Rising from the ashes

Glenda Queen and Terry Brumbaugh founded Union Street Goldsmith in 1976.

Glenda Queen and Terry Brumbaugh founded Union Street Goldsmith in 1976.


For a small retailer to survive in San Francisco for 40 years — and rebound from earthquake and fire — takes something more than luck. For Union Street Goldsmith, scheduled to reopen November 14 after a fire in early June shut down its longtime Union Street home, the key to longevity is no mystery. It’s having loyal customers.


For Jet Mail, the end is here

Photograph of Jet Mail's Kevin Wolohan by Kathi O'Leary

Photograph of Jet Mail’s Kevin Wolohan by Kathi O’Leary

IT SEEMED AS IF Jet Mail had cheated death.

Two and a half years ago, with its prime retail space at 2130 Fillmore coveted by the onrush of fashion boutiques eager and able to pay far higher rent, the packaging and mailing store moved south to 2184 Sutter. In the process, they sparked new life on a sleepy stretch of Sutter Street.

Now the gig is up.

Jet Mail will go out of business on September 15, ending a 25-year run in the neighborhood. The space will become an insurance office.


Shell gets go-ahead, garage gets the boot


THE CALL CAME shortly after noon on July 1. Time’s up, Douglas Fredell was told. Do no more work in the garage of the Shell station at 2501 California, and have your tools and machinery out by the end of the month.

It had appeared the neighbors were gaining ground in their battle against a big chain convenience store with additional gas pumps the owners of the gas station want to build as a replacement for the garage, which has operated there for decades.

Yet another crowd of locals showed up to protest on June 4 when the Planning Commission took up the issue again, a month after sending the owners back to the drawing board and directing them to redraw their plans to keep the garage.


Wells Fargo bank heist takes ATMs

Three outside Wells Fargo ATM machines under red awnings were removed

Three outside Wells Fargo ATM machines under red awnings were removed.


The biggest neighborhood bank heist in decades has left many customers feeling shortchanged.

Three automatic teller machines outside the Wells Fargo Bank at Fillmore and California recently vanished, depriving customers of the convenience of withdrawing cash and doing limited banking when the branch was closed. Now Wells Fargo customers or anyone with a debit card must observe banker’s hours — 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday — to use the two ATM machines in the bank’s lobby.


Credo gets its first store — on Fillmore

Credo's first store is located at 2136 Fillmore — and not by accident.

Credo’s first store is located at 2136 Fillmore, near many other beauty brands.

SHASHI BATRA, founder of the new natural beauty emporium Credo, was up a ladder taking a hands-on approach a couple of days before his first store finally opened on June 4. But he seemed happy to climb down for a few minutes to explain why he decided to locate his first shop at 2136 Fillmore.

“Look around,” he said. “In recent years five or six other beauty stores came to Fillmore — and none of those are natural. The whole category is unregulated, and much of it is harmful.”

Batra and his team helped build Sephora into an international juggernaut of traditional cosmetic brands and beauty supplies. Now, “with a much more conscientious attitude,” they hope to do the same for natural products.

“There’s a lot of natural out there,” he said, “but it’s not beautiful. We decided to create a new concept.”

Some day there may be hundreds of Credo shops.

Out of Africa

Solange Mallett owns African Plural Art at 1305 Fillmore.

Solange Mallett owns African Plural Art at 1305 Fillmore.


Solange Mallett, the owner of African Plural Art, is passionate — about African art; her newly opened gallery at 1305 Fillmore; the neighborhood; the visitors who come to look, learn and sometimes purchase; and the tribes supported by the purchases.

“You have to be passionate about what you’re doing and passionate about sharing it with other people,” she says. “This is what I want to do. I’m from French Africa and I want to share with people here.”

Mallett was born in the Ivory Coast and grew up in Paris. Her husband’s work for the World Bank necessitated frequent moves: to Madagascar, Chad, Tanzania. In Paris, where they lived before moving to the Bay Area, Mallett ran an online African art business.

“That business taught me that I wanted a shop where people could come in and I could share what I’m learning with them,” she says.


Shell station revamp scaled back

The Shell station and garage at California and Steiner Streets.

The Shell station at California and Steiner.

OWNERS OF THE Shell station at 2501 California Street were sent back to the drawing board by the Planning Commission on April 30 and told to return in a month with revised plans — ideally plans that would keep the garage they hoped to eliminate.

The owners, a company called AU Energy that owns more than 100 Shell stations, had sought permits to raze the existing station and garage and replace it with a Loop convenience store and twice as many gas pumps.

“Car repair is a higher amenity than grab and go items,” said commissioner Dennis Richards. “I challenge you to come back with something where you have better integration with the community . . . hopefully including car repair.”

