Embodying the story of the artist that can't afford San Francisco but finds refuge in Oakland, owners of Market Street's Flax Art & Design have announced that the business will move to downtown Oakland and will reopen in February.
Flax's iconic San Francisco building, as you most certainly remember, is set to be torn down to make way for a nine-story, 160-unit condo development.
The art supply company has been family owned since it opened in 1938, notes San Francisco Magazine, moving into its current location 37 years ago. The CEO, Howard Flax, told the magazine that his brother and he searched for a new location in San Francisco for the past two years — opening a small Fort Mason outpost in the process — but ultimately were unable to find a spot in the city that was both the appropriate size and appropriately zoned.
Howard Flax expounded up the difficulty to the Chronicle, noting that even the backing of Supervisors Malia Cohen and Jane Kim wasn't enough to make it happen.
“We exhausted every possibility we could in San Francisco but it didn’t work out,” he explained. “Everybody in the city wanted us to stay."
The paper notes that the city of Oakland gave Flax $99,000 to do interior renovations on their new location, a former auto shop/indoor soccer facility at 1501 Martin Luther King Way, and even provided the building owner with funds for exterior work.
The 14,500 square foot building impressed Howard and his brother, Craig Flax, with Howard telling the Chronicle that "[the] Martin Luther King building had more of a wow factor than our current building on Market Street.”
Unfortunately for the company's employees, not all of them will be celebrating the news, as a decrease in square footage means that Flax will lay off ten to fifteen employees. That crazy/amazing sculpture on the front of the building is getting let go as well, as there are no plans to move it with the company.
As for leaving the city the business has called home for the past 77 years, in conversation with the Chronicle Howard Flax suggested that, in the end, Oakland may be the right spot after all.
“In some respects it’s not unlike when we moved to Market Street 37 years ago,” he mused. “It’s a little pioneering to be moving into that area but we believe it holds a lot of promise.”