Courtesy of Credo

SF retailers are now allowed to open for curbside pickup—but will they?

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Turns out local clothing, beauty, and accessories shops don't have a one-size-fits-all approach to Phase 2 of the reopening process.

After two months of being closed per the city's first stay-at-home order, certain "non-essential" store owners are happy to open up. Some are just not ready. And others, frankly, don't see the point in opening strictly for curbside pickup. Mixed feelings about the retail guidelines aside, everyone agrees that today's move is but a baby step. (Still, we'll take it.)


Not gonna lie: Last Wednesday when I saw online that Mayor Breed announced San Francisco retail businesses—including shops beyond the previously cited florists, game and hobby shops, and record and bookstores—would soon be given the OK to reopen, I got a head rush. Immediately, visions of a camo-masked me making the rounds at my favorite boutiques on Fillmore (Nest), Hayes (Azalea), and Valencia (Voyager) flashed in my brain. Then I kept reading.

Wait, what exactly does "open for curbside pickup and delivery" mean vis-à-vis shopping? Is the mayor saying I can't actually go into any stores but I have to procure those much-needed tie-dye sweatshirts, candles and lounge pants the same way I've been getting my pizza, fried chicken, and bento-boxes…by ordering online for takeout only?

Yep, that's precisely what she's saying.

More detailed guidelines, spelling out what local stores have to do in order to open, were released from The Office of the Mayor on Thursday, May 14th. "Allowing retail to operate storefront pickup is a great step for our small businesses, which have been struggling since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses that will be allowed to open next week won't be able to operate like they used to, but this hopefully offers a measure of support," Breed says.


Guidelines at a Glance

The first thing to know: The new retail guidelines apply only to businesses whose storefronts connect to the street (sorry, Westfield SF Centre). According to Breed, this includes about 95 percent of all retailers in the city.

Additionally, previous rules to stay home except for essential needs and approved activities continue. Translation: These guidelines are N-O-T a license to shop or browse with abandon. Social distancing rules and wearing masks/face coverings while queuing up or inside businesses are also required, for both customers and store employees.

Plus, in order to reopen, stores must meet these conditions:

  • Customers may not enter the store: only storefront, curbside, or outside pickup are allowed.
  • No more than 10 employees may be on site at once to handle curbside pickup.
  • Stores must have clear access to a sidewalk, street, parking lot, or alley to handle curbside pickup.

Indeed, Monday's curbside reopening can't come soon enough for the city's small businesses, according to Vas Kiniris, executive director of the Fillmore Merchants Association: "It's a Band-Aid, but the point is we have to slowly start opening the economy."

"With COVID-19, there's a new level of uncertainty that's affecting all our merchants and they're rethinking their business models. On Fillmore alone, the 150-year-old Frye Boots has decided to close. Also, mom-and-pop business Asmbly Hall is closing its Fillmore location," he adds.


What say you, SF shops?

As soon as we learned about (and processed) the reopening news, we reached out to several beloved SF shop owners for their take. Of course, our main question was regarding curbside pickup: yay or nay? We also checked in to see how some businesses have been holding up since the coronavirus came to town and, ya know, upended everything.

With answers as varied as the stuff that lines their shelves, we thought it best to let our friends speak for themselves. Scroll thought our slideshow to hear from: Jessica Lee, Colleen Mauer, Emily Holt, Linda Fahey, Isobel Schofield, Kiya Babzani, Basil Racuk, Pauline Montupet, and Debra Dobras.

Kiya Babzani, Self Edge

First reaction to Mayor Breed's announcement that retail could open for curbside pickup?

"That's great but won't work for us. Clients need to see the product in person, try it on, etc."

Do you think the time is right for this gradual opening?

"I believe it's early—as reports even as of yesterday, show cases going up in the Mission District."

Do you plan to open this week?

"No, we plan on opening when we can fully open the store, hopefully in June."

Generally, how has your business been doing since the first Stay Home order?

"We have five stores and an online store. All five stores have now been closed for two months but online is still operating as usual. Having five locations out of six closed is very difficult even if your online store is still selling product."

How has local support been from customers and fellow store owners?

"Our clients have been amazing with an outpouring of messages and support. We can't wait to see everyone again once we open."

What are your hopes for your business as we move forward?

"We hope people find the value of having brick-and-mortar retail. Without that, none of us can exist in this increasingly digital/online world of retail."

// Self Edge, 569 Valencia St. (Mission), selfedge.com, @selfedge

Please support these and all your favorite local stores. Buying gift cards for future services, products, and even just checking in to say hi can do a world of good in these precarious times. #7x7shopslocal

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