Il Pollaio store front on Mission Street.
Il Pollaio, the grilled chicken spot on Mission St., closed last month. Photo by Junyao Yang.

Two restaurants, a chic clothing store, and an “ephemeral” tattoo studio are closing up shop in the Mission, the latest in comings and goings in the neighborhood.  

Dumpling Club

Dumpling Club, the local food retail and community space that makes small-batch dumplings with local ingredients, announced Sunday that it will be closing in early October. 

Owner Cathay Bi announced the end of Dumpling Club on Instagram. The shop’s last day will be Oct. 8. 

The interior of Dumpling Club
Dumpling Club, the restaurant and community space, will be closed in early October. Photo by Junyao Yang.

Since it opened in early 2020 at 3233 22nd St., Dumpling Club has been making fluffy pork buns, creative dumplings and comforting congee throughout the pandemic and beyond.

It’s been almost four years since Bi started testing out recipes in her kitchen. At first, she hoped to put nutritious Chinese food on the table for her kids in less than 15 minutes, before experimenting with feeding hungry customers.  

No single factor drove the decision to close the shop, Bi wrote in her goodbye post. “But I can say it is spectacularly hard to run a small business in post-pandemic San Francisco — especially one that is low margin, high cash flow, and capital-intensive.” 

For some, Dumpling Club is more than a place for food. First dates happen here, as well as proposal stories, said Bi. The flavors of the food bring back memories that were long lost. 

“People really feel like it connects them to a piece of their heritage,” Bi said. 

“It’s really good!” Andrea Akers yelled to someone checking out the menu on Dumpling Club’s door this Tuesday. Akers, who works organizing the 22nd Street farmers market, was busy putting “tow-away zone” signs on the sidewalk in preparation for the market on Thursday. She said she has eaten from the dumpling spot a couple times, ordering takeout because the lines are always long. Her favorite is “some wonton-like pork thing, served with chili oil.” 

“I’ll miss the owner, the staff and how good neighbors they were,” Akers said. “I hope they can come back, maybe not at the same location, but somewhere.”

Bi is working on finalizing the timeline for the next four weeks, “making sure everyone has a chance to buy dumplings and experience our food before we close, and support my team.” 

Next Thursday and Friday, Bi will bring back a Taiwanese menu, including the Gua Bao (pork belly buns) that Bi said are a favorite. It will also host special events on Sept. 28 to 30 to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, a traditional Chinese festival. 


SYSTEM, the design retail store at 786 Valencia Street that sells chic utility clothing, camera accessories, outdoor tools and industrial design goods, is also closing. Its last day will be Sept. 28. 

“We wanted to stay, but the landlord is basically a little unrealistic about what they think the place is worth right now,” said owner Richard Liu. “We’ve just been paying them all of our profits for the past few years.”

The SYSTEM store sign and trees in the back ground.
SYSTEM, the design retail store on Valencia St. will be closed on Sept. 28. Photo by Junyao Yang.

Shoplifting is also a growing concern for Liu. During the first five of its eight years on Valencia, the shop had a small number of thefts. But in the last three years, that number climbed close to 20, Liu said.

On weekdays, around 10 to 20 people walk in the store, and on weekends it would be 100 to 200, said Jeremy Pascual, one of the store’s three staff members. This, he said, was “good, but not good enough,” compared to pre-pandemic, when SYSTEM was doing “really well.” 

With the store closing, the SYSTEM brand will only operate online and through its wholesale partners. Some of the store’s furniture and other fixtures are also available for sale, although Liu is hesitant to part with them, hoping to start over someday.

“We want to reopen one day,” Liu said. “In a lower-priced part of the city where I can just focus on the retail experience and not so much on selling.” 

But when?

“That’s the big question. When is SF gonna be back?”

Amanda Ondretti and Caroline T., who work at the gift store Open Editions next door, are sad to see SYSTEM go. They heard about the thefts and break-ins from a group chat where Valencia shops share such information. 

“They are super awesome,” Ondretti said. “For us, we have a wide price range of products, but for them, if they lost something of a high price value, it could be a big loss.”

Ephemeral Tattoo

The closed store front of Ephemeral Tattoo. Text reads "REGRET NOTHING."
Ephemeral Tattoo studio on Valencia St. will be closed later this week. Photo by Junyao Yang.

Ephemeral, a temporary-tattoo start-up, is closing its studio on Valencia Street, together with other studios in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Houston.

The last day for appointment at Ephemeral will be Sept. 17, an employee at the Valencia location said. The San Francisco Chronicle first reported the closure.

Ephemeral opened at 962 Valencia St. last year. It has drawn customers who want tattoos without the lifetime commitment. According to its website, Ephemeral’s ink fades in under two years. 

But some customers who expected their tattoos to disappear over time had complained that they were still very visible after two years. 

Il Pollaio

Il Pollaio, a classic North Beach grilled-chicken spot that opened its second location at 2859 Mission St. three years ago, closed its Mission location last month. 

“We are very sad to say that Il Pollaio at Mission St. is officially closed,” the owners announced on Instagram on Aug. 17. “We have loved working in this neighborhood for the past three years and gave it our all.”

A handwritten notice on the door that reads "Closed. Thank you for your support. See us at North Beach." and a heart next to the text.
Il Pollaio closed its Mission location last month. Its North Beach location will remain open. Photo by Junyao Yang.

Tucked into a row of shops and taquerias, Il Pollaio served flame-grilled chicken, hot Italian sausages and steak fries. The restaurant was a mainstay in North Beach, where it opened in 1984, and added the Mission location in 2020. 

Maria Castellucci Bautista, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Alejandro, told Mission Local in 2019 that, in the Mission location, she hoped to recreate the neighborhood atmosphere she and her family have been building over the last decade and a half in North Beach.  

For patrons, Il Pollaio’s location on Columbus Street is still open to satisfy their grilled chicken cravings. 

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Junyao Yang is a data reporter for Mission Local through the California Local News Fellowship. Junyao is passionate about creating visuals that tell stories in creative ways. She received her Master’s degree from UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Sometimes she tries too hard to get attention from cute dogs.

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  1. So it sounds like 2 of the businesses are going because they have a bad product–crappy tattoos and expensive luxury clothes and tools (Mr Liu wants to open a store “where I can just focus on the retail experience and not so much on selling” ??).

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    1. Progressives have an excuse for every business that closes and they dismiss every reason a business owner gives for closing.

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  2. I was heartbroken to see Il Pollaio close. We loved going there for the delicious food (the spicy sausage paired with the marinated eggplant: perfection!) and the live music on weekends. The Bautistas poured their heart and soul into opening that location and then keeping it going though the pandemic. Il Pollaio will be sorely missed in the Mission!

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  3. Nice to see Mission Local finally recognize the doom loop. We can’t fix the problem if we don’t acknowledge that it exists.

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    1. Let’s separate out the issues downtown from what’s happening here.

      I don’t know if you can credibly say that a few retail shops/restaurants going out of business (as they do everywhere in the world) will cause a meaningful drop in tax revenue that will lead to reduced municipal services that will cause more people to leave.

      These storefronts will have new tenants within the year. Landlords will continue to pay property taxes. Consumers will shift spending to other restaraunts/retail stores/tattoo parlors in the area.

      I’m not saying that a feedback loop doesn’t exist when it comes to large corporate tenants and business conventions, and their ability to drive tax revenue downtown, but this simply doesn’t move the needle.

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