What Happened to the Gift Center?
Today I thought I'd take a drive to the San Francisco Gift Center & Jewelry Mart. Since 1912, the Gift Center has been San Francisco's wholesale gift & jewelry destination, with floors of showrooms to peruse. It has been the cornerstone of the San Francisco Design District. They used to have a lovely center court where tuxedoed waiters would serve you. A nice Caesar salad, some sourdough bread, and a glass of iced tea -- then off to the showrooms -- a great way to spend an afternoon!
Well, today the place was like a ghost town. I went up to the 5th floor that used to have some of the finest showrooms with top candle lines, books and accessories. Gone. Only about 3 of them are left. Thank heavens Mary Hada still is. The other floors were mostly empty showrooms with renovation signs, and only a couple of showrooms filled. Showrooms were actually being emptied out while I was there. And I thought the recession was winding down. You know things are bad when I can find free parking in front of the Gift Center.
I asked a woman passing by what was happening. She answered, "they're trying to run us out." I didn't know what that meant, so I came home and starting Googling about the Gift Center. Apparently it was purchased by a private equity firm for 94 million, and they are trying to reposition the property with 275,000 square feet of new office space and ground-floor retail.
Where does that leave the showrooms? Where did they go? Where do retail shop owners go to, say, smell a line of new candles or perfumes? Seeing the Gift Center today really saddened me. Times are a changin' for sure.