Jack Spade

Chain Luxury Cosmetics Retailer to Further Ruin Valencia

The Balm, a new make-up store-slash-glamor shots, which recently opened blocks away from the proposed Aesop.

After the landlord tripled the rent on The Touch and forced the furniture store to relocate to Mission Street, Aesop, a Australian company that specializes in high-end perfumes and body products, stepped up to lease the space at 20th and Valencia.

Luxury perfumes, you say?  On Valencia?  Whatever.  Color us surprised.

But while many will shoot exhausted eye-rolls at the further Union Streetification of the neighborhood's Uber conga line, Mission Local is predicting the claws of jittery business community will come out:

If recent history is any indication, it’s the Aussie company that’s in for a San Francisco treat – and it sure isn’t Rice-A-Roni – in opening what would be its 12th U.S. store – putting it squarely within the definition of chain stores in the San Francisco planning code. Merchants on Valencia have now famously stopped two formula retail projects from moving in over the years – Jack Spade and American Apparel.

Zoning restrictions in the Mission require chain stores – defined by the city as any company that has 11 or more brick-and-mortar locations in the United States – to get a special permit. Since Aesop is over the threshold with its dozen locations nationwide, including two locations already in San Francisco, the Planning Commission would hold a public hearing before granting approval.

Yes, another company has stepped up to clash with the community, showering themselves in bad press and Chicken John's semen in the process.  So grab your umbrellas, folks, because Aesop didn't even look at the shitty weather forecast:

Aesop likely does not know the NIMBY hazing that may lie in its future. The opposition to Jack Spade appeared to be news to Aesop’s New York-based spokeswoman Victoria Del Rico when Mission Local talked to her Monday. “We’re not trying to gentrify the neighborhood,” she responded. “We like to have small stores that go with the neighborhood.”

While we'd ordinarily label this as “dead on arrival,” we suspect Aesop has a good chance of sneaking into the neighborhood thanks to the area's collective burnout.

[Mission Local]

Jack Spade to the Mission: "We're Done" [UPDATED]

I know we're only two days into my temporary blogging hiatus, but…

After last night's Board of Appeals hearing regarding Jack Spade's formula retail status, which ruled new evidence suggested Jack Spade a chain store and the Board would rehear the case, Jack Spade decided to jack off and find another gentrifying neighborhood to fall in love with.  SFBG reports:

As representatives of the corporation left the hearing, they told a few activists and business owners that they “were done.” And when the Guardian reached 5th and Pacific CEO Bill McComb by email today, he confirmed that the company is giving up on this controversial location, where activists were concerned its deep-pocketed presence would accelerate gentrification of the neighborhood.

“[We're] not going to war with the neighbors. We like those people and their neighborhood and we are not fighting the issue. There are many a fine location for Jack Spade. Peace to the city!” McComb wrote to us.


UPDATE: Jack Spade's PR team just sent us their official statement:

We at JACK SPADE are disappointed with Wednesday's Board of Appeals ruling. In our minds and in accordance with the district's code, JACK SPADE is not ‘formula retail’ and we have been completely transparent regarding our relationship to our parent company. While we disagree with the decision, we respect the Board and the community's passion and will not pursue plans to open in the Mission District. We have nothing but admiration for the Mission District and remain fans of the neighborhood and its unique character.

Jack Spade Allowed to Move Forward With Mission Store

Wanting to capitalize on the recent influx of immaculate artisans on Valencia, Jack Spade has been pushing hard to move into the neighborhood—from getting a local bookstore kicked out of their 25-year-old home through rent increases, to aggressively demanding local businesses support their efforts, to even—as Zoning administrator Scott Sanchez told the Board of Appeals last week—misleading Sanchez in making his formula retail letter of determination, which allowed Jack Spade to initially move forward with their 16th Street expansion under false pretenses.

Given the situation, the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association was successfully able to get Jack Spade's construction permit suspended early last month.  But last night, the Board of Appeals fell one vote short of permanently overturning their building permit, allowing Jack Spade to resume construction.

