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Ever-evolving vitality on Fillmore


Every time I take a walk, there’s something new. Fillmore Street is constantly evolving. 

Every stroll up the street brings new signs of vitality — new stores and restaurants, creative opportunities, neighbors meeting friends and going about their daily lives. In recent weeks returning college students have arrived, eager to fill the “help wanted” signs dotting the street. And the Fillmore Jazz Festival — everybody’s favorite street party — is coming up on July 6 & 7.

With the transition go familiar friends: Gone is the iconic goldfish mural (above) at the corner on Wilmot and Fillmore. The static aquarium was a favorite of Instagram influencers. Now it has been painted over to match the minimal aesthetic of SVRN, the men’s store soon to open in that building, formerly home to Prana. There are now a number of striking murals near Geary. But who will create the new Instagrammable backdrop to entice selfie fans to celebrate shopping and dining on upper Fillmore? 

Pop-up shops Little Words Project and Pollen and Wool are gone. … Merchant Roots is moving its Michelin tasting menu from 1365 Fillmore to 7th and Mission later this summer.

The fates of popular corner restaurants Palmers and Noosh remain mysteries. That warm and woody Palmers interior, ruined by a massive water leak, has been stripped of its long bar and furnishings; litigation is said to be involved. Noosh shows no signs of reopening.

Welcome to the neighborhood: After much anticipation, Sue Fisher King has now opened at 1913 Fillmore. Her upscale home furnishings emporium, long a mainstay on Sacramento Street, is a beautiful addition to Fillmore’s offerings.

Several “For Rent” signs have been taken down — including those for the old Mio and Dry Bar locations — but no new tenants have been announced. … Sterling Bank’s successor at Fillmore & Bush will be a sister act. The owner of Chapeaux by Michelle next door is being joined by her sister, an artist who is still deciding on the space’s future. Stay tuned.

Dr. Aja Hall has opened OneDental, a comprehensive dental care clinic at 2226 Bush, next to Mattina. Check the website for new patient specials.

OneDental’s sleek new office at 2226 Bush Street.

New eateries: Fillmore just got a PHD — the new Pac Heights Deli on California near Fillmore. They’re serving made-to-order sandwiches, smoothies, wraps and coffee from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, with variable weekend hours, at 2411 California in the old Sift Dessert Bar spot. They come to the neighborhood with experience: owner Al Alhaj also operates Marina Deli on Chestnut Street.

Kevin Chen’s intimate sushi restaurant Bubu has opened a few doors west at 2417 California. Don’t miss happy hour, with $5 drinks and sushi specials. Chen opened the cozy izakaya Nono at 1730 Fillmore last July.

Hotel Kimpton Enso, in Japantown at Sutter & Buchanan, is home to Hed11, an 11-course Thai tasting menu from chef Piriya “Saint” Boonprasarn, renowned for his work in Michelin-starred restaurants and with Hed Very Thai in downtown SF. Enjoy unique cocktails inspired by Thai and Japanese liquors along with an exceptional wine list. … Ganji, located in Buchanan Plaza in Japantown, offers a fusion of traditional Japanese cuisine with a modern twist, focusing on katsu. Also on the menu are a selection of udon and yakitori, Japanese beers and sake. It’s the sister restaurant of Nara in the lower Haight.

Welcome back: Bumzy’s Cookies is coming back to the Fillmore. The dynamic mother-daughter duo is bringing back their famous chocolate chip cookies to the other side of the street at 1521 Fillmore.

Burger King is open again at 1701 Fillmore after a fire in the apartments above shut it down temporarily. No further word on earlier reports that the upscale Super Duper burgers will dethrone Burger King on the corner of Fillmore and Post.

Rendering of the proposed Super Duper on Fillmore by William Duff Architects.

They’re drinking less on Union Street: According to a recent Gallup poll, the number of adults under 35 who drink alcohol has fallen 10 percent from a decade ago, down to 62 percent, and even those who drink are drinking less. See it for yourself: Head to Fillmore and Union Street and check out New Bar. Or, a few blocks east, Better Sunday at 1695 Union. Satisfy your thirst with non-alcoholic mocktail mixes, beer and wine. Both venues offer in-store events including happy hours, social events and cheese and wine pairings.

