The outside front doors of Falla's discount store.
Falla's Discount Store. Photo by William Jenkins

Falla’s, the warehouse-like store on Mission Street near 23rd Street, where Missionites have long purchased for a song everything from a new wardrobe to an alarm clock, will close by the end of July, according to store employees. 

“You can buy a school outfit for five dollars,” said Lisa Ruth, the store manager at the vast outlet known, until 2020, as Factory 2-U. But that ends in July. Gone will be the racks of discounted treasures, the Christmas decorations and household goodies downstairs. In Covid-19 times, said Ruth, “Nobody has money to spend anymore.”

Nowadays, she said, people need the money in hand for food and rent. 

The chain started in 1962 with one location in Los Angeles, and quickly expanded to 300 stores across the country’s west and southwestern regions, plus seven stores in Puerto Rico. The Mission store, owned by National Stores Inc., merged with Falla’s in 2015, which several years later replaced the storefront banner with its tagline, “First place to stop, first place to save.”

Along with faded graffiti on the front walls are sheets of paper that read: “Solamente efectivo — cash only.” A sign next to it reads, in all-caps, “Entire store on sale!” in yellow. Not four feet from the doors stand more than 30 racks of plaid pants, tie-dye tees and tan “dad” hats. Despite the overload of literally everything that exists, the store stays organized and clean. Customers scatter across the store searching for their next deal.

Sylvia Smith. Photo by William Jenkins.

Syvia Smith, a regular customer since the store opened in the Mission in the ’80s, said she mostly buys bed linens. “The prices were great for me,” she said. 

Mary White, who worked at the since-departed Mission branch of Anna’s Linens along with Ruth for 15 years, called the store’s closing “just the end of a chapter. There’s always another one.”

And apparently that’s been the case. National Stores Inc. filed for bankruptcy in 2018, which led to closing 184 Falla’s and Factory 2-U locations across the country, one step in a “restructuring” plan, according to retail advising firm Hilco Merchant Resources, which managed the closing process.

But that’s not the full story. Ruth says that while the store may be closing, it might not be the end of the discount store franchise. According to her, the owner plans to reopen the store following its process of liquidation.

Storewide sale at Falla’s. Photo by William Jenkins

The store is currently undergoing a storewide sale of 30 to 50 percent off all merchandise.

Despite the sale, however, Smith is still sad to see the store go.

“I’m going to have to drive out of town to go buy my sheets at a higher price. I don’t want to do that.”

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Intern Reporter. William moved to the Bay Area from Nashville to pursue a Masters in Journalism from UC Berkeley. He's covered police reform in Oakland and also investigates correctional officer misconduct at the Investigative Reporting Program. You'll mostly see him behind a camera. Follow him on Twitter @WilliamJenk_

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