West of Pecos held out as long as they could. Photo by Julian Mark

As if the past week hasn’t felt apocalyptic enough, dormant businesses along Valencia Street and elsewhere in the Mission have begun to place wooden boards over their windows, as though preparing for a hurricane or riots. 

“We actually don’t want to do it,” said Dylan MacNiven, the owner of West of Pecos. “I don’t think it’s good for the public to see this, but now that everyone else has done it, we’re going to be the only one on the street without it.”  

MacNiven was in the process of placing the final boards on his windows on Thursday afternoon, and he said the bar and restaurant was hesitant — but then a multitude of surrounding businesses had done the same. It started with Stonemill Matcha, he said. 

“And Puerto Alegre saw them doing it, so they did it … and then Locanda … and then a few more down there,” he said. 

Flower + Water was welding the boards to its windows on Thursday afternoon. Photo by Julian Mark.

The majority of businesses on Valencia and Mission streets have closed their doors until the “shelter in place” order lifts on April 7. Some businesses, like the Italian seafood restaurant Locanda, have shuttered for good.

“Just as an extra precaution,” wrote Annie Stoll, the owner of Locanda and Italian restaurant Delfina, when asked about the boards over her shuttered restaurant. 

Stonemill Matcha, meanwhile, does not appear to be closing. Floor manager Lorilynn Rice told Mission Local Wednesday that the tea house boarded up its windows “so when we come back, it’s in the same condition.”  

“We’re doing it so we can sleep at night,” said Needles and Pens owner Breezy Culbertson. 

Culbertson said she will be out $300 to board the windows. Just one of their front windows would cost $2,000 to replace. “It’s a bummer because it feels like it is bad for morale,” said a man named Scott who was helping Culbertson install the boards.  

Workes at Needles and Pens on Thursday at noon. Photo by Lydia Chávez.

Paul Pace was parked in front of the boarded-up Lolo restaurant on Valencia and 21st on Thursday afternoon, waiting for his lunch to arrive from Señor Sisig. He said he manages a bar in the Tenderloin, though he declined to say which one. He did say, however, that he decided not to put boards up — for now, at least. 

“A lot of people are putting the boards up now because they’re afraid lumber is going to skyrocket,” he said. “Everyone’s got the same panic from the toilet paper scenario.” 

MacNiven said the price is still low. “These are $20 apiece, the same as they were last week,” he said. 

But he agreed with Culbertson. “It’s probably $1,000 per window.” 

‘There is no retail’ 

While some restaurants and coffee shops at least have had the option to stay open, small retailers — which are considered “non-essential” — have closed and will suffer. 

“All of this is so stressful — our whole livelihood is at stake,” said Culbertson, who added that she has yet to decide on what to do with her six employees. 

Culbertson encouraged people to buy online. Most of the producers are, like Needles and Pens, local. When asked how retail was doing, she said bluntly, “There is no retail.”  

Across the street at State of Flux, which opened six months to the day last September, the story was the same. “The store is the bulk of our business,” said co-owner Johnny Travis. 

He said State of Flux is transitioning to online sales, but right now orders have been “only a few here and there.” He encouraged people to visit the store’s website and shop online. 

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Herbert Gracia, left, and Johnny Travis always find themselves in a “state of flux.” Photo by Julian Mark.

For now, Travis and his business partner, Herbert Gracia, have continued to pay their two employees. And they remain optimistic. 

“You can sit here and stress about it, but this is something we can’t really control,” Travis said. “The only thing we can do is set ourselves up and do the best we can and do what’s in our power — and push for it.” 

Sean Quigley, the owner of Paxton Gate, has a grimmer outlook. He said he’s currently researching how to successfully scale back his operations and get by without “my temporarily unemployed staff.”

At some point I suppose I also need to apply for unemployment myself,” he wrote in an email. 

Quigley said the mayor’s halting of commercial evictions is acceptable for the time being. “… but what happens when we/if [we] reopen? Do we owe two or three months of back rent to our landlord? Did our landlord miss mortgage payments because we couldn’t pay rent?” 

“It’s time for San Francisco to step up and lead the nation on how to keep our city from spiraling into a deep recession,” he wrote.    

