Pop-up shops coming to empty San Francisco storefronts

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – Desperate times call for desperate measures, such as one radical idea to turn around San Francisco’s downtown. It’s part of the mayor’s plan to take storefronts from vacant to vibrant.

Seventeen businesses have been chosen to fill vacant storefronts in downtown San Francisco. The pop-ups will operate for at least six months and Mayor London Breed says it’s good for owners and the city.

A wide variety of businesses were chosen for the Vacant to Vibrant program in San Francisco. Restaurants, artists, retail shops and others are excited to be a pop-up. All of them are ready to change the negative stereotypes of downtown.

Sept. 17 is when business owners will move into pop-up locations stretching from Embarcadero Center to Montgomery Street.

It wasn’t easy for the nonprofit SF New Deal to pick the winners. Executive Director Simon Bertrang says 875 applied, and more paperwork is still coming in.

“I’m excited to bring the energy and excitement that these small businesses and artists and culture groups are going to be able to bring to these vacant storefronts,” Bertrang said. 

Hilary Passman owns the popular Devil’s Teeth Bakery, one of the 17 picked to take part. She wants to be a part of a movement that changes any negative stereotypes that Downtown San Francisco is getting.  

“There’s tourists down there,” she said. “There’s people going to work. This city is not dead. It’s not dying and I’m excited to be a part of something to kind of counteract that.”

Devil’s Teeth Bakery currently has two locations in the city’s Sunset and Richmond Districts, but for others, their pop-up location with be their first storefront experience. The project helps small business owners like Vandor Hill get a jump start with his business Whack Donuts, which was featured on LIVE! In The Bay last year.

“Share my donuts one stomach at a time then I’m all about that,” he said. “That’s my goal, is to eventually have my own storefront and take over the world.”

Rent in the pop-up spaces will be free, and each participant will receive an $8,000 grant to get up and running. 

“We don’t see this as the solution to the recovery of downtown, but we do think it’s going to be a contribution to the way that San Francisco reimagines its downtown,” Bertrang said. 

The 17 pop-ups will launch in nine vacant spaces for three months, and if it goes well the city says tenants will have the opportunity to extend another three months.



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