After thirteen years in business, Therapy has become the latest business on Valencia Street forced out of its long term home by an exorbitant rent increase. Therapy, which over the years has grown to include several stores around the Bay Area, began as a furniture shop on Valencia and later expanded its offerings to include clothing.
It is the original furniture store at 541 Valencia that is closing at the end of August; the adjacent clothing store will remain open.
When reached by phone, Therapy’s owner Wayne Whelan explained that he simply couldn’t afford the 84% rent increase his landlord demanded. Whelan said he wanted to stay open until the end of the year, and that he was willing to pay the increased monthly rent to do so, but that he couldn’t commit to the new five year lease the landlord was demanding. The landlord, the Daljeet family, wouldn’t have it. “There was no negotiation. It was like, ‘take it or leave it,’” says Whelan.
Faced with a rent that increased from $5,700 to $10,500 as of August 1st, Whelan paid the higher rent for August, but decided that he would be unable to sign a new long term lease at the increased rate.
The closure of Therapy comes after a series of established businesses have been priced out of 16th and Valencia. Earlier this summer, Idol Vintage was forced to move to 26th and Mission after their landlord attempted to raise their rent by $2,500.00. And recently, Clothes Contact announced they would be closing at the end of the year.
In conversation, Whelan mentioned that he was never late on rent, and that there is simply “more demand for [Valencia Street] than there is Valencia.” Whelan believes that with the average “consumer on Valencia Street [being] a hyper-affluent tech person,” a Valencia Street store “becomes a billboard to promote [a company’s] brand.” The outrageous rent paid simply becomes another line item in a company’s marketing budget.
This is the very situation that many local business advocates have feared, and was in many ways the driving force behind the fight to keep Jack Spade out of the Mission.
Though a mix of frustration and sadness can be heard in his voice, Whelan explained that he has “no hard feelings” toward whoever the eventual new tenant is. “Every store that closes is someone’s heartache, and every store that opens is someone’s dream.”
Those of you who will miss what Therapy had to offer, take heart: Whelan had already been in the works to open a new location on Park Street in Alameda, and it now appears that he will shift furniture sales to this location. In addition, Therapy is running a 20% sale on its furniture until the store’s closing on the 29th of August.
It is hard to not see Therapy’s closing as a symptom of a much larger problem that the city as a whole is now facing. When a well established and successful purveyor of hip furniture can’t afford Valencia Street (second to only the Design District for it’s love of expensive hip things), we’ve truly bypassed real estate “bubble” status and are firmly in that of “affordability crisis.”
[Photo: Capp Street Crap]