The owners of the station had agreed a week earlier — after neighbors showed up at a Planning Commission hearing to oppose their plans — to scale back the hours the convenience store would operate and to expand only from five to eight fueling stations, rather than the 10 they originally sought. They also extended the lease on the garage, which is owned by an independent operator, through June 30.

The commissioners were clearly sympathetic to the Shell station owner’s desire to renovate the station in a way that would keep it economically viable as environmental upgrades are made.

“We need gas stations,” said Richards, who noted they are disappearing all over the city.

But the commissioners also had heard neighborhood opposition to shuttering the garage and concerns about intensified traffic on an already-busy corner. There were doubts about the appropriateness of the expanded convenience store.

“I am concerned about further suburbanizing that corner,” said commissioner Kathrin Moore. “It looks backward rather than forward.”

The commission voted unanimously to continue the issue until its meeting on May 28.

“We’re directing you to try to incorporate service,” said Richards. “That would be necessary and desirable and hugely compatible” with the location and the needs and desires of the neighbors.

EARLIER: “Shell garage told to close

Freda Salvador: classics with a twist

Photograph of Freda Salvador, at 2416 Fillmore, by Melissa McArdle

Photograph of Freda Salvador at 2416 Fillmore by Melissa McArdle


Entrepreneurs and shoe designers Megan Papay and Cristina Palomo-Nelson say their lives and designs have been inspired by confident, commanding role models. Perhaps that’s what helped them accomplish the near-impossible recently when relocating their flagship shop from Union Street to 2416 Fillmore: They did it a couple of weeks ahead of schedule.

“We moved from our former store one day — and opened up here the next,” says Papay. “We just decided to do it.”

Their boutique, Freda Salvador — the newest addition to Fillmore Street — offers flats, sandals, boots and heels for women. All feature signature artisan elements including luxurious leathers, studded soles, covered heels and straps that can be converted for different looks. The shop’s exotic moniker is a play on Palomo-Nelson’s roots in El Salvador, where her family ran a shoe-making business for 65 years, and their shared admiration for feisty artist Frida Kahlo.

“We both love her strong sense of being and her boldness,” says Papay, who says she and Palomo-Nelson create their designs for their fictitious woman, Freda Salvador. “She’s just no-nonsense, urban, has a true sense of style. And most of all, she needs a pair of shoes she can put on her feet from 7 in the morning and wear until 11 at night, without thinking about her feet hurting or needing to change.”


Barry for Pets closing after 60 years

Mark Ulriksen's Dogs Only, set in Alta Plaza Park, is featured in his new book.

Mark Ulriksen’s Dogs Only, set in Alta Plaza Park, is featured in his new book.


Barry for Pets at 1840 Fillmore, reputedly the oldest independent pet supply store in the city, is closing at the end of April after six decades on Fillmore Street.

“It comes to a point, with the demographic changes on the street, that this business just doesn’t pencil out anymore,” says owner Gary Collings.

“Now the big box stores have just done us in,” adds co-owner Alice Barkley. “If you look at the pet industry, the same thing is happening to us that happened to the pharmacy industry a while back: The small independent drug stores were put out of business by the big chains like Walgreen’s.”

Barry for Pets opened in the early 1950s up the street in the building in which original owner Janet Barry lived, at 2328 Fillmore, now occupied by Cottage Industry.


Charting change on Fillmore Street


LUXURY APPAREL chain stores have made a major incursion onto Fillmore north of Bush Street in recent years, a new survey confirms, and clothing stores now make up nearly a third of all businesses on the street.

But the survey also finds there are still dozens of service businesses and non-apparel retailers — and that most businesses on upper Fillmore have been open for more than a decade.

The analysis of city data, Yelp price rankings and news articles was conducted by Hoodline, a neighborhood news website based in the Lower Haight that aims to help people better understand what’s happening in city neighborhoods by quantifying businesses and services.

“Why have so many luxury apparel chain stores opened on upper Fillmore?” the surveyors ask. Their conclusion: “Beyond the general economic growth of the city, our findings suggest that the success of independent retailers created an especially attractive environment for them.”

On Fillmore south of Bush Street, it’s a different story.

“For a variety of historical and architectural reasons, the quaint Victorian storefronts aren’t available south of Bush,” the survey says. “The area unfortunately reflects the decades of failed experiments in urban redevelopment. Vacancy rates are higher.”

Hoodline also finds that fewer storefronts are available in the redeveloped areas of lower Fillmore.

“Large portions of the blocks are dominated by blank concrete walls, and the decline in density of shops is unmissable,” it concludes.

Read more: “A victim of its own success?