I’d like to take this opportunity to celebrate small businesses in my own back yard in San Francisco’s vibrant Mission District. As both a small business owner of 12 Small Things and as a sales representative for Keena, I work with a number of small businesses on Valencia Street, including Aldea Home, Paxton Gate, Serendipity, The Curiosity Shoppe, Ruby, Dog Eared Books and Currents. These stores purchase products from some of the small local companies I represent including Yellow Owl Workshop in the Mission, Austin Press over by the Piers, Glob in Berkeley, Modern Twist in Emeryville and Roost in Sausalito. Both these retailers and wholesalers are trying to make a living, producing products they believe in, hiring local employees and supporting their families.
You can imagine how upset I was when my father-in-law called me the first morning of May to ask if any of my stores were vandalized by the protesters gathered in Dolores Park the night before, planning for May Day protests. Apparently a group split off from the Occupy rally with metal crowbars in tow, and deliberately vandalized some of the key retailers on Valencia including Therapy, Weston Wear, Bar Tartine and other targets including parked cars. Apparently the group was protesting the gentrification of the Mission; really, with these businesses?
I called Aldea who filled me in on what they knew and said there was already a neighborhood fundraiser started to help the stores who suffered the most damages, mainly Weston Wear. My Post Office clerk, Louise told me she was relieved they had already apprehended one of the culprits. No one I spoke to could come to terms with why Valencia Street and those businesses were targeted. And what results were the protesters hoping to achieve? Was it resentment that these businesses appear successful? Did they want these businesses to be boarded up and shut down like we’ve seen with the recession in so many parts of the city over the past few years? Was it a splinter group trying to make the Occupy movement look bad?
Nothing could have made me happier than to join hundreds of my neighbors for Sunday Streets to celebrate all the wonderful creative small stores in the Mission, including the ones who had been vandalized just a week before and who were now opened for business. The weather was glorious and families were out in force on foot and bicycles of all shapes and sizes. The fashions were San Francisco fabulous and the activities ranged from cycling to squeeze fresh juice, to planting your own terrarium, to group yoga and music of all kinds including kids shredding rock and roll.
I was so happy to see Weston Wear sporting brand new glass windows and Therapy with a grand sidewalk display, both attracting a lot of customers. It made me remember the scene in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, after the Whos’ wake up to find all their presents stolen, they still gather round to give thanks for the day and for one another. That’s how my Mission community makes me feel, thankful for the creativity and inspiration and grateful for all the small businesses that help to support one another.