Under One Roof Switches Retail Plans
A San Francisco nonprofit that’s provided dwindling payouts to beneficiaries over the years is set to move into a swanky Financial district mall, despite the fact that it just dumped its costly Castro Street shop and hadn’t previously announced plans for another permanent storefront.
Under One Roof, which was created in 1991, has said that after the agency paid for operating expenses, all the money shoppers spent on everything from books to shot glasses went to the store’s community partners. But in recent years, the store has spent most of its money on rent and other expenses, and community partners receive only a sliver of what they used to.
Now, the organization is set to move into the Crocker Galleria in April. A ribbon cutting at the new location is scheduled for Friday, March 1.
Last October, Under One Roof announced a strategy of relying on temporary stores and other ideas designed to increase money going to partners. At a community meeting, nothing was said about opening another store.
These developments at the nonprofit have prompted the head of one longtime partner agency to suggest it may be time for Under One Roof to shut down.
John Cunningham, executive director of the National AIDS Memorial Grove, expressed appreciation to UOR’s staff and board, but said, "Like any organization, there comes a time to realize that perhaps your work and your effectiveness has come to an end."
The Bay Area Reporter had scheduled an interview with board Chair Tony Hart and member Jennifer Kutz for this story, but the day before the appointment, Kutz sent an email that said, "[W]e’re going to pass on an interview at this time." She didn’t offer an explanation.
Other AIDS service organization leaders expressed disappointment with the change in plans.
"I had thought their new business plan was to cease retail operations and focus on special shopping events and other fundraisers," AIDS Emergency Fund Executive Director Mike Smith said. "I’m surprised that they’ve chosen to open a new retail location, especially one that’s downtown and not in the Castro."
He added, "They seem to be choosing the potential visibility of tourists over their most loyal customers who live in the Castro."
A drain on finances
After Under One Roof moved to 518A Castro Street in 2008, the annual rent went from $85,000 to more than $200,000. A former board member helped with those costs, but the space became a money pit. The agency announced last year it would close the shop early in 2013, and did so January 31.
In recent years, UOR has distributed about $40,000 a year to about two-dozen partners, down considerably from what the shop had shared in its peak years. (Beneficiaries aren’t required to do anything, but are asked to promote UOR’s work.)
"We just hope by moving in this direction where we’re not so hampered by these heavy costs we can actually help [beneficiaries] even more," Hart said in an interview in October.
But the agency recently announced it’s moving into the space at Crocker Galleria, the glass-domed, three-level pavilion at 50 Post Street that opened in 1982 as a home to luxury retailers. Under One Roof’s new store will officially open April 1.
The nonprofit hasn’t shared how much it’s paying for the Crocker space, but a letter to supporters that Hart sent January 29 says the mall is offering the location at "a fraction" of what the nonprofit was paying in the Castro.
Asked in an email how much UOR would be paying in rent and how long the lease is, Sabrina Goris, who’s with Crocker’s property management company, responded by saying, "We are unable to discuss specific lease details."
She also crossed out the line in Under One Roof’s letter that said the nonprofit’s getting the space for a fraction of what it was paying in the Castro.