Jack Spade co-leader Melissa Xides flew all the way in from New York to attend the meeting and praise Jack Spade as a community company and small business—distinguishing it from the billion-dollar enterprise which it is a subsidiary of. As quoted by Mission Local, she praised the neighborhood's gentrification and her business:

We are a neighborhood retailer through and through, there is nothing formulaic about our stores,” said Xides. “We fell in love with the uniqueness of 16th Street…We fell in love with the food scene and gentrification that’s happening there.”

Somewhat contradictorily, Jack Spade's supporter's main arguments is that 16th Street is a rotten shithole that only a multinational business can fix—Bell Jar's Sasha Wingate complained about graffiti and feces outside her shop; skateboard badass-cum-fashion designer Benny Gold spoke about his concern for his young daughter's safety on the block.

But the real gem came during last week's Board of Appeals meeting, when pro-Jack Spade neighbor came up to the Board and began showing pictures of graffiti along 16th Street. At one point, she highlighted a sticker on a parking meter reading “BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS” and stated that we needed to clean up the neighborhood, and Jack Spade would make it happen. How ironic, the very person who wants to remove a “BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS” sticker sided with the retailer who removed Adobe Books Books Books.

VCMA members admit that their only course of action left is to put pressure on Jack Spade's CEO and management to back out. But Jack Spade's employment page is filling up with positions for their future 16th Street store, those prospects seem dim.

Jack Spade Reps Accused of Getting Pushy, Pressuring 16th Street Merchants Into Signing Petition

Ahead of this evening's Board of Appeals meeting to re-hear Jack Spade's building permit application that is currently suspended (more on that meeting below), a team of Jack Spade representatives have been going door-to-door, allegedly pressuring businesses to sign the above petition supporting the business.

The petition claims Jack Spade will do a lot of incredible things—reduce homelessness, vandalism, and violence; they even imply the store's opening could help drop the notoriously high murder rate along 16th. However, the petition casts Jack Spade's hopeful location as a long-blighted empty storefront, neglecting to mention that Jack Spade had a 25-year-old vibrant community bookstore evicted to obtain the space.

One 16th Street businessman, who was visited by a salaried Mission District Jack Spade store manager and Mission Merchant's Association President Phil Lesser, who is also a paid consultant of Jack Spade, said when he refused to sign the petition, Lesser became “agitated” and demanded the business at least remain neutral.

Another business that is actively campaigning to stop Jack Spade had a much more jarring interaction:

I got a visit from Dan Lakhman [Director of Marketing and Creative for Jack Spade]. He along with the [Jack Spade's store manager] and [Phil Lesser], and said “you can do this the easy way or the hard way.”

Phil explained that he will turn out support for Jack Spade in droves at the hearing and that he's never lost a case. He then went on to list them, counting on his fingers.

Dan went on to explain that they were going to pursue this, that they would win, and how the community felt about them was not a consideration. 

Dan actually called Jack Spade a “small business.” Ugh. It was maddening.

(Jack Spade still refuses to talk to Uptown Almanac, so we couldn't get their side of this.)

These sort of tactics cast the results of Mission Local's survey of 16th Street business's opinions on the matters in a telling light.  With so many businesses refusing to state their opinion, perhaps Jack Spade's goon squad is having an impact?

If you are interested in going to tonight's Board of Appeals meeting, it begins at 5pm in Room 416 in City Hall.  Kyle Smeallie, one of the organizers of the campaign to stop Jack Spade, had this to say of the importance of tonight's hearing:

The hearing is important because Jack Spade has done everything in its power to avoid it. Simply put, Jack Spade doesn't want to hear from the community. By misrepresenting its corporate structure, Jack Spade convinced the City last year to not consider it formula retail, denying the public the right, granted by City regulations, to have a say in the approval process. The VCMA believes this was an error, and they're concerned about the precedent it will set: If Jack Spade is allowed to sidestep the rules, other chain stores will follow suit, gaming the system to effectively eliminate the public approval process. That's why the VCMA, in its appeal, is supported by organizations like Causa Justa :: Just Cause, PODER, and La Raza Community Resource Center, as well as Supervisors David Campos and John Avalos. They're less concerned about the business implications, but they all recognize the importance of making sure the surrounding community is heard when big business wants in. For those who agree, speaking out at the hearing on Wednesday is essential to making sure the appeal moves forward.

