SAN FRANCISCO—Neighborhood retailers are the heart and soul of local communities, and create that unique character that makes them special to residents and visitors alike. Not only are these retailers fighting headwinds from COVID-19, there are challenges beyond the virus such as the online onslaught of Amazon and others, the lengthy permit process from local jurisdictions, and the ever-growing costs of simply opening a brick-and-mortar location.

Hundreds of shops and restaurants in San Francisco and elsewhere have been reporting closures, with more to come amid the ongoing pandemic. At the same time, some businesses are displaying creativity and resilience in finding solutions, and landlords are helping.

According to retail broker and adviser Maven Commercial, these retailers are making lemonade from the lemons of a soured economy. Examples include Spork and Stix opening its first-ever brick-and-mortar cafe, Il Casaro and Maison Danel changing business plans to accommodate the downturn, and an entrepreneurial café owner turning to online magic.

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Lisa Brown

Lisa Brown is an editor for the south and west regions of She has 25-plus years of real estate experience, with a regional PR role at Grubb & Ellis and a national communications position at MMI. Brown also spent 10 years as executive director at NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area chapter, where she led the organization to achieving its first national award honors and recognition on Capitol Hill. She has written extensively on commercial real estate topics and edited numerous pieces on the subject.