New Fillmore store puts retailers on edge 

An empty storefront along Fillmore Street will soon be occupied, but some merchants worry the incoming tenant will hasten unwanted change in the neighborhood.

The athletic-apparel store Athleta, owned by Gap Inc., is expected to open at 2226 Fillmore St. — in the heart of the upscale shopping district known for its boutique retailers — by mid-January. It is the latest of a group of big-name stores to invade the neighborhood in recent years.

Miyo Ota, the owner of contemporary women’s clothing store Mio, said the new neighbors could raise the rent in the area and eventually push out small businesses.

“In my opinion, corporations should be in Union Square,” Ota said. “They’re the ones who can afford it. And leave the neighborhoods to smaller guys.”

Fillmore Street already has designer retailers Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren and Eileen Fisher.

“You can see these designers anywhere,” Ota said. “There’s no uniqueness anymore.”

Some argue the addition of big-name designer retail will attract more foot traffic and shoppers.

Though some shop owners are not pleased to have Athleta as a neighbor, the store is not subject to city legislation that bans chains without special permits, according to a July ruling by The City’s Board of Appeals. The appeals board ruled Athleta is not a chain store despite it being owned by Gap.

A store is considered a chain when a retailer has more than 10 locations with the same branding and logos. The Fillmore store will be Athleta’s second retail location. Gap owns and operates more than 3,000 stores nationwide that include the Gap brand, Banana Republic and Old Navy. The first Athleta store opened in Mill Valley last year.

Eduardo Izzo, the manager at the Metro 200 clothing boutique, worries the incoming corporate shops will create a mall feel on the streets of the neighborhood known for its jazz history.

“They take away the charm from smaller, privately owned merchants,” Izzo said. “In 10 years, it will be completely different here.”

However, not all merchants see the addition of Athleta as a bad development.

Beverly Weinkauf, the owner of Toujours Lingerie and vice president of the Fillmore Merchants Association, said the store is a welcome addition regardless of its affiliation.

“It fills a void we have here for those types of goods,” she said. “They fill a large space in a prime location. We’re grateful to have it filled.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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