Experiential is in: At Honey Art Studio, located at 1981 Sutter, Ericka Scott and her team offer classes in the visual and performing arts, all with a social justice focus. Not artistically inspired? Sit back with a cocktail and enjoy the Fillmore Eclipse at the Studio. It’s an immersive theatrical experience celebrating Fillmore’s heyday as the Harlem of the West. Performed by San Francisco’s Walking Cinema, an SF-based “storytelling studio,” the show brings alive again the area’s jazz clubs and cultural history several nights a month. Check their website for class and performance schedules.

Wheelhouse Clay Studio is a new pottery studio at 2201 Sutter Street. Learn how to make pottery with classes taught by a collective of women artists or buy a membership to practice your craft at your leisure.

Real estate update: Coming soon is an $18 million co-op at 2000 Washington Street on the northeast corner of Lafayette Park. … A couple of blocks away: the least expensive listing in Pacific Heights, a $550,000, 791-square-foot studio at Franklin and Jackson. … On the block again, this time for $6.5 million, is the “Full House” Victorian located at 1709 Broderick. Sorry, no public tours. Neighbors of the “Tanner House” quashed plans by the creator of the TV series to turn the home into a fan site.

A time for giving: Goodwill is accepting donations again at Post and Fillmore after a long hiatus. Donation hours are 10 to 2 on Saturdays and 11 to 3 on Sundays. … Join the next “Refuse to Refuse” Fillmore clean-up on June 21. Meet at 3 p.m. at Compton’s Coffee House at 1910 Fillmore.

Celebrating the neighborhood: Explore Fillmore history with the Jewish Community Center’s free lecture “Glimpses of Fillmore District’s Jewish Past” on June 10. … Celebrate Juneteenth on Saturday, June 15, on Fillmore from Geary to Fulton with live music, a kids zone, fashion show, car show, carnival rides and games.

Cynthia Traina is a longtime Fillmore resident and an agent with Vantage Realty San Francisco. Send items for Street Talk to CT@cynthiatraina.com.

Fillmore’s on sale for Memorial Day

Get a monogram on new bags at Clare V.


Come to Fillmore Street this Memorial Day weekend for the food, stay for the sales. Among the promotions: Get “tagged” at Clare V, which is offering on-site monogram services for their bags, or buy a leather tag and get a complimentary monogram. And Rag and Bone will be serving canned cocktail spritzers while supplies last.

Some of the other promotions being offered over the Memorial Day weekend include:


  • Alexis Bittar: 20 to 30 percent off most pieces.
  • Jonathan Adler: 25 percent off everything, up to 70 percent off select items.
  • Mio: Get 38 percent off many items for their 38th anniversary sale. 
  • Margaret O’Leary is offering 20 percent off all Margaret O’Leary items. 
  • Marcella: 40 percent off select items.

Spend and Save

  • Third Love: 20 percent off when you spend $150 or more.
  • Velvet: 20 to 30 percent off, based on purchase amount.

Sale on Sale

  • Athleta: Additional 25 percent off sale items, select items up to 40 percent off.
  • Alice and Olivia: 25 percent off sale items.
  • Veronica Beard: 20 percent off sale items.
  • Eileen Fisher: 30 percent off sale items.
  • Heidi Says: 30 percent off sale items.
  • Frame: 30 percent off sale items.

And Lululemon offers 15 percent off all purchases to active military and veterans and their spouses this weekend and throughout the year.

Cynthia Traina is a longtime Fillmore resident and an agent with Vantage Realty San Francisco. Send items for Street Talk to CT@cynthiatraina.com.

Fillmore boutiques carry on, but slim down

“Fashioned on Fillmore” by Joe Ceballos, from his SF/LA exhibition.


Seems like even retail is slimming down these days, with three longtime Fillmore shops moving to cozier spaces.

