Is the Beloved ice cream shop in the Richmond district of SF being evicted?

A 63-year-old community favorite ice cream parlor faces eviction. The owners of Joe’s Ice Cream in the Richmond district of San Francisco say they could lose their building to developers, in a struggle that has become familiar to many small business owners as the housing crisis increases demand new homes.

Sean and Alice Kim discovered their building was for sale when a surveyor showed up one day in August to measure and photograph the property. They were meeting with a journalist to discuss installing a newspaper rack for the community newspaper.

“If my husband wasn’t there the day the inquest took place, we probably still wouldn’t know,” Alice Kim said. “And if he hadn’t Googled something, we wouldn’t know anything.”

Owners Alice and Sean Kim at Joe’s Ice Cream in San Francisco. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

After searching the internet, they learned that their building had been on the market for months, with a potential buyer already online.

Joe’s Ice Cream has been open since 1959; the Kims became owners in 2012. Many in the Richmond District consider Joe’s a beloved community center, including the previous owner, who loved the place enough to offer the Kims a long-term lease. Although there are still seven years left on that lease, it is unclear whether a new owner is bound to honor the agreement.

As a registered legacy business, Joe’s is eligible for grants, marketing assistance and business support from the city, but is not protected from legal demolition by the property owner, according to the San Francisco planning department.

a plaque stating that Joe's Ice Cream is a legacy business
An old commercial plaque hangs on the wall outside Joe’s Ice Cream in the Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

A planning department representative said the agency was contacted by San Francisco architectural firm Kerman Morris Architects, which represented a buyer, and they discussed three plans to redevelop the space into housing. . They detailed a three- to four-story mixed-use apartment building with commercial space on the ground floor. No formal proposal is on the table yet, and it’s unclear whether the retail space can or will be occupied by Joe’s. The architecture firm declined to comment, saying its client did not yet own the building.

Sean and Alice Kim are now exploring possibilities for the future of their business. District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan said she was “working with them to help them determine their options and ensure this legacy neighborhood business continues to thrive in Richmond.”

With the city’s help, the Kims said their first priority was to figure out if they could buy the building themselves and avoid a costly move. They are working with the San Francisco Office of Small Business to approve a potential loan to make their own offer to the homeowner in a few weeks. The Small Business Office also connects them with a lawyer to review the terms of their lease and provide legal advice.

Community members offered vocal assistance to ice cream shop owners, with one neighbor even offering his own vacant property as a temporary location.

a man holds a little boy as they choose a flavor of ice cream
Stan holds his son Brady, 4, as they decide on a flavor of ice cream at Joe’s Ice Cream. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

However, many residents also welcome the idea of ​​new apartments, even though Joe might have to move. The severe shortage of affordable housing in the Bay Area is driving increasing demand for housing from tenants and lawmakers as the crisis has caused many long-time residents to leave the city. A client of Joe’s, named Paul, said residents of the Richmond District are committed to the legacy business, but the urgent need for housing is beyond recognition.

“The building has been sold, someone else is coming, and they probably want to build a place,” Paul said. “They probably don’t want to have this establishment, so it would be wrong if they [Joe’s] weren’t there anymore, but I certainly understand that’s kind of how it works.

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