After Voyager closed, owner Valerie Hirsch gave away much of what remained.

The Voyager Shop

After nearly ten years of business, The Voyager Shop on Valencia Street has closed and moved completely online, according to owner Valerie Hirsch. 

“This space served as an intersection of creativity, community, and discovery. We had so much fun meeting and getting to know you all,” reads a sign on the now-empty storefront.  

The clothing store, which once held a small art gallery, never fully recovered after the initial shelter-in-place order last March, said Hirsch, who has lived in Los Angeles for the last five years. The business temporarily reopened with limited capacity in July, but Hirsch wasn’t comfortable with it. 

“I think the people who were willing to go out shopping maybe weren’t as careful as they should have been, it made it feel unsafe in the store,” Hirsch said. “And if I felt unsafe there, my employees shouldn’t be subjected to that.”

Hirsch then tried operating by appointment only, but the store’s sales reached unsustainable lows without the patronage of wandering shoppers. 

“It was a really hard decision but, as much as I love that store, no employee’s life is worth making money,” Hirsch said. 

Along with closing the store, Hirsch chose to give away much of what remained inside through a Craigslist ad and through word of mouth. 

Nearby stores took the light fixtures, clothing racks, mannequins and shelving. Some clothing designers took tables for their studios. 

“It felt like spreading the store’s ashes around the community,” Hirsch said. 

If The Voyager Shop ever inhabits a brick-and-mortar store again, it will most likely be in Los Angeles, Hirsch said.  

Claudia Kussano Jewelry Atelier  

When the pandemic first hit San Francisco, causing much of business life to shut down, Claudia Kussano, owner of Claudia Kussano Jewelry Atelier, found herself in a uniquely secure position. 

Kussano’s landlord had been preparing to commission seismic retrofitting for the building in early 2021 as part of the city’s Soft Story Program. But with businesses closed anyway, the landlord told Kussano they would do the work sooner, sparing the jeweler from paying a few months of rent with no customers. 

Kussano was first thrilled with the opportunity, and simply moved her work to her Hunters Point Shipyard studio. Her landlord even invited her to choose new flooring and a sink as part of the construction work. 

But, while thinking about the future of her business, Kussano said she also began to contemplate her own future more seriously. 

“The whole shutdown made us navigate the unknown and rethink priorities,” Kussano said. “And one thing that came to my mind is that my 90-year-old mom in Brazil needs help.” 

Before the retrofitting work was complete, Kussano decided to close her business to spend more time with her mother. 

With the help of several friends, Kussano spent two weeks in May packing the hundreds of jewelry pieces in her store adorning her wooden displays. 

Claudia Kussano at her studio in the Hunters Point shipyard. Photo by Julian Mark.

Kussano plans to spend at least the remainder of the current stay-at-home order in Brazil caring for her mother and moving her closer to her sister in another state, where the two sisters can both be with their mother. 

More than most aspects of the city, Kussano said she misses the Hunters Point Shipyard open studio events that attract scores of artists and thousands of attendees. 

“It has been huge for me in survival as an artist in the city,” Kussano said, who’s held a studio at the shipyard for the past 25 years and said those events always meant more sales. 

The open studios also helped Kussano gather the courage to first open her own jewelry store. 

“The success from the Hunter’s Point shipyard community made me believe it was possible to open a retail space,” Kussano said. 

While all open studio events were cancelled for 2020, Kussano’s greatest hope is that she’ll be able to return for an open studio later this year. 

Elda 

After less than two years of operation on the corner of 16th and Guerrero streets, Elda may also be closing. 

Angel Mayorga, a longtime patron of the bar, told Mission Local he spoke with Eric Ochoa, one of the bar’s owners, about a week ago as Ochoa was moving things out of the bar. 

Ochoa cited the storefront’s $14,000 rent and the landlord’s refusal to accommodate the business’s pandemic-related hardships as the reasons for closing, according to Mayorga. 

Most of the bar’s street-facing windows are now covered in brown paper from the inside. The phone number listed on the company website is no longer functional . 

But when Mission Local reached out to the owners, we received an emailed statement from the company saying the 16th Street bar was on a “winter hiatus and “open for business for its other services, including its popular virtual bartending classes and beverage program consulting.” 

The statement never directly commits to reopening, and might even suggest a change of venue. 

“Our hope is to reopen our doors to the public when and where the conditions for small, independent businesses like Elda to survive are far more favorable than they are now,” the statement said. 

Mayorga also said that Ochoa expressed interest in reopening the bar elsewhere in the Mission. 

After the start of shelter in place in March, the bar’s owners started a GoFundMe campaign to help make up for the lack of business. The previously mentioned bartending classes and beverage program consulting are offered as rewards for different donation amounts. 

“As fledgling, nine-month old, independently-owned, small business, we quite frankly were unable to build up the reserves necessary to ride out a storm like this for very long,” the owners wrote on their GoFundMe page. 

Unfortunately, the online campaign seems to have only raised $2,176, with no new donations in months. 

Elda did not respond to a request for clarification regarding the status of the business.  

Foragers Present

Foragers Present, the kitchen supply store and event space on Valencia Street, may look permanently closed. But the storefront, like Elda, is temporarily shuttered, owner Cynthia Solis told Mission Local.  

Read more: The Places We Have Lost

Send tips of any closed or opening Mission businesses to juancarlos.lara@missionlocal.com

Juan Carlos Lara

Juan Carlos Lara covers business and development in the Mission. Juan Carlos, a San Francisco State alum, is as much a photographer as he is a writer and previously worked as the campus news editor at...

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2 Comments

  1. “if The Voyager Shop ever inhabits a brick and mortar store again, it will most likely be in Los Angeles, Hirsch said”

    Ok? Well, thanks anyway. :/

    1. LA takes better care of their business owners and rent is generally more affordable. In general, business districts in LA are cleaner too.

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