SAN FRANCISCO -- For more than 40 years, Jim Siegel has been doing what he loves on Haight Street in San Francisco. Distractions, a legacy business, is one of the famed neighborhood's oldest shops. Sunday was his last day in business.
"It's bittersweet, I love the Haight Ashbury with all my heart. I opened up this business not to make money but to bring the Haight Ashbury back. It had very much been in a state of decline in the early 1970s," Siegel said.
In the display window of Distractions, the clothing and costume shop he opened in 1982, there's a 1976 photo of Siegel standing outside White Rabbit, his first store on Haight Street.
Siegel says the store was thriving up until the pandemic hit. Burning Man always led to a huge boost in sales, averaging around $200,000 every August.
This year, he brought in less than half of that: $90,000.
"The city's been in a little bit of a decline since COVID. A lot of it is the news media. The big news media saying, 'Don't come to San Francisco.' It's criminal," he said. "I haven't been robbed in this store since...1982 was the last time I got robbed at gunpoint. In the 70s it was bad here and I did get robbed at gunpoint and knifepoint. The crime isn't anything like that at all anymore, you know? It's property crime."
Jim said online shopping has taken a chunk of his business but the biggest hit came after COVID. Tourists still haven't returned. His monthly rent is $7,000.
"Sales have been going down and I just realized I'm old and I was hoping some new blood would buy this store. I was trying to sell this store or give it to my employees and it needed to be reinvented a little bit and that isn't happening," Siegel said.
He said employees don't have enough money to keep the store going. On Sunday, everything in Distractions was half off.
San Francisco native Noah Dewald wandered into the store for the first time and scored a coat for his wizard costume for Halloween.
"I've seen a lot of mom-and-pop shops close down in the city and it's always sad to me but it sounds like it's the owner's choice and he's moving on with his life," Dewald said.
"Everything I wear I got from Jimmy. This hat I got 17 years ago," said a longtime customer, who goes by the nickname "Poppa Bear."
He's been stopping in multiple times a week for 25 years.
"This store is going to be missed because there's not another store like that," he said.
Siegel said he will hold a special event at his store Tuesday morning at 11 o'clock. He still believes the Haight is a flourishing neighborhood.
"This store has blessed me very well. I invested all in real estate over the years so I'm set for life and I can afford to retire now at 67," he added. "I'll be more of a hippie now that I've retired. It's in my heart. I will always be a hippie."
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