like, calling me — I’ve done 41 years in the Bay Area, since we immigrated from Mexico, and I felt that it’s time for my spirit to really go back home,” she explains.
What’s next for Chárraga?
She still wants to work with kids in the community, noting that it’s her calling. But she doesn’t want to be weighed down by the day-to-day responsibilities of running a business, which she says can limit her creativity.
“Something more creative is gonna come in the long-run. I just can’t quite see what it is at the moment,” she says.
As for the legacy she wants to impart, she says it’s “the beauty of Latino culture — the traditions, the indigenous energy of our roots and where we come from. I just hope I have created something really special.”
Casa Bonampak is at 1051 Valencia St. There is currently a sale on all items until closing, on July 31.