Shuffle & Reshuffle: Mio, a Fillmore fashion staple since 1976 known for its chic European and Japanese clothing, has relocated two doors south to a smaller space at 2031 Fillmore. . . . Mudpie, offering luxury babywear and gifts, moved a few doors down the block from the grand old Fillamento space to 2121 Fillmore. . . . Scarlet Sage gave way at 1903 Fillmore for the Cielo boutique, formerly at 2225 Fillmore, which has been catering for decades to Fillmore’s high-fashion enthusiasts.

Hail & Farewell: We’ll miss grabbing sweet treats at the Sift Dessert Bar, which has permanently closed at 2411 California. . . . Fillmore Street lost another ATM with the departure of Sterling Bank on the corner of Fillmore and Bush. . . . And craft beer haven Pizza Inferno quietly closed in April after decades on the corner of Fillmore and Sutter.

Hello & Welcome: The surge in new fashion options on Fillmore — with the arrival in recent months of Sezane, Finirie, Pollen & Wool, Marcella, Flannel, Lawrence, Rachel Comey and No Rest for Bridget — continues. SVRN is the next addition, bringing high-end labels like Marni and Kenzo to the former Prana location at 1928 Fillmore. . . . Sue Fisher King, whose treasure trove of global home goods has been a fixture for decades on Sacramento Street, is moving to 1913 Fillmore. . . . And Ministry of Scent is expanding from Valencia Street with a second location on Fillmore, bringing more fragrance to the neighborhood.

Woodhouse’s $15 lobster rolls for its 15th anniversary were a big hit, with long lines.

Dining delights: Newcomer 7 Adams at 1963 Sutter is making waves in the Michelin Guide with its incredible $87 five-course tasting menu, and there’s an even more decadent $157 eight to 10 course option. This prix-fixe restaurant was the only Bay Area addition to the 2024 California guide. . . . Get ready for authentic New York bagels with Emily Boichik’s expansion of Boichik Bagels into the old Johnny Rockets/Glaze space on the corner of Fillmore and Pine. . . . On the opposite corner, a note on the door indicates Noosh is closed due to mechanical issues. Rumors swirl about a possible connection to the Mehta mega real estate deal, which could be pushing out this popular Fillmore restaurant.

Real estate news: Seven buildings on Fillmore between Pine and Clay have changed hands since January. After a secretive buying process involving numerous LLCs, it was revealed that Neil Mehta, founder of GreenOaks Capital and a Pacific Heights resident, purchased the buildings for approximately $36.1 million — reportedly “bent on boosting the quality of retail stores” and replacing chain retail stores with locally owned shops and restaurants. The buildings now house Noosh, La Mediterranee, Starbucks, Joe + the Juice, the former L’Occitane, Alice & Olivia and others, including the historic Clay Theater. Locals are keen to know what’s on his vision board.

On the calendar: The 45th San Francisco Decorator Showcase continues at 2898 Broadway through May 27. . . . Japantown Peace Plaza’s $34 million upgrade is underway. Take a peek at the proposed Geary Blvd. mural design on May 11 from 2 to 2:30 p.m. at Issei Memorial Hall at 1840 Sutter. . . . Refuse to Refuse is hosting volunteer cleanups on Fillmore Street. Meet at Compton’s on May 17 and Pinsa Rossa on May 31 from 3 to 4 p.m., with free drinks afterward. . . . And get ready to groove at San Francisco’s favorite street party: the annual Fillmore Jazz Festival is happening on July 6 and 7.

Cynthia Traina is a longtime Fillmore resident and a realtor with Vantage Realty San Francisco. Send items for Street Talk to CT@cynthiatraina.com.

Sue Fisher King is moving to Fillmore

Sue Fisher King runs one of San Francisco’s favorite home design stores.


After more than four decades on Sacramento Street, luxury home goods retailer Sue Fisher King is moving her store to 1913 Fillmore Street. She will take over the storefront just south of Florio restaurant recently vacated by the wellness brand Saje. 

Rather than retire, she is looking forward to a new chapter. 

“Fillmore is a wonderful street with interesting stores,” King says. “It has a lot of activity and was the only viable location for us.” She adds with a smile: “And our staff is looking forward to all the new dining options.” 

King looked at several locations on the street before selecting the corner of Fillmore and Wilmot. She is especially fond of the Victorian architecture on the block and its mix of interesting shops. 

