Story and photos by Murray Schneider
Modern Past businessman Ric Lopez is using his store as an incubator.
The Chenery Street merchant, purveyor of mid-century modern furniture, isn’t interested in producing baby chicks, though.
Surrounded by home furnishings that could double as interior set designs for “Vertigo,” the longtime retailer and president of the Glen Park Merchants Association, on a recent Friday, pointed to a line of clothing that looked nothing like James Stewart might have donned in the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock thriller.
“They’re made by Scissors and Cloth,” he said, looking at men’s shirts that might be more at home along the hip Valencia Street corridor than in Glen Park’s homey village. “Scissors and Cloth needed a helping hand, so I’m letting them utilize space here.”
“Everyone needs a leg up,” he said. “Facilitating a custom clothiers move to storefront retail by allowing it to incubate here until it becomes established is how I can help.”
Pop-up stores aren’t a new phenomenon. Uniqlo, one of the largest clothing retailers in the world, began its enterprise in San Francisco as a Post Street pop-up store before moving to its Powell Street location several years ago.
Lopez is simply following the mega store’s lead and lending a helping hand at the same time.
Facing an extraordinary rent increase at her 20th and Valencia Streets store, after being in business for 16 years, Mia Gonzalez was more than happy to move to space in Lopez’s store.
“My rent more than tripled,” she said, standing next to Lopez and nodding at her product line of imported Mexican folk art, which now takes center stage on Lopez’s floor.
After Gonzalez fell victim to rising rents, Lopez opened his door to her on December 1, green lighting her to bring her south-of-the-border inventory to his store.
On December 12, Modern Past became a surrogate venue for a La Virgen de Guadalupe celebration, co-hosted by Gonzalez and Lopez. For the legions of Gonzalez’s poet, writer, film director, musician and artist friends, upset by her displacement, it was like a homecoming party.
“We’ll be a launching pad for her new gallery,” Lopez said. “I call Mia’s inventory ‘Miel,’ which means ‘honey.’”
Before she was priced out of Encantada Gallery, Gonzalez added seasoning and flavor to the Mission District.
“Encantada means ‘delightful’ or ‘charmed,” said Lopez, surveying Gonzalez’s wares, displayed only a few feet from Modern Past’s doorway.
“The tenor in San Francisco now is to move businesses out,” Gonzalez opined. “Ric is allowing me to stay here until January 31.”
Gonzalez’s entrepreneurial spirit isn’t confined to fine linens, Dia de los Muertos masks and Frida Kahlo ceramics.
“See this,” she said.
She lifted a T-shirt from a shelf. “I designed it after the Giants won their first San Francisco World Series in 2010.”
She stood behind a black and orange shirt. Dwarfing her, it was embossed with a Day of the Dead mask. The figure was topped with an iconic orange “SF” logo, and the word “Gigantes” was stitched above it.
“I want to continue working on projects such as this,” she said. “I want to stay in San Francisco.”
If Ric Lopez has his way, she will.