Business owners share secret to San Francisco neighborhood thriving after the pandemic

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Thursday, July 27, 2023
Business owners share secret to thriving SF neighborhood
The Haight Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco is doing much better financially than before the pandemic.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The pandemic resulted in the closure of many San Francisco businesses, but three years later, there's a neighborhood that is doing much better financially than before the pandemic.

If you walk around the Haight you'll quickly notice this neighborhood is alive and tourism is back.

"We are coming from Germany," said Erik Ehlers a tourist from Europe.

Many are making a stop in Haight Ashbury because of the counterculture movement and the summer of love.

"We hand out for free to all of our visitors that come to promote walking through the whole neighborhood," said Robert Emmons, owner of Welcome Haight and Ashbury.

RELATED: While downtown SF struggles post-pandemic, data shows other parts of city are thriving

Although many businesses have been struggling in downtown SF, sales tax collection data paints a different story for other parts of the city.

Emmons has another store in the neighborhood and just opened Welcome Haight and Ashbury two years ago.

"This store is doing I would say about 25% more business than our other store," Emmon said.

His store is a modern version of a museum/visitor center for the neighborhood. It's done so well that another neighborhood reached out to him asking if they could also have a customized version of this.

"Two-to-three months ago we just opened up Welcome Castro in the Castro, so it's on Castro and 18th," Emmon said.

Blue Bin Vintage is also seeing an uptick in sales just a year after opening.

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"We just had a group here earlier a French group with probably about 15 people that came in," said Sahra Amin, store manager at Blue Bin Vintage.

According to the Haight Ashbury's Merchants Association, they are seeing more storefronts fill up now than before the pandemic.

"Since 2021 we've actually had more than 20 new businesses come into Haight Ashbury, and we have now fewer vacancies than we did before the pandemic," said Christin Evans, board member of the Haight Ashbury Merchants Association.

The data backs up their claim. District 5, which includes the Haight Ashbury neighborhood -- along with several others including Hayes Valley and Japantown -- saw an increase in sales tax revenue in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic years.

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They say the secret to this neighborhood succeeding after the pandemic is "a really tight-knit community," said Evans.

The owner of Love on Haight said taking care of their community meant also taking care of their employees.

"We had a hard time finding solid employees, so we increased our wages by about 20%," said Sunshine Powers, owner of Love on Haight and added. "I was able to procure apartments above the shop during the pandemic so we could offer affordable housing to our employees."

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