Embarking on the move as she prepares to celebrate her 45th year in business, she says: “The important thing is not to think about it. I’m just not someone who can be bored, and I still want to contribute. I need something concrete to do every day — and besides, everyone here is so nice to me.”  

In fact, many of her core staff were hired straight out of San Francisco State University and some are still with her after 25 years. “I have been lucky to hire great people who are smart and contribute a great deal,” she says.

The Sue Fisher King crew is preparing for an early to mid-May opening. Remodeling is underway. Saje’s iconic green plant wall is gone, but the herringbone floors stay. The space’s interior arches are being modified to divide the store into three sections.

Shelves for her bestselling handmade ceramics from Astier de Villatte have already been installed. Those milky white ceramics were a brand she discovered in Paris in 1996 and launched into the U.S. market. Since then, the brand has expanded across the globe. 

The store will also experiment with new inventory and will continue to collaborate with new artists. Sue Fisher King staples include handcrafted and traditional items, including handpainted porcelain from Richard Ginori and Marie Daage, Fortuny lighting, Porthault linens and glassware from Murano, Italy.

When she was 16, King’s parents insisted she had to find a job in her hometown of Portland. She went to work in retail and to her surprise fell in love with the variety of people she met on the job. After graduating from UC Berkeley, she joined the executive training program at Joseph Magnin, where she specialized in selling high-end home goods. Determined to share finds from her personal travels and visits to the studios of design world creatives, she opened Sue Fisher King in 1978 at 3067 Sacramento Street. The store quickly built a following for its refined and quality home goods, including a range of luxury tabletop items, decor accents, fine European bed and bath linens, handmade jewelry, furniture and unique gift items. 

In addition to the retail store, Sue Fisher King has a thriving online business and a warehouse near Polk Street. The company is currently hiring sales associates for the new location. 

Cynthia Traina is a longtime neighborhood resident and a real estate advisor with Vantage Realty.

Return of resale, with a twist

Warren Estate Sales is now open at 2436 Fillmore Street.


The space long occupied by Repeat Performance — the San Francisco Symphony resale shop at 2436 Fillmore — has sprung back to life as Warren Estate Sales, with novel pop-up offerings twice monthly in the back of the shop designed to keep the merchandise moving.

“It’s simply the best resale shop I have encountered,” says one nearby neighbor. “Lots of items and great variety — and the business plan is such that it will move items, so they will be renewing their inventory often.”

Owned and managed by Bangkok-born Bay Area consignment veteran May Warren, virtually every inch of the spacious 1,800-square-foot store is packed with antiques and unusual vintage furnishings, accessories, jewelry, paintings and clothing sourced mostly from nearby upmarket homes and apartments.

Warren, who sits behind a handsome desk just inside the front door, has added a new twist to her latest venture: regular pop-up estate sales. Every two weeks a store within a store pops up in the back filled with treasures that drop in price over a four day span. For the first two days, the price of an item is set. On the third day, it’s cut 30 percent. On the fourth day, it’s half-off the original price tag.

For decades, Fillmore Street was known for its many thrift shops. In addition to the symphony shop, the Junior League, hospital auxiliary and nearby schools had resale shops on Fillmore benefitting their programs.

“We get a lot of old world estate items from high-rise condos and apartments in the Bay Area,” Warren says, “and the pieces are constantly moving.” Warren is no solo act. She heads a small team of savvy staffers who scurry around the space wheeling and dealing.

Describing the inventory in the store front and back is practically impossible. Warren has created a “Chinese Room” out of a small niche and stocked it with items dating back to the 19th century. Dishes, glassware, large Asian screens, chairs and chandeliers are everywhere.

Warren says she resists latching onto cherished items for herself. “I can’t love everything in here,” she says. “Otherwise I’ll go broke.”

Stirring at the Grove

The Grove on Fillmore has been closed for more than two years.


