Business suffering during Castro Street construction. Time for a cash mob?

Fencing up along the Westside of Castro Street (photo: Roy McKenzie)
Fencing up along the Westside of Castro Street (photo: Roy McKenzie)

KTVU did a piece on the effect the Castro Streetscape construction is having on businesses in the neighborhood and the news isn’t good. With construction squeezing the sidewalks to 4 feet across up and down Castro  Street, businesses are feeling the squeeze on their revenues. People are avoiding spending time and money in the Castro and this includes tourists.

The new greek food restaurant Gyro Xpress that opened at 18th and Castro has seen a 60% dip in sales since the construction on the sidewalks started and owner Koch Salgut is worried that he might have to close the restaurants doors until construction is finished. Cliff’s Variety Store owner Martha Asten told KTVU that sales were down about 4 percent and that delivery trucks were having a difficult time unloading deliveries.

This isn’t a big surprise and I think anyone could have guessed that there would be a negative impact on local businesses during the construction. KTVU reported that one business owner has decided to close up shop entirely and go on vacation until the construction is completed.

I think it would be great if we (you, me, and other readers) could all get together once a week (at least) and choose a local business to patronize during the construction. I run this blog in my spare time and am not the best organizer, but I think with some help from readers we could create a sort of “Castro Cash Mob” that could select a business that needs the help and all head there at a certain time (perhaps even throughout the day) on a certain day of the week and spend some cash. It might be difficult to choose which businesses to start with, but Gyro Xpress seems like as good as any. Focusing on restaurants in the evening for dinner and then making a commitment to browse other stores after dinner might be a good strategy.

Perhaps we can set a tentative date for next Thursday at 6:30PM at Gyro Xpress to start the Castro Cash Mob?

Things to consider:

  • Letting the business know ahead of time so they would be ready for an influx of people.
  • How do we select a business?
  • What day and time is best for everyone? After work?
  • Is the restaurant focused strategy the best?

We can spend a month in committee over this, but we should be quick and decisive about our plan. Based on your feedback let’s put something together quickly. Let me know your thoughts and ideas in the comments and lets get started!

via KTVU

Roy McKenzie

Roy has been a Castro resident since 2010 and is passionate about drag queens, bicycling, and food. Follow his babbling on Twitter.

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19 Responses

  1. justin says:

    In a time of acute, though temporary, stress on some businesses on Castro Street relating to the new “streetscaping,” this is a good reminder to support these businesses. I’d like to add however, as long as consciousness is being raised on this issue, another point might be wise to remember in the coming months. After the new sidewalks are put in as a part of this “beautify Castro Street” effort, commercial rents along this strip are going to go up considerably (look at Valencia Street). This is the chronic outcome of gentrification, which this project is designed to propel. It is then that these businesses, some of them perhaps marginally in the black already, will need our support in the long-term.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 5

  2. Jay O'Conor says:

    Hey Roy, great to see this post.
    Some friends and I had brunch yesterday at Mystique, and they’re definitely hurting. Mystique is one of my favorite brunch spots, and the people there are outstanding. I really hate to see their business suffer. After Gyro Xpress, I’d like to nominate Mystique as a potential recipient of the Castro Biscuit “bump”.
    To directly address your proposal: I’m in for Gyro Xpress at 6:30 on Thursday. I haven’t been there yet, so this will be a good opportunity to support a new local business. IMO, I don’t see a big need to give them advance warning. I kind of like the idea of surprising a business with a show of local solidarity and support.
    This is your blog, so I think the final selection of location is probably up to you, hopefully based on feedback or nominations you receive here or via your other local contacts.
    Certainly after work hours, or weekends, would work best for availability.
    I think the restaurant focus is the best approach, as that will have the broadest appeal.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

    • Thanks Jay! Cafe Mystique sounds like a great candidate for the following week! I think making a quick post on Tuesdays about which location is selected and then a reminder post on Thursday afternoons for the actual “Mob Day” would be best. Response has been somewhat tepid and even hostile on Facebook. I think it’s still a good idea so I’m going to go forward with it. Even if it’s just you and me that show up. :)

      Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  3. Mitch Mansfield says:

    If I had a business on Castro right now ( and I have in the past) I’d be doing all kinds of promotions to bring the people in these next six weeks.

    I find it odd that one business is down 4%, and a few doors away another business is down 60%. And since Gyro Xpress has not been open for a year, I wonder what the 60% decrease is based upon.

    I went to Gyro Xpress once. Sorry, but I just can’t go back. And I love a good gyro.

    I don’t think the sidewalk project was designed to “propel” gentrification as justin states. I think it was done to give us all a better living experience when in the Castro. We deserve it.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 3

    • I completely agree. I find it a bit alarming all the media comments about this “situation” is harping on Gyro Xpress’ “60%” comment. But as you say, 60% compared to what? Compared to last month? Compared to last week? It was hot last week, people probably didn’t want hot food, etc.

      I’m sure the businesses are suffering some and I think Roy’s idea is great, I just hate that I keep reading about this “60%” drop in sales and blaming it all on the construction.

      Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. TA says:

    As a fellow merchant in the Castro, I think this is a great idea. Personally, while the construction has been going on, I’ve been making a point to spend the majority of my cash on necessities (eating, drinking, condoms, groceries, etc.) all in the Castro to help support the ‘hood. I’d bet locals would support a twice-a-week cash mob, actually! Keep us posted. I’m ready!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  5. David Y. says:

    Great idea!