Taqueria El Buen Sabor has temporarily shuttered. Photo by Julian Mark.
Lolo at 21st and Valencia. Photo by Julian Mark.
Pretty Pretty Collective on 22nd Street. Photo by Julian Mark.
Locanda too boarded up its windows on Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Julian Mark.
Stonemill Matcha has boarded up its windows for protection while it temporarily remains closed. Photo by Julian Mark.
For the Crepe House, the coronavirus was the “last nail in the coffin.” Courtesy of Shar Haddadin.

Join the Conversation

15 Comments

  1. Julian,

    Great piece.

    I got to my local Mi terrimia (?) at 16th and Mission
    this morning as they opened and I was the only person
    in the store.

    Fully stocked.

    Strawberries at $1.99 a basket.

    Gallon of milk for 3 bucks.

    Cantalope, potatoes, avacodo …

    Crazy and I apologize but as an aging
    writer it is great subject matter.

    Shout out to Giants wherever they are.

    h.

  2. And now all the taggers will have a field day scribbling their names on these boards.
    It’s like a fresh blackboard. smh

    1. Campers,

      I’m gonna keep posting this idea.

      Why let untalented graffitti punks bring the scene down.

      Go back to the last couple of weeks on the ‘Alien Love’ mural
      defaced by rogue pot company.

      Counting all the panels I’m thinking there are already almost
      100 ‘canvases’ for more unique Mission murals.

      Just have the business owners seal their plywood panels with
      a good sealer and make deals with individual Mission mural makers.

      The new murals can praise their ‘to-be-re-opened businesses (billboards).

      Whatever, when the merchants take down the mural they’ll be worth much
      more than the cost of creating them.

      Hell, they’ll be on world-wide news which will increase their resale value.

      I’m seeing shows in New York and London for a hundred years.

      Hearing me owners and artists?

      I loves murals.

      Go Giants!

      h.

      1. A brilliant idea. FDR showed us how in the 1930s. Model it after the WPA in the 30s. Employee artists to keep the hope and vision and beauty in our neighborhood.

    2. Demattia, so it’s a win win. Taggers have an outlet and property doesn’t get damaged.

      Sad this is what businesses have to do, but business people base decisions on past history and take calculated risks. It only makes sense to board everything up considering the neighborhood has an extremely high rate of vandalism.

  3. My shop San Francycle is next door to Lolo. I was surprised to see the boards today when I stopped into my store to send out some online orders. Meanwhile people are all over the streets. What social distancing?

  4. Campers,

    Fight back with murals!

    Here’s an emergency business plan.

    Owners should consider joining with Precita Eyes and
    other muralists and make every plywood panel a work
    of art.

    When the crisis is over they can sell the panels and
    split the profits.

    Otherwise it’s just depressing graffiti tags.

    Go Giants!

    h.

  5. Agree with SFBulldog. A worthy plan. Otherwise Valencia last night was a back to the future moment — Valencia Street circa 1985 — dar, no one on streets. Businesses closed and some boarded up. On the other hand, lights and music at La Rondalla

    1. Campers,

      I passed Julian’s article and our comments to the Mayor’s Chief of Staff
      whom I know thru Giants baseball.

      Anyone know the Mayor?

      Go Giants!

      h.

  6. While I kinda understand the “boarding up” of these businesses, when I went through the Mission today, it definitely seemed like it was more the high end, gentrifying businesses doing this. So….you can move into the Mission and take people’s money, but ultimately, you think they’re savages that will damage your business? That’s kinda weird.

  7. Just a FYI on your subtitle to the photo, it’s “Flour” and Water, as in the stuff to make pizza and pasta in this case, not “Flower” which has no place in any pizza recipe.

  8. Great question at the end of the story. The city is giving renters and businesses the option to stiff their landlords. But those building owners still need to pay their mortgages and taxes. Is the city, once again, saying “screw you” to property owners? Many are just mom and pops themselves.

    It’s not leadership to steal from Peter to pay Paul. Perhaps some of the city’s insane $12.3 billion budget needs to subsidize folks who can’t pay their rents.

  9. I would love to have our local school age kids paint all of the boarded up stores/restaurants around SF to keep them active, contributing art and visual stress relief to our city, and further discourage negative messages or tagging. Any ideas on how to get this going? I truly think it would benefit all!

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