W ITH THE CONTINUING onrush of national and international fashion and cosmetics brands onto upper Fillmore Street, retail space has become so sought after that corporate tenants are willing to pay rent for months while their storefronts sit empty, waiting for city permits to be approved.
A dozen storefronts north of Bush Street are now vacant, but almost all are already leased.
“It looks terrible,” said Lynne Newhouse Segal, new president of the Pacific Heights Residents Association, whose group has expressed concerns about the empty shops.
Among the stores in the works:
• Intermix, the Gap’s newest acquisition, is taking over Brooks Brothers’ Black Fleece space at 2223 Fillmore.
• 45rpm, a Japanese clothing brand, got the go-ahead April 14 from the Planning Commission to open at 1905 Fillmore.
• Space NK, a cosmetics company based in London, won approval for its plans to open at 2000 Fillmore, former home of Paolo Shoes, from the commission on April 28.
All are considered “formula retail” chain stores and require a conditional use permit to open on Fillmore. It can take many months to get the permit, although none has ever been rejected. Then building permits must be arranged and approved.
“Everything’s taking longer,” said commercial real estate broker Pam Mendelsohn, who has leased many of the Fillmore storefronts. “There’s a lot of things in process. It just takes a lot longer to get permits.”
Two of the empty spaces housed businesses owned by Starbucks Coffee. Starbucks still controls the vacant corner at 2201 Fillmore. “Unfortunately, we still have no additional details to share at this time,” a Starbucks spokesperson said. The space at 2043 Fillmore that housed Starbucks’ La Boulange has reverted to founder Pascal Rigo, who said he is contemplating a pizzeria, a rotisserie or another Boulangerie.
“We should be making a final decision within the next two weeks,” Rigo said. “We should be reopen by midsummer if everything goes well.”
Among the other businesses with leases on the street are Frye Boots at 2047 Fillmore and Ardis Coffee at 1903 Fillmore. The Mac cosmetics shop at 2011 Fillmore is being remodeled and will reopen. Blue Bottle Coffee is coming to 2455 Fillmore.
LOCALS | JENNIFER BLOT
“He can sell ice to an Eskimo,” says Eric Trabert of Gary Mureta, his next-door neighbor at the top of Fillmore Street.
But Mureta doesn’t hear his friend’s admiring endorsement. He’s busy juggling the demands of what appears, at first, to be a small and sleepy antique store. But the store phone is ringing. Then his cell phone rings. A customer comes in to pick up a massive — and heavy — bronze sculpture. His only employee is due to go on a break. And Trabert, owner of Trabert Goldsmiths, has popped in to say hello.
Mureta walks out the door to talk to someone on the street and leaves Trabert to hold down the fort. But Trabert doesn’t seem to mind. Inevitably he’ll spot something in the golden glow of the store he’s never seen before. There’s a massive vintage silver and enamel Margot de Taxco cameo pendant, a Scottish agate silver buckle bracelet and numerous Victorian gold insect brooches with semi-precious eyes and bellies. Beyond jewelry, the store is brimming with an eclectic assortment of decorative pieces, silverware, sets of pastel colored stemware and oil paintings by 19th century California artists.
Trabert’s shop next door is a contrast in both ambience and inventory. Brightly lit, with high ceilings, its cases sparkle with contemporary baubles: stackable rings, pieces anchored with unusual pastel sapphires, pearl chokers and thin gold bangles. Trabert offers his own designs as well as pieces from about a dozen contemporary jewelry lines.
By TOMO HIRAI
Nichi Bei Weekly
At the dawn of its 110th year, San Francisco’s Japantown faces challenges in maintaining its identity as a regional hub of Japanese and Japanese American culture. About five decades since the Japan Center was built, many of the neighborhood’s longtime business owners have come of retirement age. As these businesses close, the neighborhood faces questions on how it should promote itself and preserve its legacy.
Read more: “The state of Japantown’s businesses“
By JENNIFER BLOT
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.
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.
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.
By CHRIS BARNETT
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.
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.
ART | JUDY GODDESS
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.