Liz Claiborne Halts Construction of New Jack Spade Store in the Mission

It was just two weeks ago that Liz Claiborne Holdings began gutting Adobe Books' former home at 3166 16th Street, creating a sense of inevitability around Jack Spade's moving into the neighborhood.  The odds seemed stacked against the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association, who found themselves petitioning to sway them against opening the store.  However, VCMA's luck has seemed to shift, and now Liz Claiborne has suspended the build out of their latest Jack Spade location.

VCMA's Jefferson McCarley sent us this update on their campaign (highlights in bold):

For months the VCMA has been trying to reach out to Jack Spade. Our invitations to talk have been met with radio silence.

The only exception is that a PR rep wrote to me saying, “The in-house team at Jack Spade is aware that you are interested in speaking with them, and will be in touch soon.”  That was May 15th.

This is interesting considering what they wrote in their application for non-formula retail status: “When Jack Spade opens a new store it is important to us that we become a part of the neighborhood's fabric… Jack Spade stores operate with a focus on … community.”

So because they refused to come to the table, we began the process of blocking their arrival through a more formal process.

5th and Pacific (formerly known as Liz Claiborne), did $1.5 billion in sales last year. And while in their application they distance the sub-brand from the parent company, in the 5&P annual report, the company doesn't even break Jack Spade down into its own category—they are lumped in with the Kate Spade “segment.”

There are three “Spade” brands: Kate, Jack and Kate Spade Saturday, with a total of 91 stores in the US.

Total number of 5&P stores? 479.

The VCMA has filed an appeal, which stopped construction yesterday. We are working on a Jurisdiction Request to the Board of Appeals requesting that they be classified as formula retail.

There will be a public hearing.

None of us want to be doing this. We are usually working 50 hours a week on our own businesses.  Now we have this battle to fight on top of trying to run a small business in San Francisco. We're meeting regularly, after our shops close, because we care about our neighborhood.

In a letter dated September 6, 2012, the Planning Department sent a letter to neighborhood organizations which included instructions on how to appeal the Department's decision [on their ruling on Spade's formula retail status]. If we had received letter then, we would have appealed last year.

Why didn't we get this letter? The VCMA is relatively new (compared to the Mission Merchants Association, which was founded in 1909). None of us knew about this list of neighborhood organizations. It's the neighborhood group's responsibility to submit their details to the city to be added to the list. Of course, the neighborhood group has to first find out about the list.

Who did get the letter? The Mission Merchants Association. It was addressed “attn: Phil Lessor,” who is a paid consultant of Jack Spade.

We don't have the resources of 5&P. In fact, we're paying for everything out of our own pockets. We don't have the lawyers and professionals that they have, but we have community support. That's what keeps us going.

For the people that ask, “What's so wrong with Jack Spade? How different will that store be than other stores already in the Mission?” Maybe not a lot. It might have the same look and feel as some other (independent) high-end clothing stores that are here in the corridor.

What we're fighting is not Jack Spade, specifically. It's a fight against formula retail. When you shop at Jack Spade, most of your money you spend goes to 5&P in New York. When you shop at a locally owned small business, it stays here in the community.

If we thought that Jack Spade would be the one and only formula retail store to open up in the corridor, I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be working so hard on this. But we think it's the first—not the last. Once JS opens up in this wildlife preserve of small independent local businesses, it sends a powerful message to the rest of Corporate America.

We think residents and visitors alike will prefer West of Pecos, Ritual, Deema's and Glam-a-Rama to Chili's, Starbucks, Banana Republic, and Super Cuts.