    Also, we merchants should consider using the mob/mafia to help get us increased foot traffic. I’m speaking, of course, of YELP

    Every small business has felt the strong-arm tactics of Yelp’s pay-to-play business model at some point. It goes like this… A sales agent from Yelp starts calling you once a week, telling you that you’ll get SO many more customers from Yelp if you’d just start ADVERTISING on the Yelp site. Once you decide that their astronomical ad rates are ridiculous and unaffordable (you are a small business, after all), you kindly decline.

    But, they keep calling… every single week, until you’ve had enough and start hanging up on them. Then, an odd coincidence begins… your 5-star reviews start disappearing! And your anything-but-less-than 5-stars begin to bubble to the top off the review list! It’s uncanny!

    Interestingly, if you Google something along the lines of “yelp, extortion, corruption, etc.” you’ll get tons of infuriating reading material.

    So, while we start cash-mobbing and otherwise frequenting our fellow small businesses in there Castro, why not write a stellar review for them and get their name up in the rankings? At least half of your reviews will be “filtered” out, but some will slip through.

    Amazingly, most regular folk don’t know about Yelp’s practices, and use the site, thinking it’s completely subjective and untainted. That said, there are hundreds of pending lawsuits against Yelp, so word is slowly getting out there that the Review/Advertising revenue model is simply impossible, and results in extortion. No way around it.

    So, if consumers use Yelp, let’s also use Yelp to our advantage! Why not! Yelp claims they’re not culpable in any of this; they’re just the “platform” allowing “free speech” (I’m serious. Again, look it up). It’s just the bothersome little reality of vanishing 5-stars that makes one wonder…

    Anyway, I’m committing to at least three reviews a week for merchants of the Castro.

    And, one more thing folks… Instead of airing your frustration with a business on Yelp, why not just write the business itself and let them know how they let you down? In our business, when a customer is dissatisfied in ANY regard, we offer them a substantial discount in the future. So, you get a benefit from taking the time to write, the business gets some valuable insight from its customers, and everyone feels good. Putting harsh words on Yelp is simply toxic, hurtful, and serves no value other than damaging small business, the backbone of jobs and the local economy in our beautiful gem of a city.

    My two cents. Thanks for listening. Now, off to Yelp…

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

    • Joe says:

      David, This is a fantastic idea. I have many Local Gay small business people who are friends of mine, and they have all told me the same story about Yelp!

      Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • Chris says:

      I do not get on Yelp very often as I have better things to do, nor do I have any comment about their advertising tactics, but I do think your last line is a bit silly. Before there were websites like Yelp, there existed simple word-of-mouth (or perhaps the occasional letter to the local newspaper in some extraordinary cases). Customers who had good experiences at local businesses shared these experiences with friends, families, coworkers, and acquaintances, and customers who had bad experiences did the same. As anyone who has ever run a business knows, negative word-of-mouth can be just as damaging to a business than a Yelp review, and often it is far more damaging.

      Here is the thing, when you run a business, you are not operating a charity. People are paying you cash to give them goods or services. You can dress it up all you like about how it is your livelihood or how you are part of “the backbone” of the local economy, etc., but at the end of the day all you are doing is exchanging services or goods for cash. So, if you want to stay in business, then you need to make as many of your customers happy as possible. Now, of course, a small handful of customers will be unreasonable and will never be happy, but that is when you should exercise your business judgment to simply do the best you can in the situation, and then stop expending any further energy on those people. Sure, a few of those unreasonable people will complain about you, but that is there right, and you need not worry about it. If you build up enough goodwill in the local community, then a few chronic complainers, or overly harsh Yelp reviewers, will not harm your business in the least.

      At the end of the day, you need to focus on what you need to be doing, rather than worrying about what a few others are doing. You cannot control other people, but you can make sure you always do your best.

      Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. Arno R. Kracht says:

    Choose carefully; start with an established business that has proven to be a strong supporter of the community, the neighborhood, and has a quality product! Cliff’s is the best place, and has probably been in the Castro longer than just about every other business there, combined.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. Michael says:

    Let me get this right, the same Businesses that are suffering, are the same businesses that endorsed this sidewalk project? Didn’t they know this was going to happen by removing over 20-30 parking spots? With even LESS after the project is complete.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

    • Joe says:

      According to John Dennis the Project Manager from DPW “There is no loss of parking once the project is finished”

      Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

      • I’ve heard this too, Joe. Many times. There is no net loss of parking. The Castro Merchants pressed the DPW very hard on this. I am not sure where people are getting their information regarding parking spaces being lost, but it’s simply not true.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

        • Joe says:

          Roy, I believe it’s because this neighborhood prefers gossip and rumors over fact. Has been that way for years. We especially like to believe the sky is falling when in fact…’s just rain.

          Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  8. Joe says:

    Another way to help locally owned businesses and I truly wish the “Occupy” Movement would have focused their attention here is credit cards. Small businesses pay huge fees for customers to use their Visa/MasterCard/American Express. Want to help small business and piss off banks at the same time? USE CASH. Go to the ATM and withdraw cash. Use that CASH when shopping at small local businesses.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  9. Finoke says:

    I like Cliff’s, but they sure like to bitch and moan about everything. They were in the press acting like the paper bag fee was the apocalypse. Jeez. I’m glad we r working on reducing waste in this city. Makes me proud to be a SFranciscan

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. NedLudd says:

    MARCELLO’s rocks.
    been there forever.
    lots of support for good causes when times were really bad

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  1. May 5, 2014

    […] Castro Street Businesses Hurting During Sidewalk Widening Construction (KTVU, Castro Biscuit) […]

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  2. May 6, 2014

    […] reported this past weekend that businesses in the Castro have been seeing a significant drop in sale… since the construction on the Castro’s new streetscape began in March and some are worried […]

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