Heartfelt, at 436 Cortland Ave. in Bernal, is closing on Saturday. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

For 20 years, Heartfelt, at 434 Cortland Ave. in Bernal Heights, had been the go-to place to find a unique gift – everything from a popsicle holder to a flag or a ceramic wall cone. But on Saturday the business will close, citing a sharp decline in sales. 

Heartfelt’s owner, Darcy Lee, said she spent years curating the items at the shop and her taste attracted a wide-ranging group of buyers.

“Everything here, I handpicked,” Lee said, adding that she will continue to sell online. “People from all over the country ask me about the items I sell, so I’ll sell like the top 40 percent of it online.”

Lee announced the business decision on May 1 on Medium, stating she had suffered a $45,000 loss in the first quarter of the year. 

Lee is the rare retailer who owns her own building, and now it is up for sale for  $1.7 million.  She bought the building in 2002 for $410,000. 

Lee said she plans to host a goodbye party at Heartfelt on Sunday, Sept. 1, and she has hired a mariachi band to serenade the store on its final day. The store may open up later for pop-up-like events.

But late Monday morning, every item was on sale — even the furniture. Many longtime Heartfelt customers and Bernal residents came in to catch deals. Some longtime patrons of the store bought as many greeting cards, mugs and other trinkets as they could carry. 

“She did a lot for the neighborhood,” said Nancy Hardies, a longtime customer who was at the store on Monday to take advantage of the sales. 

As Hardies and Lee embraced, Hardies explained that 20 years ago they worked together at another store. Lee still applied an employee discount to Hardies’ purchase.

Bridget O’Malley-Baldwin said she has shopped at Heartfelt since she moved to Bernal Heights 16 years ago. On Monday she was there with  her 9-year-old daughter, Willa.

“I have bought so many stocking stuffers here,” O’Malley-Baldwin said. “Just little things for surprises. It was a lovely little spot in the community.”

Willa also had fun moments at the shop. 

“It was one of  the first places me and my friends actually went alone to. By ourselves, without any parents,” she said.

Heartfelt was also the first job many teenagers had. Lee said she always tried to hire teenagers for part-time positions. Elisa Gonzalez, who also works in the store, said she remembers watching co-workers head off to their proms. Nowadays the remaining high school-aged employees are on their way to college. 

“This is what she was all about,” Gonzalez said as she spoke about Lee. “She was all about growth, growth of people in the community. That’s what a lot of people don’t get to see about Darcy.”

O’Malley-Baldwin and her daughter left with a full basket of items. 

What did they buy at Heartfelt?

“We bought whatever we could. It was our last chance,” O’Malley-Baldwin said.  

Join the Conversation


  1. It would make a great location for a homeless drop-in center. There should be more services on Cortland.

  2. LIke Lucca’s and Mission PIe, business owners who own their buildings are ultimately in the real estate business in SF’s super hot real estate market.

  3. Business owners who own their buildings are smart. The real estate is a hedge against downturns in business, and also means that if the business is ultimately no longer viable, they have an exit. So smart thinking on their part.

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