Representatives for Jack Spade still refuses to comment on their plans to Uptown Almanac, however, they have pulled all their employment ads for the location, suggesting they preparing to scrap their planned expansion.

Valencia Businesses Launch Petition Campaign Opposing Jack Spade

With Adobe Books packing up their 25-year-old 16th Street location, evicted financially by their landlord on behalf of Liz Claiborne's Jack Spade label, the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association is petitioning to keep the luxury men's store from moving into the location.

The organization is hoping to repeat the success of their outreach campaign against American Apparel, which successfully swayed the clothing manufacturer from opening on Valencia in 2009.

“American Apparel made the decision to abort their efforts to open up a retail store in the corridor [in response to community backlash],” Jefferson McCarley of Mission Bicycle told us. “We are hoping that when Jack Spade sees how strongly the community feels about this, they will also decide not to pursue this location here.”

Jack Spade's lease of 3166 16th Street reportedly begins on June 15th, but their opening date remains shrouded in secrecy.  As their move-in looms, the VCMA feels they have exhausted all other means to sway Jack Spade.  The company has refused to engage the local business community, declining through a media spokesman to meet with the organization and discuss alternative locations in the city.  Neighborhood Supervisors Wiener and Campos remain ambivalent towards the the store, and the Planning Department will not host a public meeting on the company, as it ruled the company does not meet the city's “formula retail” definition on a technicality that only 10 of their 13 locations are in the United States.

As Eileen Hassi of Ritual Roasters tells us:

Jack Spade is clearly formula retail by the SF Planning Department's definition, but unfortunately the way the law is written, it's not until AFTER the 11th [U.S.] location that a business is required to have a public hearing.  Without a public hearing, we have to find other means of getting the public's opinion and sharing it with the business and the Planning Department.  What better way than a petition?  It will show that it's a diverse cross-section of the population of the Mission, and of San Francisco, that is opposed to Jack Spade opening on the Valencia Corridor.

She adds:

I'm a fan of the [Planning Department's] hearing process.  I think it works.  I'm happy to say it worked with American Apparel, it worked with the Starbucks that just tried to go in to the Castro, on Market at Sanchez.  It's frustrating that Liz Claiborne/Jack Spade has figured out how to game the process.  It's no accident that this is their 11th US location.  I think the very fact that this multinational corporation figured out the loophole and exploited it should be a very clear message to the Planning Department that the ambiguity of the law should be corrected.

Many have received that message.  Following GANT's controversial opening in Hayes Valley, Supervisor London Breed proposed legislation that would count all worldwide locations when considering a chain's formula retail status.  However, that legislation only applies to Hayes Valley and would not affect Jack Spade.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose district includes the planned Jack Spade location, instead favors relaxing formula retail restrictions for the Mission District. Andres Power, legislative aide to the supervisor, has told VCMA members that Wiener would like to increase the allowable number of U.S. locations a store may have to 20.

Dema Grim from DEMA tells us that over 30 stores in the neighborhood are hanging posters promoting the petition in their windows.  At least 20 with host the petition on their sales counter.

The only public supporter the Liz Claiborne subsidiary has found is Phil Lesser of the Mission Merchants Association; however, Spade allegedly had to pay Lesser a hefty sum as a “permit expediter” to get his “blessing.”  The Mission Merchants Association is yet to take a position on the company, but their president, Casanova owner Don Alan, has reportedly told Jack Spade that “they would be unwelcome on the Valencia corridor” and “strongly suggested they look for alternate locations” in the city.

With so few legal options available to the VCMA, they hope that public opinion will convince Jack Spade to explore more commercial locations.

“I don't oppose Jack Spade,” Haley Lynn, manager of Five & Diamond, conceded. “I just oppose them moving into the Valencia Corridor.”

“The best part of San Francisco is all the different feelings in each neighborhood. Each neighborhood really identifies with a certain culture. That atmosphere is created by the merchants and residents in those areas. The Mission District is no exception: it is filled with so much rich, local flavor—people come here looking for a different vibe than they have experienced anywhere else. But if we have multi-national corporations like Jack Spade moving in to the Valencia Corridor, our neighborhood will lose its independent feeling.”

