The flagship Nordstrom department store in downtown San Francisco closed its doors for the final time on Sunday after nearly three decades in business.
The closing is seen as a significant loss to the area and comes following a rise in crime, homelessness, and public drug use, combined with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Videos and photos taken by local media show the once-bustling store nearly completely bare as it prepared to shut down.
The Nordstrom employee who spoke to ABC 7 stated that decreased foot traffic and COVID-19 restrictions had contributed to the decision, but also commented, “It is definitely partially due to the crime in the area.”
Due to the issues facing the area, residents have expressed anger over the closure, as well as the perceived failure of politicians to address the issues of homelessness, drug use, and crime in the city.
“I absolutely loved going to Nordstrom and Westfield Mall in the 90s. It was the best of times, and now it’s the worst of times,” one YouTube commenter wrote.”City and state leaders prefer to see cities fester in misery just to avoid offending a homeless person or criminal,” they said.
The owner of one of the area’s largest box stores, John Chachas of Gump’s, wrote a scathing letter addressed to Governor Gavin Newsom and Mayor London Breed, which was published as a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle.
End of an era: Nordstrom at Westfield officially closed at 5 pm after 30+ years on Market Street
Back in May, a spokesperson for Westfield mall and its owner said:
— Betty Yu (@bett_yu) August 28, 2023
In the letter, Chachas held the politicians accountable for what he described as dereliction of duty, and said that if steps weren’t taken immediately to address the issues plaguing the city, his store could be the next victim of the “retail apocalypse.”
The area has seen major retailers, such as Whole Foods, Anthropologie, Old Navy, AmazonGo, Saks Off Fifth, and Office Depot, close their doors due to the ongoing issues. Some stores have had to take extreme measures such as locking their entire stock behind glass to deter shoplifting.
Politicians have remained adamant that the opening of the new Ikea store downtown is a sign of hope for the area; Mayor Breed referred to the event as a “game changer.”
However, the effects of the pandemic on downtown businesses have been substantial. With more businesses shifting to remote working, office vacancies have reached a record high of 31 percent, leading to a projected budget shortfall of $1.3 billion in five years.
Drug use in the city has skyrocketed, with figures showing more than 268 drug overdose deaths in the first six months of 2021 alone — a 41 percent increase over the previous year.
While the pandemic and its related effects have certainly added fuel to this fire, the effects of issues such as homelessness, crime, and drug use can be felt throughout the entire city.
It is yet to be seen if the opening of Ikea will be the spark needed to change the narrative, but it will certainly take a joint effort from all those involved for the city of San Francisco to rebuild and to return to its previous glory.