The following is an open letter from Wayne Whelan, local business owner, to Pilar LaValley of the San Francisco Planning Department:
It has come to my attention that American Apparel has expressed an interest in leasing a space on Valencia Street in the previous Valencia glass space. As the owner of Therapy I have had 4 different locations on Valencia street. Our first location opened on 05/29/94 at 545 Valencia St and has been open since then. Other locations have come and gone, when we first opened we sold only used goods, and were lucky if we grossed 20,000.00 in sales for the entire month. Our company now has 6 locations in various California communities, grossing millions in sales each year. Therapy has had a long and fruitful relationship with American Apparel, selling their clothing in our many locations. The owner of the proposed location also owns Muddy Waters and has been making my coffee practically daily for the last 15 years, I consider him a friend. Valencia Street remains of the few SF neighborhoods with a distinctive urban vibe, and many independent retailers have created a retail environment that many corporations would give their teeth to exploit.
While I am unaware as to whether you have solicited public opinion in this matter, I felt compelled to tell you that I oppose the introduction of national chain stores of any type into the Valencia St corridor (at least that’s what the real estate agents call it). Make an exception for American Apparel and the door will be open for others to follow, raising rents, lowering wages and benefits for workers and in general homogenizing a wonderful destination into a place that could be anywhere USA.
American Apparel has done some good things for folks making clothing in their factories in LA, (although I don’t much care for it’s controversial CEO insisting on photographing his employees in their underwear). The owner of this building is my friend, but the mission does not need corporate chain stores in order to be a viable destination. Seven years ago at the height of the “dot com” Valencia St was touted by many as being the center of the universe — without a single corporate entity. Please, let’s try and keep it that way. Should you ever be in the neighborhood trying out one of the dozens of outstanding restaurants, all independent, I might add, stop by and say hi.
Thanks for your time.