Left to Right: Crystina Lee, her father Bee Lee, and brother Frankie Lee in front of their new business. Photo by Juan Carlos Lara

Sister and brother team Crystina and Frankie Lee intend to open Valencia Subs on Friday at 1136 Valencia St. across from City College, the third sandwich shop run by the Lee family. 

Crystina, the business’s primary owner, first opened Irving Subs, located in the Inner Sunset at the intersection of Irving Street and 12th Avenue, in 2015. The second location, in Chinatown, opened in 2018. 

“My dad is the main person that guided me, because he was an entrepreneur,” Crystina said. “He always had a lot of businesses growing up. … I think he embedded this entrepreneur mindset in me.”

Frankie, the elder sibling by four years, said he has always tried to help his sister in her ventures, and now plans to take a formal role as general manager for Valencia Subs.

“I’m more front-of-the house,” Crystina said. “I like to keep my hands moving, and he takes care of the back-end work. He’s very attentive and he takes care of everything not involved with making the sandwiches.”

The two grew up in San Francisco, and spent most of their youth until high school sharing a 500-square-foot studio in Chinatown with their father. Even after leaving their father’s home, the siblings continued to live as roommates until about seven years ago, when Crystina was 27 and Frankie was 31. 

“We’re very close, we know how each other works and we respect each other a lot,” Frankie said. 

While Frankie is older, he said he often looks up to and defers to his sister in business decisions. 

“She definitely has more drive than I do,” Frankie said. “I’m the one that usually throws out a lot of ideas and she’s the one who can pick out what’s good.” 

Crystina said her brother is better at long-term planning, and she tends to focus on the day to day work. She is also more impulsive, deciding on opening the Valencia Street location simply because she saw the space, formerly Zaytoon Mediterranean, was vacant, and liked it.

“I was driving by Valencia and I saw the for lease sign. I saw it was a cute little space,” Crystina said. “I didn’t plan for it; I saw an opportunity that came up and I just grabbed it.”

Like the two other locations, the Valencia Subs storefront is fairly small and not intended for dine-in service, a factor the two said helped them survive the pandemic. 

“Because of the smaller space it’s only take-out so we weren’t affected as much as the other businesses,” Crystina said. “We weren’t hit very hard at the Sunset location and that helped keep the Chinatown location going.” 

The menu at the new location will be the same as the two other locations, with the only differences being specials, which will be unique to each restaurant. 

Zaytoon Mediterranean, occupied the space for a decade from 2009 to 2019. 

The location comes with its own parklet, which predates the pandemic and is permanent. Crystina hopes the optional outdoor seating space will make the business even more successful than the original location. 

Beginning Friday, Valencia Subs will be open from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., according to Frankie. The business will also offer a free bag of chips or can of soda with every sandwich order. 

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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9 Comments

  1. 1136 Valencia is not across from City College. Please correct before the tourists from out of town get lost.

    1. Norma — 

      I advise you visit the locus en quo and observe the large City College campus located just where the writer placed it.

      Yours,

      JE

  2. Good luck to these folks. Rhea’s has a lock on more diverse/creative menu as well as proximity to DoLoPa, but the neighborhood certainly welcomes VSubs and wish you great success!

      1. Don’t be such a pedant, that wouldn’t preclude them from sticking with their successful branding. Next you’ll be surprised to learn how KFC has thrived outside of Kentucky. Besides, their MULTIPLE locations aren’t on Irving. In fact, not even one: https://www.irvingsubs.online

  3. Congratulations to the Lee family! Thank you for opening your sub shop. Cannot wait to stop by and give it a try. We need more of this in the community! Wishing you great success.

  4. Absolutely LOVE your subs!! Made perfect every time, never a skimp on any ingredients. Keep up the excellent work! Also, I wasn’t aware of the backstory, thank you for this great article on a local family business.

    Just order another set of subs 🙂

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