Secession Art & Design opened their Mission Bernal location in August 2007 and has since grown to represent over 70 independent artists and designers. Their retail location is a gallery, boutique, and workspace, creating a non-traditional storefront that allows customers to see art being made in-house by Heather Robinson and to experience shows curated by owner Eden Stein. The art, clothing, and jewelry are handpicked by Eden. Each product shows the diversity of Bay Area makers and celebrates the vibrancy of San Francisco.
After ten years as a professional in early childhood education, Eden switched gears and decided to open a store. While teaching Eden had been supplementing her career with running a jewelry business on the side and selling at street fairs. She got the opportunity to sublease Secession’s first location from a parent in the preschool who had an architectural firm. The firm transitioned nicely into a maker workspace and small gallery. She worked her day job and a side hustle for one year while she saved up for staff, inventory, and all that it takes to operate a business full time.
In 2016, Eden lost her lease on her first location after 7 years and building a loyal clientele. She moved to her new location just two blocks down Mission Street. This relocation was also an expansion. She went from 750 sq ft to 1500. The major obstacle with the new location was that it was a restaurant. A major renovation had to happen to open up space, remodel the bathroom so it was ADA compliant, and change the use of space permits. Creating a gallery and boutique from the ground up was amazing because she got to create a large lofty storefront built specifically for Secession. The difficulty was taking on renovation debt and the increase in rent from the first location. Looking back, Eden would do it all over again. This was a diamond in the rough and she took a risk that is paying off.
Eden used her loan from Main Street Launch as working capital. “The money allowed us to invest in inventory, hire an additional employee, and invest in marketing to help the business grow,” explains Eden. “The only way to grow a business is with money, but in San Francisco not all business owners have that luxury. With the loan, I’m able to make smart decisions for the long-term and I don’t have to compromise.”
“Main Street Launch was very supportive,” remembers Eden. “The process was long, but I could see that Main Street Launch saw the value in keeping my business open and helping it to grow.”
Eden offers advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “If you have the opportunity to start a business, do it. Work with someone to help you get the best lease possible. In San Francisco, money doesn’t go very far, so start small to stretch your dollars. Look for mentors that can help you plan out five to ten years. Celebrate the wins, learn from your mistakes, and show up each day and make something happen.”
Secession Art & Design is truly a community-focused business. Visit their store or attend one of their events to see amazing local makers, designers, and artists that are keeping retail vibrant and thriving in San Francisco. Check out their website for more information.