High rent hinders mom-and-pops

Owning a small “mom-and-pop” candy store in downtown Burlingame was a delight for Cheryl Enright — until high rent forced out her and many of her business neighbors.

Enright said her rent for the California Candy Company on Lorton Avenue, near Burlingame Avenue, tripled from when she opened the store 13 years ago to when she was forced to close in 2005.

“It was horribly disappointing — everyone always came to the store; we were always busy,” Enright said. “When our lease came up and it was time for us to negotiate, it was impossible because [of] the rent.”

The switch from mom-and-pop shops to national chain stores has Burlingame residents concerned, according to a four-day study conducted last week by 12 graduate students at the Coro Center Fellows Program in Public Affairs.

As housing and business rents soar, residents are worried that corporations downtown are pricing out small local businesses, and, in the process, losing the “small-town, tight-knit feel of Burlingame,” Coro Fellow Geoff Willard said.

For instance, national retailer Anthropologie recently replaced three local businesses downtown on Primrose Road, including the Chicken Chicken restaurant and Sneak Preview Video. Ann Taylor Loft also moved in recently downtown.

City officials said they realize the importance of keeping local stores, and one way to do that may be to change zoning rules to limit storefront sizes. That would help repel some of the chain stores, said Councilman Russ Cohen.

“It is imperative that Burlingame keep a vital mix of both mom-and-pops and larger enterprise, so that there’s a variety in our downtowns,” Cohen said.

White Dove Jewelry owner John Moodie said he left downtown Burlingame two years ago and relocated to Belmont after the landlord told him and the small business next door that he wanted to move a big restaurant into the spaces.

“The landlord said, ‘In a few years, none of you [small-business owners] will be here.’ You look at it now — he got what he wanted. There was no support for the little guy,” Moodie said. “When you walk down [Burlingame] Avenue, it’s basically Hillsdale [Mall] with no roof on it.”

It’s possible for small business owners to survive downtown, however, and Meyer-Bunje clothing storeowner Frankie Meyer is proof. Her shop has survived in the heart of the community at Lorton Avenue just a few steps from Burlingame Avenue for more than 20 years.

“A lot of my customers are disturbed about [chain stores moving in],” Meyer said. “They’re seeing the character and uniqueness of the community changing and deteriorating. If everyone has the same stores up and down the Peninsula, there’s no uniqueness and individuality for them to look at; it’ll destroy the shopping district here in my mind.”

mrosenberg@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

BART Ambassadors are being called on to assist riders in social situations that don’t require police force. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Unarmed BART ambassadors program formalized with a focus on community service

Public safety and police reform are key elements in campaigns of Board members Dufty and Simon

On Oct. 13, people lined up to vote early for the presidential election in Southlake, Texas. <ins>(Shutterstock)</ins>
<ins></ins>
Five things to watch for in the run-up to Nov. 3

Down-ballot races, as much as the presidency, will determine the future course of this nation

WeChat (Shutterstock)
U.S. District Court denies Trump request to shutdown WeChat app

A federal judge in San Francisco denied a request by the U.S.… Continue reading

School board members Gabriela Lopez (left) and Alison Collins (right) say they have been the subject of frequent hateful, racist and sexist attacks during their time on the school board. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F Examiner)
Angered by Lowell decision, SFUSD grad targets school board members with violent imagery

Facebook page depicts two women of color on board with swastikas and x-marks on their faces

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, a former school board member, said it was ‘ridiculous’ that the school district did not yet have a plan to reopen. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Supervisors demand SFUSD set a timeline for reopening

Pressure grows on district to resume in-person learning as The City’s COVID-19 case count goes down

Most Read