San Francisco businesses fighting to stay alive due to 80 percent and 100 percent rent increases

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As we approach Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, ABC7 News is looking into the retail landscape of San Francisco and how business owners are faring. It wasn't difficult to find proprietors in one busy shopping district who say they're having a hard time making ends meet.

In many of the cases, they're getting candid about rising rents they say are to blame.

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Tucked along busy Union Street in San Francisco, clothing shop Firuze Firuze is perhaps the perfect example of living the American Dream.

"I actually opened this store in 1977 when I had just graduated from college," said Smiles Firuze Hariri, an immigrant from Iran.

For 42 years, her shop has been a neighborhood staple. Her designs were even worn by celebrities like Jane Fonda, whose picture is posted in the store window.

But one glance around the shop today and the nearly empty jewelry case and sale signs emblazoned on nearly every rack tell a different story.

"Rent jumped 85 percent last year -- it just doesn't make sense with the high rent they are asking," says Firuze.

A flood which resulted in lost inventory didn't help either.

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"It totally drained us. Once we opened up again after a few months, we had lost our momentum and customers were shopping elsewhere."

Her lease is up again this winter and, instead of paying what she describes as a 100 percent increase from the previous rent hike, she is shuttering this location for good.

It's not just clothing retailers that are feeling the squeeze. The owner of a barbershop across the street and a leather shop also are having a hard time making ends meet.

Across town, it's the same story but with a children's gym.

"I'm being forced to close my doors due to an increase in rent," says Marci Brisken who has owned the My Gym Children's Fitness Center in the Dogpatch neighborhood for 15 years. Her rent when she first opened?

"I was paying $5,000 for about a 5,000 square foot space. "

The space is now advertised online for over four times that amount now. Marci also blames the city's zoning red tape for not being able to find a new space.

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"I have made an attempt to move the gym. There are some places where you need a conditional use permit,which can take six to nine months, and I would have to sign a lease while I'm waiting for this permit and you pay money for it and it doesn't make sense. It's just doesn't make sense."

So for now, the only thing that does make sense is for businesses like Marci's gym and Firuze's shop to close by the end of the year. Thankfully for Firuze, there is a plan B and a second store in Sausalito.

"We have manufacturing, so we sell to 700 or 800 stores across the country in the US.. and Canada... I'm not going to be deal, let's put it that way."

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