Gump's filing for bankruptcy after 157 years in San Francisco's Union Square

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Gumps's department store along Post Street in San Francisco's Union Square neighborhood is considered an institution. News of the 157-year-old retailer filing for bankruptcy late last week has shocked and saddened it's loyal customer base.

It survived the 1906 earthquake but it has joined a number of department stores that have not been able to withstand competition from online retailers.

Diane Clark, a Salt Lake City resident had never been to the store until Monday, but says Gump's played an important role in her life for decades. "Oh no! The store did that? Oh no, oh no. Well, I'm sure sorry about that because I enjoyed their catalog for many years and kept some of them," she said.

Others, like Victoria Gray and her husband registered their wedding gifts at Gump's. They waited outside the shop before it opened at 11 a.m., fearing they wouldn't be able to access their items or use a $15,000 store credit. "I grew up in San Francisco and Gump's has always been an institution. When we got married I was really excited to register here. When we heard the news over the weekend we were very, very sad. But also we were nervous because we wanted to pick up all our gifts, our china and silver."

Carol Hartman has her own memories of shopping at Gump's. "Oh my gosh, I'm devastated by this, honestly. I registered here almost 30 years ago and it was an amazing fun experience. My daughter and I get Christmas ornaments here every year and it's a special trip for the holiday season."

For many, this is a sign of the times for the city. Union Square has seen numerous retailers and restaurants close in recent years because of soaring rents.

Barbara Chronowski lived in the city decades ago, but still visits frequently. "I come back and I realize the lovely things that were here in the 70's and 80's are fast disappearing. Things are becoming more high-tech and lovely shops that used to be on Sutter Street are all gone."

According to their website, Gump's started as a frame and mirrors store, founded by Gertrude Gump in 1861. Since then, they catered to the new wealth of the gold rush, becoming a purveyor of jewelry and luxury goods.

"It was very prestigious to receive a wedding gift from Gump's" says Chronowski.

Customers like Hartman believe the bankruptcy filing could be a result of changing tastes. "They have a very specific style that may not appeal to millennials. There are a lot of them who don't get married anymore and registries are different."

While the retailer continued to pay their debts and try to sell the business, Tony Lopez, COO of the company released a statement in part saying in part: "we will continue to seek a source of capital to enable this storied brand to continue to service its devoted customers."

An attorney for the company says there are potential buyers for Gump's but details can't be disclosed at this time. The company reports $61 million in assets and $64 million in liabilities in its bankruptcy filings.

Customers say they're not having luck returning items in store and can no longer place orders.
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