Slammed shut and lifeless for well over two years, the large space housing the once popular Grove cafe and hangout at 2016 Fillmore is stirring again, but the new venture’s backers stubbornly refuse to disclose anything about it. “I can’t say, I can’t say, I can’t say,” insisted a bearded guy in a hoodie, who appeared to be a general contractor and claimed he is not the owner. Nor would he name the person in charge. Boom, the door slammed shut again. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: The team behind the Snug will open Little Shucker next year at 2016 Fillmore, the former Grove space, three blocks away from the Snug, the Chronicle reports. Adrian Garcia, who previously cooked at San Francisco Michelin-starred restaurants Benu and Quince, is in charge of the menu.

A couple of blocks north on the corner of Fillmore and Clay, Sam Fechheimer, a seasoned chef, is the new owner of Palmer’s, replacing Albert Ranier, who launched it in 2014. Sam was his opening chef, so he knows the bones of the building and its culinary history. He’s added a new brunch menu and is streamlining the daily menu with new dishes, including a serious Caesar salad, which replaces the faux Caesar made with kale. “We’re also reinvigorating our cocktail scene,” he says.

Meantime, the heart of the Post Pandemic Fillmore is coming back to life, with more action and somewhat fewer “for lease” signs on empty storefronts.

The new Lululemon store at 2040 Fillmore Street replaces Ralph Lauren.

The biggest retail addition to the boulevard is the uber-hot Lululemon store at 2040 Fillmore, which took over the space vacated by Ralph Lauren. Lululemon, with its catchy name and logo, has created an eye-catching “pilot” store on Fillmore that houses a massive collection of women and men’s workout and sportswear. Vancouver-based with stores worldwide, Fillmore is SF’s fourth Lululemon. What makes it different? “We weave silver into all our fabrics and since bacteria doesn’t cling to silver, our clothes never smell,” says a candid Rebecca Jackson, assistant manager. Lululemon will also buy back its old clothes for store credit and recycle them.

Across the street, at 2033 Fillmore, a new lingerie store called Third Love has moved in. Caroline, a sales rep, claims it’s the first such shop to create half sizes in bras such as an A½, B½, C½ all the way up to H½ cup sizes. “We’re new to the industry and we design for all body types,” she says.

Naadam, at 2029 Fillmore — named after a Mongolian holiday — sells lounge and casual wear for women mostly made out of 100 percent cashmere sourced from sheep herders in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. “We have no middlemen,” says Meghan, a store sales rep. Popular are the cashmere hoodies and sweaters. Prices range from $100 to $300.

The August Gallery has moved into 2053 Fillmore where a clothing and CBD company had a long off-and-on run. It’s not an art gallery per se, but has a collection of items aimed at “making the home more beautiful,” says Cameron, the gallery coordinator for owners Lotta Coffey, an interior designer, and her husband Geoffrey, a landscape designer who also has an office in the space. Items? Plants, ceramics, accessories and furniture by local artists.

Coming this fall to 2028 Fillmore: Sézane is bringing Paris to SF.

FOOD NOTES FROM OLD FAVORITES: John Castanon, the suave longtime manager of Florio, retired and went home to Texas in February. But he’s already been recalled for a six-week summer stint. • The former Elite Cafe, now The Tailor’s Son, has fresh additions to its cocktail list plus a 5 to 6:30 p.m. weekday happy hour — but only for patrons sitting at the bar. • A couple of doors away at 2043 Fillmore, at low-priced Apizza, store manager Pierre Luaga from Paris has added new pizzas, including pork carnitas and cacio e pepe — plus $7 wines and beer at $5 per can. • On the corner of California and Fillmore, the always affable TacoBar manager Antonio Solano has improved its online ordering and added new menu items and a parking zone for pickup and go. • On the corner of Fillmore and Pine, Noosh owner John Litz has added two popular cocktails to his repertoire of California-inspired Mediterranean cuisine. His personable general manager and operations director, Diana Ornelas, is also a talented mixologist. She created the Rosé and Rose Sangria.

Just in time for the dog days of summer: a giant gelato over the sidewalk at the Philmore Creamery at 1840 Fillmore.

Mr. Fillmore moves on

Photograph of Vas Kiniris by Chloe Jackman


After nearly three decades of involvement with the Fillmore Merchants Association — as board member, vice president, president and the last five years as executive director — Vasilios Kiniris, the personable man-in-perpetual-motion known to some as Mr. Fillmore and to all as Vas, is exiting stage left.

