San Francisco

Iconic Stores in SF's Mission District Closing Down For Good, Citing Crime, Security, Street Conditions

Another day, and another iconic San Francisco store shut its doors for good. Mission Thrift, on Mission and 19th streets is the latest casualty.

In the past week, three stores on one block of Mission Street have closed or are about to close.

Store owners say rising rents are certainly an issue, but they’re making money. They’re fed up with the street conditions and other problems and say they don’t need the headache anymore.

On Wednesday along Mission, a man was seen kicking another man in the face, and bystanders had to intervene.

For almost half a century, Michael Gardner has owned Siegel’s on Mission Street.

Eyeing retirement, the father of three says he could continue running the store, but the stumbling blocks are starting to stack up, from bus zones eating up parking to safety and staffing problems.

"The last couple of days have been very difficult for me, very depressing," Gardner said. "Forty-six years in business. Reality set in."

Among the problems Gardner cited were crime and security.

"An inordinate amount of shoplifting. You can’t control it in this neighborhood," he said. "The second thing is you can’t find help. It’s virtually impossible to find help."

On a one-block stretch between 19th and 20th streets, the "Closing" signs almost outnumber the store fronts. Mission Thrift has one more blowout sale before ending a 20-year run, while the pawn shop next door is already shuttered, punctuating a transformation.

"The gentrification is really sad to see," USF professor Reggie Daniels said. "And there are people here who don’t really know the rich history. I run around and they’re like, 'Oh yeah, I just got to San Francisco.' And they don’t know the struggles and the beauty of the city."

Still, there is hope for saving the neighborhood’s fabric. Armando Ramirez rents an office space for less than the market rate of $8,000 thanks to the Mission Economic Development Agency, or MEDA, which backs local businesses.

"There’s certain places in San Francisco where I feel comfortable as a Latino, where I feel that it really represents our culture," Ramirez said. "And I feel like those things should be protected."

Claudia Alcantara, an outreach specialist at MEDA, has surveyed almost 400 businesses in the busy corridor.

"We are trying to find where the problems are and how to attack them in a way where we can represent the businesses and also the community," Alcantara said.

Some of the merchants cited unreasonable rents, others the loss of regular customers. MEDA, which has loaned out more than $2 million to 70 businesses since 2015, is working with the city to implement strategies to keep the original merchants in the district.

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