Mark Holcomb, a spokesman for Jack Spade, has not responded to our inquiries.

Adobe Books Served Eviction Notice, Jack Spade Remains Silent

Following last week's report that Jack Spade is pushing for Adobe Books' eviction, we just learned that the 25-year-old bookshop has been served its final eviction notice.  A member of the Adobe Books Collective relayed the news, telling Uptown Almanac “the property owner of the Adobe space served [owner Andrew McKinley] an eviction notice for June 15.”

The eviction notice comes less than two weeks after Adobe Books raised $60,000 to cover a year's worth of rent increases.

The biggest unknown surrounds the future of the space.  As you may recall, Jack Spade—a subsidiary of the Liz Claiborne conglomerate—sought a Letter of Determination from the Planning Department regarding the brand's status as a formula retailer last summer.  But besides job ads and reportedly sizing up Idol Vintage next door, they've been completely silent about their plans. (To us, having your press person decline to confirm or deny you intentions is a de facto admission of ill intent.  Alas.)

It stands to reason that Jack Spade is sprinting to open a location in the Mission, hoping to avoid a damaging fight with residents the likes of 2009's protest that kept American Apparel from opening on Valencia Street.  As Jack Spade only operates 10 stores in the United States, they are one store shy of meeting the city's definition of formula retail, which is banned along the Valencia corridor.  Their proposed location at 3166 16th Street would be that store.

A press release from earlier this month confirms Jack Spade's aggressive growth:

Jack Spade, Kate's little brother is more than ready to step out of his sister's shadow as the brand becomes a major focal point and potential growth driver for [parent company] Fifth & Pacific. The brand is now poised for broader expansion, as Fifth & Pacific's CEO William McComb said that Jack Spade 'can be a $100 million men's business with very high margins.” The company has invested heavily in the brand as it moves closer to attaining lifestyle brand status. The investment has taken the form of store expansions as the brand grew from three units to 10 stores. Those numbers are also expected to rise as retailers set its sights on domestic and international markets, notably China, according to vice president and brand director Cuan Hanl

It seems the purveyor of $495 lemon raincoats is trying to sneak their way into the Mission District before it becomes illegal to do so, skirting the intent of the city's anti-formula retail legislation.  Adobe Books just happens to be a casualty in their pursuit.

We'll update if we hear anything else.  If you have any inside knowledge of Jack Spade's plans, drop us a line at tips@uptownalmanac.com.

In Defense of Liz Claiborne's Pursuit of Adobe Books

Look guys. It's known Adobe Books has been threatened by a number of factors lately, including dramatically increased rent and landlords flat out ignoring large scale citizen activist protests to keep a local institution in place. I know that you think that preserving centrally-located community-based bookstores is somehow important to the continuation of our culture, and that getting rid of bookstores for mass-market retail outlets will erode our neighborhood into a blackness of bumbling, shop-a-holic moronicism.

But I'm just saying, think about it… we could have a Liz Claiborne store here!

When you really think about it, it makes sense. Bookstores are just a novelty of looming obsolescence; a facet of our parent's foregone generation, like newspapers and jazz and Social Security. Our dads went to bookstores, but we stimulate our intellects with ebrochures and tumblogs, and the new Jack Spade shoppe will sell excellent designer handbags to hold all of our Kindles, Kindle Fire, and HD Nook tablets just fine.

I know it seemed that our chance of happiness was ruined, years ago, when some unruly citizens took to the streets and drove American Apparel out of the space next to ATA. And then when that Levi's pop-up store disappeared, I know a lot of us just thought about packing it up and moving to Russian Hill, towards some real cultural landmarks like the Google Bus Stop and the house where they shot The Real World: San Francisco. But this is our opportunity to usher in a new generation to the Mission. We can make a world where our kids can go to school with artisan leather handbags instead of, you know, “books.”