For most of that time, he’s been working — sometimes visibly, sometimes behind the scenes — to wrangle the neighborhood’s diverse coalitions into a cohesive and positive force. A lifelong merchant himself, save for a brief detour into architecture, Kiniris, 55, isn’t giving up on small businesses. He’s just crossing the street, so to speak, to a new entrepreneurial venture he calls NextSF, an agency that will offer his marketing savvy to other merchant associations and individual businesses and organizations seeking to build their brands and business.

Timothy Omi of Liberty Cannabis is the new president of the Fillmore Merchants Association. Patti Mangan is the new executive director. Continuing board members are Beverly Weinkauf of Toujours, Victorian Dunham of HiHo Silver and Chandler Tang of Post.Script. 

A candid long-hauler who believes in relationships, the Greek-born Kiniris sees life as a series of “half-empty opportunities,” but he’s no Pollyanna. He doesn’t shrink from the hard facts plaguing San Francisco and the Fillmore in particular. 

“Crimes are happening, no doubt about it,” he said during an exit interview this week. “Fillmore needs to be a safe place for its merchants, their employees and their customers.” The street, battered by the pandemic, has an unprecedented number of empty storefronts. But Kiniris remains upbeat. “Many are currently in contract with new leases,” he says. “They are filling up again.”

Kiniris has been swimming upstream all his life, and not without failures. “I’ve made my share,” he admits. One of his more visible ill-fated ventures was moving his Zinc Details home design emporium south to a huge vacant space on Fillmore near the Geary bridge, where an old dollar store once stood. It didn’t pan out. Zinc Details had been on Fillmore for 27 years when it closed in 2018.

Kiniris was 7 when he and his family arrived in San Francisco from Macedonia in northern Greece. At first they lived in public housing in the Mission “to get our bearings.” His dad Nick was a dishwasher at Nob Hill hotels, including the Fairmont and the Mark Hopkins. “My mother was a garment worker,” he says. “Dad quickly realized he had to go into business for himself.”

The family opened one, then another, small corner grocery store. Young Vas went to work there as kid and grew up stocking shelves and checking out customers while his dad made sandwiches. “We worked every Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day for 15 years,” he says. “For me, it was my baptism in retail. Some people call it a sacrifice, but not me. The stores, the business, the customers were my social glue, my family. I didn’t get a chance to party much, and I can’t say it was a pleasant experience. But it was a learning experience.”

So were four years at UC Berkeley, where he graduated with a degree in architecture. “But the practice was not to my liking,” he acknowledges. “And frankly, my mechanical skills were not all that good.”

He had a side job waiting tables in the ’80s at Stars, celebrity chef Jeremiah Tower’s once-glittering restaurant near City Hall. Remembers Kiniris: “I waited on people like Walter Cronkite and Mikhail Baryshnikov, and all the socialites and movers and shakers.”

He says he was first exposed to the finer things in life as an exchange student living with a prosperous German family. “Here I was, a blue-collar immigrant surviving day to day by extreme frugality and I was introduced to the extras, the intangibles of life, this joie de vive. Even now I still consider them my second family,” he says. “We all have many parents in our lives.”

In 1990, accustomed to living with no safety net, Kiniris and his wife, Wendy Nishimura Kiniris, plunged into retailing on their own with a small store at Post and Hyde in the Tenderloin, with drug dealers and prostitutes just outside their door. The rent: $500 a month. Their wares: contemporary furniture. The name: Zinc Details.

“We were credited with introducing modernism to San Francisco,” he says. “In those days, you were either old money or you had no money. We appealed to both. Our look was so fresh to the market, which had been dominated by Macy’s.”

From there they were thrust into the public arena. “We were both designers and highly edited curators,” he says. The couple was invited to set up a “store within a store” in Macy’s, created products for the Gap, and launched a wholesale business and private labeled to top retailers in Paris, London and Tokyo.

A recession brought them back to earth, which Kiniris now calls “a great opportunity, if you take advantage of it.” They moved upmarket, from the Tenderloin to Fillmore Street. “We looked at Union and Fillmore,” he says, “and Fillmore was coming up at the time.”

