146 Geary Street

Britex Fabrics has occupied the four-story building at 146 Geary Street since 1952. But late last year, the Union Square property was sold to Acadia Realty Trust and City Center Realty Partners for $38 million.

And yesterday, an application to convert the second, third and fourth floors of the iconic building from retail to office use was submitted to the city as the new ownership team moves forward with their plans to redevelop the property.

In addition, the new owners are angling to change the lettering on the iconic Britex sign, “so that it would meet the needs of [a] new tenant.”

Britex Fabrics Sign

75 thoughts on “Landmark Union Square Retailer’s Days Are Numbered”
  1. Another cool thing bites the dust. While I totally acknowledge there is no need for low-margin retail in high-rent, desirable areas (they could always go somewhere else, all the designers/crafteres will follow them there), it did add to some diversity and thus excitement to the streetscape. You went inside and pretended you might actually be creative. I guess I just find walking down a street with only office space and high-end retail pretty boring. Oh well.

      1. Same can be said for NYC and many other cities where rental spaces command top dollar and mom/pops, and even formula retail, fold. Uniqueness and diversity are hard to come by. You have to go online in many cases.

        1. That’s sad. Our real, physical world becomes blander and blander and our lives more and more ephemeral.

          The amusing thing is the greater Bay Area is leading the charge for virtualization of everything. Pretty soon, no one will leave their homes. Which is probably better, as a virtual, automated, off-shored, and conglomerated world will not need many workers and the real world will be full of beggars and violence.

          1. Consider Vallejo. Friendly affordable and sunny. Art spaces. Local food and farmers markets. Diverse community. Schools need help, but help is coming.

            The beatniks wouldn’t have enjoyed modern San Francisco either.

    1. First Morrows Nut House (on the southside of the block ) now this (on the north)…yep, I think every element of diverisity and excitement has been scrubbed clean.

      1. Is the perfume shop on the southside still there?
        Have a great fondness for Britex — got the fabric for my wedding dress there!

    2. Britex fabrics is hardly “low-margin retail.” The last time I shopped there I paid about $30 a yard for some Italian fabric for my daughter’s prom dress. They sell high end fabrics and it’s expensive.

      1. You are correct. Britex is by no means standard low margin retail. I live in Washington DC & my visits to SF are never complete without a shopping experience at Britex. I rarely leave without buying a few hundred dollars. I love every experience at Britex!

        1. They sold the building for $38 million. These stories are completely misleading since they leave out the fact that the owners of the Britex business CASHED OUT on their own volition and made more profit than any of us could have ever dreamed of. I’m sure if they were willing to pay market rent to the new owners to compliment the market price they paid, they could stay as long as they’d like. It appears the owners of Britex are truly the greedy ones…

          1. So you’re saying that it was Britex itself that sold the building ?? and if so, w/ whom was the lease (Britex retail to Britex realty)??

          2. Jackson is right The owners of Britex owned the building.

            This family was paid nearly $40M to sell their building. They made the choice to sell and we were paid handsomely to do so.

  2. I worked in the entertainment industry, and went to Britex. It is a wonderful fabric store. High end & expensive, but what a selection! A whole floor devoted to notions! Knowledgeable salespeople! I sure hope they find a new home.

    1. I see what you did there.

      I go to Britex for things that can’t be found elsewhere in the bay area. So much for that.

      As yeah since 52? Should have bought the building.

    1. Bite your tongue ! Lol. This is an historic building on an historic block with lots of history. I hope they never build something taller here. I doubt that would happen anyway for a long time.

  3. I smell spells trouble. When you mess with the bespoke seamstresses that shop at Britex, you mess with their Pacific Height patrons.

  4. so confusing! it sold for 38mil??? the floors are not very big at all — even if you rent each floor for 10 grand a month (which won’t happen), it will take over 100 years to get that money back!!! insane!!!

    1. When you have more $$$ than brains, what do you expect.

      I mean, they probably thing the space is “so cute!” I mean, they want to keep the sign font but change it for the new tenants? Who does that? Not anyone sensible.

    2. Each floor will go for well over 10k per month. Little storefronts in the mission are going for way more than that. I just looked at a 5,000 sq foot warehouse in Oakland and they were asking 17k per month… you’re right, It is INSANE.

      1. The purchase price comes out to $3K/sq ft: figure out what rent is necessary to get a decent ROI on that and see if it works.

    3. If they sell it in 10 years for 48 million, they’ve made a million per year on it, on top of whatever they’ve made from rent. And if they can clear the tenant out, the value of the building goes up.

  5. Another iconic, part of SF place being scrubbed for what? more office space. Let me guess, someone rich just LOVED that space when they went in there and thought. I would LOVE to work here everyday.

    Buy it for an insane amount of money boot the actual retailer and poof! You’ve got more tech office crap.

    1. I am not sure what you are guessing about, and you are guessing wrong. Read the article, it is right above your comment. It was purchased by a real estate investment firm, not an individual. No one saw the space and thought they wanted to work there. It was bought because there is a huge demand for office space in SF and the investment firm knows they can rent the space out for a lot of money.

      Also, only the top two floors will be converted to office space, which means the other two floors will remain retail space, whether Britex ends up staying there in the reduced space after their lease expires is up to them and their new landlord.

