Well-loved pie cafe Mission Pie will be vacating its prime spot at Mission and 25th after September 1, and owners Krystin Rubin and Karen Heisler say it's a bittersweet but necessary end to a 12-year run.
Heisler and Rubin, who are a married couple, have run a notably community-oriented business, committing from the start to provide fair wages and benefits to their employees and using sustainable, organic ingredients — something that made everyone feel good about buying their pie and supporting the business. And while they business isn't completely suffering, Rubin tells Mission Local that the pie shop's wages of $15.75 to $20 an hour, plus tips, aren't really enough to keep employees comfortable in an ever-more-expensive city. And the pair have decided that there aren't any viable options for sustaining the business in the long term that suit their principles, or the mission of Mission Pie.
Says Heisler, in a statement, "As a business founded with some very clear values, we have reached the point where Mission Pie is not going to be economically viable into the future unless we make serious changes. And we’ve spent two years evaluating our options and we haven’t found anything that doesn’t either compromise our values or look like a bad business proposition."
Some of those options were things she discussed a month ago with Mission Local, like partnering with Caviar for pie delivery. She expressed frustration at having to raise prices in order to accommodate the 30% cut delivery apps demand, coupled with the fact that these companies are not currently having to comply with the same laws that brick-and-mortar businesses have to like providing health benefits to employees.
Mission Pie, with "Mission" in the name, also doesn't lend itself to relocation to, say, Oakland or a less pricey neighborhood — and, besides, Heisler owns the building and is her own landlord. She and Rubin live in one of the six residential units upstairs, and she tells Mission Local that the whole enterprise is up in the air. She may stay put in her apartment and lease out the retail space, or she may put the whole building on the market and cash out.
Coincidentally — although you could say that 10 to 12 years is a pretty typical, if not above-average lifespan for a restaurant — Mission Beach Cafe opened the same year as Mission Pie, 2007, and just abruptly shut its doors last week under far less auspicious circumstances. As Mission Local laid out in a separate piece today, there was a litany of mistakes, legal troubles, and near shutdowns that preceded the final swan song for MBC, not the least of which was a bankruptcy and a longstanding apparent fraud around that "SF Mandate" charge on customer bills. According to the site, owner Bill Clarke was pocketing that money for years and using it to keep the restaurant afloat, claiming his employees didn't deserve health benefits because they were "stealing" from him.