Valencia Corridor Merchants Association

Valencia corridor is a truly unique district of San Francisco where, fashion, food and the spirit of independent design thrives.

VCMA Vice President & Founder

As we round the corner to our launch event tomorrow at Betabrand, we’d like to introduce you to VCMA’s Vice-President, and Founder.

First Up: VCMA Vice President

While Valencia Street has faced threats (most notably evictions, rising rents, too many cars, and the threat of formula business moving in), there have been a lot of positive changes happening too. As VCMA Vice President and General Manager of Mission Bicycle Company Jefferson points out:

“Valencia has changed so much in the last few years. There are more wonderful quirky shops. The sidewalks are wider and easier to navigate. We love the Day of the Dead ironwork around the new trees. We love the love that the city has refreshed the Mission Playground. The merchants in the corridor are more unified and effective than ever.”

These are some of the reasons why he says Valencia is worth fighting for and why he explains:

“It’s still my favorite neighborhood in the world. It will have to change a lot more for me to want to go anywhere else.”

So how do we keep Valencia one of the most interesting residential and small business corridors in the country?

Jefferson suggests:

“I think for us, evolving needs to come in the form of efficient communication, developing partnerships, building coalitions and working together. These are the kinds of things that will enable us to grow and thrive.”


Last and certainly not least: VCMA Founder

No one understands the creative spark at the heart of Valencia St more than VCMA founder and Glama-Rama owner Deena Davenport. Deena explain why she was drawn to Valencia:

“In the early nineties, I had a theatre group that practiced at 21st and Valencia, and I had a weekly club that my pal and I hosted at the Casanova called Baby Judy’s. Valencia was the place that was queer friendly, but simultaneously all inclusive; a nice change from the Castro and the Haight. There was this bar called the Crystal Pistol, that also drew young queers, and the Epicenter, which housed punks, queer or not. The Lexington worked really well with the vibe too, and the community of businesses that gravitated toward Valencia, was a community I wanted badly to be a part of!

Deena is committed to maintaining the street’s character. As she explains,

“[When I moved my business to Valencia,] I heard that there wasn’t a merchants association, so I immediately started one when I arrived. A lot has happened since then. There was the flood of restaurants, and then the flood of evictions. We are fighting hard to help our people stay, with what little spare time we have! What hasn’t changed is the hard working nature of the small businesses on Valencia. We are a tough breed, because we love what we do, and our businesses are like our children. We need to nurture and protect them!”

Her top priority is to keep formula businesses out.

Join us to celebrate Valencia Street’s diversity and the official launch of VCMA tomorrow, Thursday January 23 6-9pm at Betabrand (780 Valencia, between 18th and 19th).

Countdown to VCMA Official Launch: Meet the President

VCMA President: Sean Quigley

VCMA officially launches this Thursday January 23rd at Betabrand after several years of community mobilization.

As we make final preparations for the event, we couldn’t think of a better time than now to introduce you to VCMA’s President, Vice-President, and Founder.

First up, “the self-proclaimed man behind the scenes'” VCMA President and Owner of Paxton Gate: Sean Quigley.

The need for more space brought, Paxton Gate, to the Mission in 1999 and then their second store, Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids, in 2008. He remember visiting a number of neighborhoods throughout the City and was attracted to Valencia because it was so raw. He liked the idea of helping to build a neighborhood as opposed to just moving into one that was already established.

Sean’s main objective as President is to attract and maintain the type of independently owned and operated businesses that the corridor has become known for.

In his words:
“If Valencia goes the way of Haight, Union, and Fillmore, it won’t bring the same value that it does currently to San Francisco. We don’t need more of the same; we need to keep Valencia unique and eclectic. ”

Up next: VCMA Vice President Jefferson McCarley. Stay tuned.

Part 2: Countdown to the VCMA Launch

Valencia Corridor Merchants Association

Valencia Sidewalks Being Widened


Valencia Street: An Economic Transformation

In today’s post, we’ll take a quick look back at the surge in growth along Valencia Street.

In the 1990s, Valencia Street’s working class landscape started to shift with a handful of new restaurants and cafes opening alongside the auto shops, corner grocery stores and dive bars that had been there for years. With affordable housing, exceptional weather and easy access to the peninsula, it was a neighborhood poised for a renaissance.

As the decade progressed into the boom years Valencia Street attracted new investors and greater numbers. It was still an affordable area with an artsy buzz and though growth was tempered by the recession, new upscale bars, bookstores, bike shops and independently owned boutiques picked up as the economy improved.

Yet even as the neighborhood attracted an increasingly affluent audience, many of the auto shops, service stores and family-owned taquerias remained, a thread of history running through the economic shift. You could still pick up a super burrito alongside a single-drip coffee while waiting for your vacuum cleaner to get repaired.

In the late 2000s, a new wave of young tech workers descended on the Mission creating an unprecedented demand for housing that brought an influx of new developments. Valencia Street was ground zero for their community and businesses responded. Food trucks and pop-up stores sprang to life while bike lanes, parklets and more thoughtful landscaping reflected the pulse of a progressively eco-conscious San Francisco. A widening of the sidewalks allowed for a better flow which invited more foot traffic. New restaurants debuted, hip cocktail lounges flourished, shopping boomed, and a brand new music venue opened in the old New College space giving diners somewhere else to go after their 7pm dinner reservations.

Today, Valencia Street is a destination in and of itself – a world-class corridor that showcases some of the best innovations in food, design, culture and shopping. Balancing affordability with history, maintaining diversity and culture will be keys to the continued growth and health of the community.

Part 1: Countdown to the VCMA Launch

Valencia Corridor Merchants Association

Valencia Street Rebuilt
photo: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection

The Valencia Street Merchants Association is set to officially launch January 2014 after several years of community mobilization. As we make final preparations, we’re being reminded of the events that brought us together to create a united voice for neighborhood merchants.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be revisiting important milestones in our journey. In today’s post, we’ll start at the very beginning, or maybe even a little bit before then, at the very, very beginning.

In an area that had been marshland, and was the site of two Yelamu villages, a neighborhood began taking shape with the arrival of Spanish missionaries in the late 1700s. In 1847, Valencia Street was named honoring prominent local family by that name. By the 1880s, residents and visitors were getting around on cable cars. The Valencia Hotel was built in 1898 only to sink into the ground during the 1906 earthquake (triggering a 2-day effort to rescue trapped guests). The street was rebuilt (though the hotel was not), now featuring streetcars and many of the buildings that are still here.

It’s interesting to note that today’s newly widened sidewalks are actually a restoration. The original, wide sidewalks were narrowed in the 1950s when the streetcars were taken out. This was the beginning of what’s been called a lull on Valencia Street.

By the 1970s, the ethnically diverse area was becoming known for punk clubs popping up on or near it, including The Offensive, The Deaf Club, Valencia Tool & Die, and the Compound. The area also became known, as one blog post [’s_Story] puts it, as “where the women are,” referring to the Women’s Building, Café Artemis, Osento, Good Vibrations, among other women-centered gathering places and businesses. In 1982 Clarion Alley Mural Project was formed, bringing Mission colors to our street.

This bohemian revival brings us well into the late 90s, when we also got our bike lanes, not to mention Michelle Tea’s now classic novel Valencia.

Today the neighborhood keeps changing. And we’re here to make sure that it continues reflecting the needs of its core communities.

Stay tuned for the next chapter of our history, when we will cover the explosion of growth along our corridor.