Earlier this month, visitors to Yaeko Yamashita’s clothing store on Valencia Street Street near 22nd Street, Laku, found it closed. Instead, there was a note handwritten in pink in the window display.
“I am sorry I am unable to open regular hours due to a hit/run accident. I wish I could open for Christmas season as Laku is here for 22 years. I have a GoFundMe.
“With best wishes,
“Laku and Yaeko Yamashita”
Yamashita said in an interview this week that she was out for her evening walk with her 8-year-old dog, Chabo, on Nov. 23 around 8:30 p.m. She was crossing the road at a green light at Mission and Murray streets in the St. Mary’s Park neighborhood when a car struck her and then sped away.
She remembers Chabo barking loudly and catching the attention of her neighbors, who rushed out to call an ambulance. Yamashita tried to stand, but found herself unable to.
The driver was arrested three days after the incident, and is currently in the court system, she said.
Yamashita, 69, spent that night in the emergency room and the following week in the hospital. Her right leg is broken. She can’t walk, but is doing physiotherapy twice a week. The estimated recovery time is at least seven weeks, she said. Moreover, her recurring health issues associated with diabetes have been acting up.
“I don’t know how I’ll pay rent for my apartment and store in the upcoming months!” she said, laughing nervously. December is the busiest month for Laku and other stores in the Mission.
Yamashita spent 14 years as a fashion designer in Tokyo before traveling for a year, moving to New York City in 1987, and then setting up Laku on Valencia Street in 1993.
All the store’s pieces are originally designed and handmade. She uses “both vintage and natural fabrics, such as silk, cotton, velvet, organdy and brocade,” she said. She is popular for her meticulously made slippers, hair accessories, jewelry and hats. No two items are the same.
Laku is one of the prettiest stores in the Mission, filled with organza, velvet, french ribbons, intricate trims, pearls, lace, Thai silk, silk taffeta, cashmere, leather, fake fur, patchworks, and pom-poms (and etc.). Yamashita is often behind the counter, sewing with a selection of materials.
Her son, Laku Pecilli, who is currently based in Seattle, has started a GoFundMe. So far, it has raised $5,826. With the assistance of a close friend, Yamashita is trying to slowly restart by cleaning up the store.
“I am so grateful for my neighbors,” she said. Not only have they been of great assistance to her, but they have also pitched in with her dog. “They have been walking him every day. Thank God.”