The move by Liz Claiborne-owned mini-chain Jack Spade to open on 16th Street has become, for many, a galvanizing symbol of the latest phase in the Mission's gentrification and potential loss of character. But the executives at Jack Spade? They aren't budging, and probably had no idea that opening a little retail store in San Francisco was going to elicit so many editorials, community meetings, and general fist-shaking on the nightly news.
As we pointed out a couple months ago, if Jack Spade had just chosen Union Square or somewhere downtown, they wouldn't have encountered any trouble. But set your sights on one of our quainter shopping districts, like Hayes Valley or the Mission, and you're asking for trouble if you're anything but a locally born and bred small business. Over the weekend there dropped this New Yorker piece by sometimes SF Weekly scribe Lauren Smiley that rehashes much of what's gone on, and liberally quotes Jefferson McCarley of Mission Bicycle, the vice-president of the Valencia Merchants Association who's become the spokesperson for the anti-Jack Spade camp.
Basically, what we take for granted in San Francisco namely the arduous process of developing or opening something new given the many political, community, and bureaucratic stop-gaps in place is quite novel to the rest of the country, especially the New York of the New Yorker where business has always been a free-for-all. You may have noticed if you knew Manhattan in the 1980s or 90s, that places like SoHo and the West Village have become outdoor malls with retail boutiques that, in many cases, serve the city's ever-wealthier populace or, in the case of SoHo, serve tourists en masse every weekend.
Thus the New York-based executives of Jack Spade, like vice-president of global sales Melissa Xides, are tone deaf to S.F.'s politics and seemingly baffled by the sheer amount of hand-wringing and community organizing we're capable of. They got their approval, they're just under the threshold for S.F.'s formula retail rules, so they're pushing on. She made the mistake of touting the "gentrification" she saw on 16th Street as a good thing, sending waves of horror through the community. But honestly, would you want 16th Street to look the way Prince Street in SoHo does now?
Last night there was a community meeting in the Mission, titled "Jack Spade, Gentrification, and the Mission: A Community Discussion for Action." It was put together by McCarley's "No to Jack Spade" group, and there was much talk on a range of issues including homelessness, and small businesses getting pushed off of 24th Street at the hands of landlords and developers. As Mission Local reports, there's a Dia de los Muertos art show coming up at the Mission Cultural Center in which there will be "altars for the businesses that are no longer with us because of rising rents." Also, an aide to Supervisor Eric Mar noted that he has new formula retail legislation drafted that would make it much harder for another Jack Spade situation to happen in the Mission.
As far as Jack Spade goes, maybe what we're looking at is a communication divide between the way two cities treat their neighborhoods. McCarley says he's frankly surprised that the company isn't responding to all this push-back from the community. "I thought they’d see that and say, ‘So sorry, we’ll find another neighborhood,'" he says. Clearly he hasn't spent much time in New York.