Hayes Valley business owners worried as chain store move into neighborhood

HAYES VALLEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Nabila's Natural on Hayes street is a neighborhood store straight out of a movie. There's a mural on the outside wall, a quirky sign and an owner who's been there a long time.

Ramiz Yousef still remembers driving by the storefront, seeing a lease sign and taking a chance on the business. At the time, Hayes Valley was hardly the trendy place to live and work that it is now. That was 24 years ago. His store is every bit a part of Hayes Valley's story -- the kind of story that gives neighborhoods its flare and flavor.

Lately, he worries his part of that story is fading.

This week, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors approved a Trader Joe's just two blocks from Nabila's. He's feeling vulnerable to the competition.

"I feel like it's the only neighborhood that's left in the city, along with one other district like Chinatown in North Beach, where they don't have chains, they're still like an independent small business and they're unique in their own ways. And that's what separates us from everywhere else," said Yousef.

Other longtime independent stores in the neighborhood are also feeling the strain of running a local shop at a time when rents are on the rise in the Bay Area and competition is fierce.

Desiree Alexander has owned Dish boutique since 2003. She relies heavily on her loyal clientele. But she worries that more people need to understand that it's critical to support local businesses.

"I think people don't really understand is that if they don't do that it's going to start disappearing, " she said.

Stores with more than 11 locations have been banned in the past in Hayes Valley. But some commercial brands have been able to set up shop in the neighborhood.

For example, Hill City is a smaller brand owned by Gap Inc. Brands like Warby Parker and Allbirds also set up storefronts before they opened other locations across the country.

Yousef says he's not rejecting change, he just hopes stores like his can continue to be a part of Hayes Valley's future.

"What I like to see is our neighborhood continue with its uniqueness and its independence," he said.
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