Pointed Opinion: Business Closures Are A Direct Influence Of Little To No Community From The Neighborhood

Yes, you’ve read that title right. It’s our exact theory on why businesses close, especially in this time of pandemic where community support is so vital.

Though on Bob Cut, we’re never one to write about businesses closures—It’s a sad, difficult, and draining process on everyone’s fronts. Though to inform the reader post-death, it feels like we write obituaries if anything. Comments from readers and business-goers alike akin to “wow, why did they close? It’s so sad, just so sad. I wish I could have gone one last time.”

But let’s back up here—why are we writing this observation amongst everything. It starts with a singular neighborhood: Hayes Valley. A neighborhood that longed for any semblance of deep, interwoven community. And to those who read and disagree, take a jaunt down our thought process. Hayes Valley’s history is no one of refuge like a Chinatown, no one of deep cultural mixing pots like the Outer Richmond, no one of true struggle and adversity like a Castro, a Tenderloin, a Western Addition. Hayes Valley, once an overpass conjoined into a highway later bulldozed from commercial realtors, was not built on a foundation of community faces who have been true long time residents. In fact, the neighborhood has been just a metaphorical transient highway for the rich to use, ring out, and move on once their “neighborhood” see’s any sort of adversity.

Built on wealth is exactly how Hayes Valley came to be, in fact. The neighborhood gets its name from Hayes Street, which was named for Thomas Hayes, San Francisco’s county clerk from 1853 to 1856 who also started the first Market Street Railway franchise. Hayes was a land owner in the western addition to San Francisco in the 19th century. Hayes Valley in the western addition and Hayes Street are named after him. He was the original franchisee of the Market Street Railway and county clerk between 1853 and 1856. The franchise for what would become the Market Street Railway was granted in 1857. The line was the first horsecar line to open in San Francisco, opened on July 4, 1860, as the Market Street Railroad Company.

Of course we can go as far back regarding the Native people in many small bands, now referred to collectively as the Ohlone tribe, lived in San Francisco part of the year, gathering food in the Mission Creek area, which included seasonal Hayes Creek. But for this observation of today, we will stay present. Since the turn of the century, city-wide trends in gentrification resulted in a reduction in the crime statistics for the district. Realtors currently market the neighborhood to affluent customers—Hayes Valley at it’s core was not a friendly place to be.

“Partly because of nearby public housing complexes and a requirement that at least some below-market-rate housing gets built, Hayes Valley is not just the province of the young and well-heeled — it mainly is, of course, but it’s not theirs exclusively,” writes Alec Scott of the Los Angeles Times on Hayes Valley. Scott’s story centers around the idea of Hayes Valley being a “place of nowhere-else finds, exquisite cuisine, thanks to accident and activism.” Though written in 2018, as times have changed, nowhere-else finds is hard to distinguish when Allbirds, Away, Warby Parker, Outdoor Voices, Salt & Straw, and other formula retail direct-to-consumer brands now snatch prime real estate, completing pushing out hyper-local spaces. These businesses appease the wealthy and often majority, white residents.

A typical pre-covid crowd at the Patricia’s Green. Not a person of color in sight. Photo via the Hayes Valley Inn.A typical pre-covid crowd at the Patricia’s Green. Not a person of color in sight. Photo via the Hayes Valley Inn.

A typical pre-covid crowd at the Patricia’s Green. Not a person of color in sight. Photo via the Hayes Valley Inn.

Now as we see closures arising from small to large corporations in the area, it reflects the state of how neighbors in the area could care less to see them go. Spaces like The Riddler (which had a cult following of affluent white women) closing both their San Francisco and New York locations. Though even with securing a PPP loan (Paycheck Protection Program) and acquiring rent reduction from their landlords, owner Jen Pelka told Hoodline, “we were losing more than we could sustain.” Though in our view, with an entire women based investment team, we’re surprised. Bars that operate in the manner of to-go or delivery have been flourishing, spaces like Seven Stills Distillery that operates in one of San Francisco’s most gentrified neighborhoods, South of Market, has found stride with their neighbors and across their two locations. Even when Kris Toliao and Yuka Ioroi of Cassava in the Outer Richmond found themselves and their team in a predicament of closing for good, the community came in swinging—helping raise $52,000 dollars for the beloved brunch spot to stay open.

But on the contrary, seeing closures from massive chains such as Urban Remedy, who have grasp over the San Francisco Bay Area with two downtown locations and outposts in the Ferry Building, Noe Valley and Cow Hollow. It also has to-go kiosks at Whole Foods, Costco and Mollie Stone’s. Not to mention the various corporate contracts with brands such as The RealReal to stock their workers fridges. For Urban Remedy, this is not a loss. They can afford to pick-up and go onto the next trendy location where customers spend astronomical amounts of cash at a time. But what is left, is an empty store front that truly hyper-local businesses will never get a shot at obtaining. It remains a hollow shell, continuing to push colorful locals away. Much like the Castro, where we saw community activists such as all powerful Juanita More! marching with over 100 attendees in what was called a “A March To Remember and Reignite Hope.”

For Hayes Valley, there will be no march, there will be no real change for a neighborhood that clings any hope of true, colorful, local community. What started as a neighborhood to bring in the rich and wealthy, a hopeful sign for economic growth has backfired—though bringing in neighbors who could spend money on $6 juice or $700 on a pair of jeans, Hayes Valley didn’t realize that they could move themselves and their money at the drop of a hat. And much those chain businesses: they’ll leave Hayes Valley high and dry.

What is the underlying message we’re trying to propel as an article? Neighborhoods thrive on having active participants in that neighborhood, whether it’s with their money, with their time, or with their physical presence—we ultimately set the course for how a neighborhood shapes up to be in years to come. Honoring the residents who’ve paved their Though some neighborhoods are crumbling under the wave of the 21st century, it’s our job to continue to support, try, eat, dine, shop with neighbors who’ve been here before we were ever born. But solutions run dry as the way of cultural capitalism runs free—those who have money, don’t want to spend and those who have little money, need to spend it to survive.

// Feature photo by Claude Piche.

Pointed Opinion: Business Closures Are A Direct Influence Of Little To No Community From The Neighborhood
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