Local Businesses Damaged, Destroyed in San Francisco Mission Fire

June 24, 2016 • 5 min read
Ahmad El-Najjar

Ahmad El-Najjar


On June 18, 2016, at approximately 2:30pm, the San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) responded to a five-alarm inferno in San Francisco’s Mission District. The SFFD was able to contain the Mission fire within the 3300 to 3322 blocks of 29th Street but not before 58 residents were homeless and nine small businesses had been damaged.

The displaced residents will no doubt struggle as they seek out comparable housing in a City not known for its affordable (or available) homes. Tenants have access to the numerous organizations and City resources available, hopefully ensuring they are all successfully relocated. The fates of the small businesses damaged in the Mission fire are at least equally murky, however, particularly those of restaurant Playa Azul and Cole Hardware, whose buildings the City plans to demolish.

The 3300 Club and Taco Loco are also closed; it’s unclear how long they will remain that way. Other affected businesses include the El Paisa restaurant and Bernal Heights Cooperative, a cannabis dispensary.

Help for damaged businesses

According to Mission Local, “Representatives from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development met with business owners” on June 20 to educate owners about available aid, including $10,000 grants through the City’s Small Business Disaster Relief fund, created after last year’s devastating Mission fire. For more information, visit the Mission Economic Development Agency. Damaged businesses may also want to look into the Small Business Association’s Disaster Relief Loans.

Cole Hardware, a local San Francisco institution in the Mission since October 1984, is among those looking for a temporary solution. Rick Karp, the owner of Cole Hardware and son of founder Dave Karp, is hoping to find a new home for the business as soon as possible, in order to keep his staff employed and his customers supplied. Rick is hoping that the Cole Hardware motto, “There Are No Strangers Here, Just Friends We Haven’t Met,” which adorns the registers in each of its four locations, holds true.

Turning to the small business community

Karp, always an active member of his community, recently turned to his network of fellow San Franciscan business owners on Townsquared to ask for help in finding a new space for Cole Hardware’s now-gutted Mission store. Speaking to other local business owners, he asked for any leads on a new space of approximately 5,000 – 6,000 square feet anywhere in the City to get the business open and staff back to work. As in the store’s motto, his community responded. Within hours, businesses from across San Francisco were offering suggestions, leads, and questions for more information on how they could help after the Mission fire.  

Cole Hardware’s motto isn’t just for their customers. Karp is eager to do what he can for other affected businesses. “I have the benefit of having four other stores,” he told Mission Local. “We’re still operating, so for those that are out of business, I really want the city to take care of them before they take care of me.”

Karp told the SF Chronicle that he hopes to eventually reopen in the neighborhood. “We want to do whatever we can to stay in that area,” he said. “My heart and soul is in that store. Watching it burn, watching them shoot water cannons into the store, was heartbreaking.” The affection for the neighborhood is something he shares with the other damaged businesses. According to the Chronicle, “All of the business owners have expressed a desire to stay in Mission Bernal, either by rebuilding or relocating.”

While it remains to be seen whether the Townsquared leads will result in a new home for Cole Hardware’s Mission Street location, it’s clear that community matters, especially in tough circumstances like this one. When it comes time to put the Cole Hardware motto over the register at a new location, it won’t just be with his customers in mind.

If you have any leads on a new business location for the Mission Cole Hardware, please reach out to lucy@townsqd.com or, if you’re a local business owner, you can respond directly to Rick’s post on Townsquared by creating your free account here and going to the #Ask-SF channel or Cole Hardware’s Townsquared profile. To contribute to the fund for the families displaced by the fire, you can make your contribution here where 100% of the funds go to the families.

Amy Johnson contributed to this post.


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