As the years passed, the Kinirises at one point had three Zinc Details stores in the neighborhood, with 20 employees, and he embedded himself as a passionate and engaged merchant. So when longtime Fillmore Merchants Association president Thomas Reynolds resigned in 2015, Kiniris stepped up to the plate. “Thomas left us a very good merchants association and his were very big shoes to fill,” he says.

Kiniris took some big steps in different directions. Using his social media skills, he expanded the association’s communications and membership. Pedaling on his electric bike, he integrated the small business owners on the street with representatives from the corporate and international brands that had been moving into the neighborhood. He reached out to merchants on lower Fillmore and in Japantown.

“My goal was to create a dialogue and potential collaboration among all groups,” he says, “and to help the big chain stores demonstrate good corporate behavior by engaging with the community in a meaningful way.”

Kiniris says he is proud the FMA has built relationships with many sectors of the community. “We have a strong relationship with District 2 supervisor Catherine Stefani and District 5 supervisor Dean Preston,” he says. Indeed, the supes handed him a certificate of honor when he announced he was stepping down from the FMA.

He has worked closely with the S.F. Police Department and the city’s top cops. Kiniris is a graduate of the SFPD’s community police academy, helped secure a two-officer foot patrol on Fillmore, and is co-chair of police chief Bill Scott’s small business advisory forum. Recently he helped organize a small business summit with all 10 captains of the the city’s police districts. “We had breakout sessions where each captain met with merchants in his district.” he says. “I realized the merchants don’t know what the police do, and vice versa.”

More ambitious and still a work-in-progress are partnerships between merchants with mega-companies including Google, Facebook, Uber and Spin, the city’s micro-mobility scooter renter. “We have to demonstrate how they can be true community partners,” Kiniris says. “They can’t sit in their ivory towers.” While many San Francisco streets remain dirty and littered, Kiniris has worked with cleanup groups like the city’s Department of Public Works, Together SF and Refuse Refuse.

During his years as Mr. Fillmore, Kiniris says he has sought to “reach across many aisles” to bring people together who can help Fillmore Street and other merchant corridors.

“The role of the merchants association is to provide three things to its members and the community: security, maintenance and marketing,” he says, repeating his frequent mantra.

Despite San Francisco’s well publicized woes, Kiniris is convinced the city — and especially the Fillmore — is on the verge of a rebirth, or “a regeneration,” as he calls it. 

And not for the first time.

“It’s part of our history,” Kiniris says. “The Fillmore Merchants Association is the city’s oldest, formed 115 years ago after the 1906 earthquake. This neighborhood was the birthplace of the rebuilt city, and the Harlem of the West, and the Summer of Love. It was a hotbed of business opportunities with its big Jewish, Japanese and African American communities over the decades,” he says. 

“It was diverse, an ethnic collaboration, and it is again time to work with many partners,” he says. “It’s the Phoenix rising.”

‘Craziness, just craziness’

Aesop, at 2450 Fillmore, was one of three businesses on its block hit by burglars.


SOME PEOPLE took a holiday over the Labor Day weekend, but not the thieves who have been plaguing Fillmore Street merchants.

At least six businesses — Ruti, Post Script, Velvet, Heidi Says, Aesop and the UPS Store — were attacked over the long weekend, some suffering loss of merchandise, and all rushing to replace broken glass. Pots of flowers on the street were also vandalized.

Amid calls for more police protection, stronger glass and bars over doors and windows, one merchant shrugged: “Craziness, just craziness.”

Post Script, at 2413 California, was also hit in the Labor Day weekend crime spree.

Signs of life on a boulevard of broken leases

A new Italian restaurant, The Tailor’s Son, will soon open in the former Elite Cafe. Photograph by Jonathan Pontell


Empty stores, boarded-up windows, people sleeping in abandoned doorways, shoplifting and break-ins all testify that Fillmore Street is going though hard times one year after Covid hit with full fury.

But conversations with die-hard merchants and a reopening for some indoor dining signals an eventual turnaround in the fortunes of the once-booming upper Fillmore commercial district, which is now a boulevard of broken leases.

