Benny Gold Pens a Heartfelt Letter to San Francisco Before the Tech Boom

I remember the fear I felt when opening our first retail store. I was living in San Francisco’s Mission District with my wife and working out of our small apartment. If I wasn’t working, I was skateboarding. Life was simple and good. But as the brand caught on and demand increased, the boxes began piling up and finally my wife insisted I establish an official workspace. That was scary because up until that point I had no overhead — any profit after production and shipping went into my pocket. But back then the Mission was largely overlooked compared to other areas of San Francisco, making it a locals’ neighborhood with lower housing costs that attracted creatives. An independent artist or entrepreneur could take a chance and do their own thing. SF was an affordable city compared to New York and other metropolitan areas, making it attractive for people like me. 

Benny Gold San Francisco Memoir
The entrance to the Benny Gold flagship store.

However, SF’s population has skyrocketed recently, with the city adding 28,500 new residents between 2000 and 2010. There just isn’t enough housing for everyone, so even the largely overlooked neighborhoods like the Mission are now bursting at the seams. The Mission also has easy freeway access, making it convenient for people working in Silicon Valley to be shuttled back and forth by tech buses.

Since I started the Benny Gold brand, I have seen most of my peers relocate their business to Los Angeles in search of lower rents and employee wages, and an easier environment to run an independent brand. We are one of the last streetwear brands still operating in SF. Maybe I am too stubborn or I just love SF too much to move solely for financial reasons. Six years ago, I was able to secure a space for $1,500 USD and only a few blocks from my apartment, which is unheard of now in San Francisco. My rent is now six times that at our new store, which is located only one block from our original location.

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