SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco International airport has a program designed to let small businesses in on some of the big revenue that comes from it's millions of passengers. But some mom and pops say they're apparently too small to qualify, including one owner who wants to open the first sex shop there.
Nenna Joiner owns Feelmore Adult Gallery in Oakland. She says she wouldn't offer products banned by the TSA, like handcuffs and ropes but thinks some customers would like sex toys and lubricants. When airport officials opened the new, luxurious Terminal 3 in January 2014, then Airport Director, John Martin, promised passengers "a uniquely San Francisco, SFO experience."
As part of that plan they offered local small businesses year long leases for pop ups. Joiner hasn't applied because the airport requires retailers have $250,000 in revenue, too much for some the program is designed to help. Joiner has asked the Airport Commission to lower the threshold to $150,000. "It's not to say I'm not looking for a handout, but it's also looking for evening the playing field," she said.
In a statement, Grier Mathews, the Marketing Manager for SFO says the purpose of the $250,000 level is, "Ensuring that the retailer has a sufficient level of business activity and can operate in a high-volume airport environment."
The owners of Wink SF, a Noe Valley gift shop say they thought they were a perfect fit and were encouraged by airport officials to apply two years ago. The shop sells gifts designed by hundreds of local and national artists. The owners have been in business more than a decade but were rejected and a contract awarded instead to the Exploratorium. Owner Teresa Hagiya says it was very disappointing.
"It was like joining a softball league and finding out the SF Giants are playing in your league," said Hagiya.
Miriam Zouzounis is a member of the San Francisco's Small Business Commission. She says the regulations may be necessary and believes the airport has renewed it's efforts to reach out to local retailers, but may have to do more. Zouzounis is a small business owner in San Francisco. "I understand completely the frustrations of the businesses that haven't been able to reach that criteria," Zouzounis said.
SFO says 18 local businesses have participated since the program began in 2014. Two more will be selected on March 20.