Vas Kiniris, a longtime Fillmore merchant who is now executive director of the Fillmore Merchants Association, is optimistic yet candid in offering his views on the state of the street.

Crime has long been a problem on Fillmore, but Kiniris reports that Northern Station has a newish captain in charge — Paul Yep — who gave the street back its own foot patrol, which was shared at one point with Japantown. More cops are visible.

Walgreens at Fillmore and Pine — regularly hit with swarms of grab-and-dash young shoplifters — now has an SFPD officer posted inside the front door, with a black and white squad car parked conspicuously outside the front door. There were recent rumbles that Walgreens might close its Fillmore store, as it closed others suffering a steady stream of thefts. But staffers say nothing is definite.

A peek inside the late, once-great Elite Cafe reveals a nearly completed interior makeover. A year after he planned to open, serial restaurateur Adriano Paganini will soon unveil The Tailor’s Son, his newest Italian restaurant, which pays homage to his childhood near Milan.

“My mom and dad are both working tailors, and my grandmother and grandfather were tailors as well,” Paganini says, hence the name. Paganini says that contrary to recent rumors, he “has no interest” in taking over long-shuttered Grove next door to Harry’s Bar. A reliable source maintains the Grove “will reopen eventually.”

From Hoodline: “An interview with Adriano Paganini

Another rumor turned out to be just that — only a rumor. Delfina, the uber-popular pizzeria on California Street, is not dead, despite the window boardings. Kiniris says it is simply undergoing a remodeling.


John Litz’s Noosh, on the corner of Filllmore and Pine, has re-opened for pick-up, delivery and indoor-outdoor dining after being temporarily closed. Noosh is launching a multi-course tasting brunch on the weekend, which will feature its signature Mediterranean delicacies for $45 per person. At night, a multi-course Noosh dinner tasting menu will be offered at a price point, Litz insists, below similar San Francisco restaurants. The front windows of the restaurant have re-opened to the street, offering its full “fine casual menu,” including craft cocktails.

Many stores and brands on Fillmore have pulled up stakes during the pandemic. Kiniris lists International Orange, Dosa, Goop, Prana, the Repeat Performance resale shop, Illestiva, Frame, Ralph Lauren, Space NK, Alexis Bitter, Ministry of Supply, Samovar Tea, Asmbly Hall, Sunhee Moon, Atelier de Cologne, Flor, James Perse, Lexe, Alice and Olivia, Cotelac, Minted and the Artists Inn.

But there have been some openings: Liberty Cannabis is now open for business in the former Unity Church around the corner on Bush Street. Byredo, a Swedish fragrance emporium has taken over the former Space NK location at Pine and Fillmore. And Compton’s Coffee House now occupies the former Samovar Tea shop. Many restaurants have added seating outside.

As for activity at the old Clay Theatre? Absolutely nothing. 

No more Polo in Pacific Heights

The Ralph Lauren store on Fillmore Street.

FASHION DESIGNER Ralph Lauren’s elegant emporium at 2040 Fillmore — which replaced a former Goodwill store and paved the way for the street’s transformation into an upscale shopping strip of clothing and cosmetics boutiques — is now permanently closed.

The Polo shop had reopened only a few weeks ago, along with other Fillmore retailers, when the city gave the go-ahead for limited shopping and sidewalk dining after a three-month shutdown. August 22 was the final day of business at the shop, which has now been emptied.

A staffer referred questions to corporate headquarters in New York, which did not respond to repeated inquiries. The Fillmore store survived an earlier round of closings in 2015 and 2016, when Polo shuttered nearly 100 other stores.

When Polo Ralph Lauren opened on Fillmore in 2008, it was the first international brand to get a permit under San Francisco’s new formula retail ordinance, intended to limit chain stores in the city’s neighborhoods. Polo was first rejected, but later approved unanimously after it worked out a written agreement with local groups promising to play an active role in the neighborhood and be a role model for other retailers.

Most of Polo’s promises went unfulfilled, but no other formula retail business seeking to open on Fillmore was ever rejected by the city’s Planning Commission. More than two dozen more international fashion and personal care brands followed during the next decade.