      1. Actually, the article (right above) says the second, third and fourth spaces will be office space. Only the ground floor will remain retail.

  6. From reliable sources BRITEX FABRICS will remain an Iconic SF business and continue to serve SF and the rest of the country with the best selection of fabrics anywhere. The fact that the building sold and that someone filed “conditional” plans changes nothing.

    1. You must have read a section of the article the rest of us all missed. Considering the headline alone state that Brexit’s “Days are Numbered”

      How on earth you came up with your statement is beyond me.

      1. Maybe it was this part?

        “We’re not closing, we’re moving,” said Spector, whose parents, Martin and Lucy Spector, started the business, which has always been at the Geary Street address. “There is zero intent to close.”

  7. Did you read the article? “…the new ownership team is moving forward with plans to redevelop the property. In addition, the new ownership team is angling to change the lettering on the iconic Britex sign, “so that it would meet the needs of [a] new tenant.”

    Unless there’s an official joint statement between the two property dev companies and Britex, I’ll go ahead and believe they will be doing what every other property speculator is doing to this town, with the clearance of our Mayor’s office – sell out sell out sell out.

  8. Britex is and will be (application in progress) a legacy business. It WILL continue to serve San Francisco. I suggest people not believe everything they read on line, in blogs, or in the newspapers.

    1. While San Francisco’s Legacy Business program provides a rent subsidy for businesses that qualify, it doesn’t change or extend the terms of any lease. But we do agree, people should be more selective in which sources they choose to read and trust.

      1. Hey SocketSite – out of curiousity, who sold the building to the real estate investors? To rephrase the question, who just pocketed 38 MILLION DOLLARS on this real estate transaction? Might be worth doing you diligence before posting articles that clearly are inflaming the masses.

  9. @gary Thanks for the information. Fingers crossed.

    This stretch of Geary has some handsome legacy buildings including the Britex one. Only improvement I’d make is spruce things up a bit with exterior painting and put planter in front of the stores.

    Brick and mortar stores are going the way of Main Street. Which we all bemoan. It is a sad reality and an issue as all new SF developments have the de riguer retail space at the ground floor and maybe, just maybe, that is not a use that can be sustained at the level it once as?

    1. Part of the problem (nationally) is that the United States is vastly over-retailed, period. Something like three times the per capita square footage when compared to Canada, I read in Shopping Centers Today.

      The sad thing, is I would rather see the strip malls along El Camino Real disappear, not classy downtown retail. But it is what it is.

      1. Good points. Though El Camino depends – in Burlingame there is a great little downtown still. With many independent businesses.

        Either way, I think brick and mortar retail, whether in downtown SF or along El Camino, will diminish over the next decade and beyond.

  10. I am glad socket confirms now the existence of a lease . Moreover glad they confirm to be selective in what you choose to believe. I am certain BRITEX FABRICS will continue serving SF with he best fabrics in the world.

  11. Start interviewing some brokers. This was news a few months ago. The building is too narrow to attract the rents they want.

  12. Stores come and go no matter how much they are loved. There are so many economic factors. I say this with absolute love in my heart for Britex. I just walked by yesterday admiring the quirky swags in their window display. It smells like it’s soon to be a done deal.. I’ll be visiting often before it’s too late.

  13. Have you ever been in the store? Thought not! Britex could not continue on the ground floor alone. There is an entire floor dedicated just to notions – millions of wonderful buttons, fabulous silk flowers. I will follow them wherever they move, and so will the entire Bay Area!

  14. How I will miss my visit to Britex every time I am in the city. Have shopped there since the early 70’s.

  15. The Post Street corridor is looking a little shaky, actually. A lot of vacancies.

    Is anyone going to do anything with Galleria? It’s half empty. I recall some burble about “local businesses” but…

  16. having been born in SF and raised in the east bay now in LA … Britex was the only reason I would still visit union square … it is a staple for me as a designer and fabricator .. the homogenization of that area and SF in general is both sad and disturbing …

  17. I am broken-hearted to hear this news.

    Britex is a guaranteed stop on my rounds downtown, when I come into the City. First Mrs. and now Charmain continue to chose and seek out the most wonderfully, interesting and special fabrics. I am never disappointed. My hope, is that when all of this change takes place, that this lovely gem of a store has re-located somewhere within traveling distance, from Berkeley, because I can not conceive of not having access to such an amazing array of fabrics, notions and specialty items for both my work and my personal designs.

    It will be hard to duplicate the feeling of this store elsewhere, but even in a modern loft or chic SOMA storefront, I would go in a heart-beat. If my dear friend is reading this…please find another spot to move those beautiful fabrics, AND STAFF so we all can still enjoy and purchase out-of-this-world fabrics, that we couldn’t find anywhere else.

  18. There’s more than meets the eye here folks. Why is the Spector family selling the building? Your typical family feud. Parents build the business. Siblings fight over the money. Apparently the three sisters have spent the last three years in court with multiple cross complaints. It sounds like they were ordered to sell the building and go their separate ways. Sad.

  19. Sorry they are having to relocate from their current location. It was handy to all levels of expertise in sewing. This a bad decision on the new owners part.

  20. Businesses that are new, should sue the city for the unfair competition and economic segregation they suffer because of the “legacy” business give away. Ignorant “progressives” forget that their programs to help some, always hurt others.

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