I'm just saying all we have to do is roll over and one of our obsolete, oversized spacial occupants, Adobe Books, can be replaced by a renowned, internationally-certified gender-neutral leather handbag haberdashery.

This is America. This is what we were promised. Gone will be the days when San Francisco residents have to go all the way to the airport and buy the cheapest ticket to anywhere just to get through security to shop for Liz Claiborne at Terminal 3, near the Tommy Bahama and the World News candy stand. If this deal goes through, none of us will have to tell another TSA agent that “I just decided not to go to Dallas/Ft. Worth today.”

So don't get outraged, don't don't write letters, don't protest, and don't petition. With the replacement of culture with large-chain retail, we can finally start what we've all been after this entire time: turning the Mission into a small, downtown Walnut Creek. We can finally replace Arinell Pizza with a California Pizza Kitchen and turn Dear Mom into an even better Dear Mom.

It's going to be great. I'll see you guys there.

Liz Claiborne Pushing for Adobe Books' Eviction

When Adobe Books' landlord raised the 25-year-old bookshop's rent from $4,500 to $6,000 last spring, the shop and the community it serves rallied for its future. Authors Stephen Elliott, Rebecca Solnit, Michelle Tea, and musicians The Dodos held in-store fundraisers that saw overflow crowds spill out into the street.  Over 600 people donated to an Indiegogo fundraising campaign to save Adobe and create a co-op to manage it.  Just last week the fundraiser successfully raised $60,000, giving the shop at least a year of rent money.

“It's obvious the community supports us,” Liz, one of Adobe's employees, told me this morning as she sorted a box of yellowing Playboys.

But their landlord was less inspired by the effort.  They responded by further raising the shop's rent to $8,000 and demanding improvements be made to the space.

“We cleaned up everything, reorganized the space, even painted behind bookcases… spots that haven't needed to be painted since forever.”

Unfortunately that hasn't been enough for the landlord—they have decided they want Adobe out.  And they're being emboldened by a fashion retailer valued at $2.3 billion and traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

According to public records, Fifth & Pacific Companies Inc.—better known by their former name, Liz Claiborne Inc.—has been eying Adobe's storefront at 3166 16th Street since at least July 30th of last year, when Melissa Xides, the self-described “co-leader” of Fifth & Pacific's upscale Jack Spade label, wrote to the San Francisco Planning Department asking if the company fell into the city's “formula retail” category.

“I am writing on behalf of the fashion retailer Jack Spade to request a Letter of Determination regarding a proposed retail store that Jack Spade is pursuing on 16th Street in the Valencia Street NC district,” the letter began. “Jack Spade designs men’s bags, accessories and apparel that blend functionality and style. Jack Spade is based in New York City and only has seven stores in the United States. We are not a Formula Retail store and are asking for confirmation of this from the Planning Department.”

“Jack Spade stores operate more like a traditional haberdashery with a focus on customer service and relationships with our clients and community… direct community outreach is very important to the Jack Spade brand team.”

While the Planning Department later agreed Jack Spade wasn't formula retail, citing their relative independence from their monied parent company, the business has been remarkably secretive about their plans.  They have held no public meetings about their move into the Mission District, the job ads for the soon-to-be-opened store do not disclose the neighborhood it will be located in, and the staff of Adobe has been kept in the dark from their landlord (Liz told us she knew “nothing” about Jack Spade's intentions).  Another source told us that representatives from Jack Spade allegedly went into neighboring retailer Idol Vintage “without warning” and “literally measured the store with a tape measurer” with future expansions in mind.

With Jack Spade's deep pockets giving Adobe's landlord unmatchable financial leverage over the small used bookstore, getting pushed out of their home since 1988 is almost certain.  “It just doesn't make sense to run a bookshop [when paying] $8,000 a month in rent,” Liz conceded, acknowledging the shop is bracing for a forced relocation.

“There's just no way.”

Representatives for Jack Spade could not be reached for comment.