Sep 14, 2022 - Business

Hayes Valley adds another internet retailer

new store renderings
Renderings of Boisson's new SF store, located at 333 Hayes St. Photo courtesy of Boisson

Yet another internet retailer is headed for Hayes Valley.

What's happening: The online beverage marketplace Boisson — which sells alcohol-free spirits, wine, mixed drinks and more — is set to open a storefront on Hayes Street by the end of this month, the San Francisco Business Journal reported Monday.

  • Launched in 2021, the new store will be the company's first in San Francisco, though it already has five locations in New York and one in Los Angeles (with two more on the way).
  • Earlier this year, Boisson (pronounced "bway-sohn") raised $12 million in venture capital funding.

Why it matters: The new arrival adds to the growing list of direct-to-consumer companies that have opened storefronts in Hayes Valley — a neighborhood that, along with North Beach and Chinatown, has the strictest rules against chain stores, aka "formula retail," moving in.

  • In Hayes Valley, retailers with 11 or more locations worldwide are prohibited in an effort to "maintain neighborhood individuality," according to the city's Planning Department.

Yes, but: While not considered "mom-and-pop shops," under the current retail rules, venture-backed, direct-to-consumer brands can still open in Hayes Valley if they have fewer than 11 stores.

  • Warby Parker, now publicly traded, opened its Hayes Street location in November 2014. Back then, it was the eyeglass company's eighth brick-and-mortar shop. Currently, it has over 150 stores, spanning the country from Arizona to Kansas to Rhode Island.
  • Allbirds opened its eleventh store in Hayes Valley in 2019. Today, the wool shoe brand has 52 storefronts and expects to have 57 by the end of the year, its head of communications Lee Price told Axios.

There's also Parachute, the linen company that opened its fifth location on Hayes Street in 2018. It now has 20 stores.

  • Of note: Parachute competitor Brooklinen — which claims to be "the internet's favorite sheets" and has raised some $60 million, according to Crunchbase — moved into the neighborhood earlier this summer. That company has six locations, but by the end of 2024, it plans to have 30, Bloomberg reported.

Be smart: A company that grows beyond 11 locations can keep its storefronts in San Francisco neighborhoods like Hayes Valley, the city's Planning Department chief of staff Dan Sider told Axios.

  • But, beyond the formula retail threshold, a business would be considered "non-conforming" and therefore, wouldn't be permitted to expand their existing location, he said.

What they're saying: Supervisor Dean Preston, whose district includes Hayes Valley, told Axios in a statement he believes it's "deeply concerning that major corporations are finding ways to get around our formula retail laws."

  • "My office has heard from a number of concerned small business owners about this phenomenon, and I have been working with our city attorney to find ways to tighten up our restrictions so we can keep the mom-and-pop character that has come to define this neighborhood retail destination," Preston said.
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