Declaring San Francisco has ‘descended into a city of chaos,’ global retailer closes store in under a year

San Francisco has “descended into a city of chaos,” forcing businesses to close their doors as organized crime runs rampant.

Davis Smith, owner and CEO of outdoor outfitter Cotopaxi, wrote a goodbye letter to the city, explaining his decision to close their San Francisco location less than one year after opening.

“It’s sad, but San Francisco appears to have descended into a city of chaos,” Smith said in a message posted on LinkedIn. “Many streets and parks are overrun with drugs, criminals, and homelessness, and local leadership and law enforcement enable it through inaction.”

Cotopaxi vows on its website to “make durable gear in the most ethically sustainable way possible,” and further states that it will dedicate “a percentage of our revenues to nonprofits working to improve the human condition.”

“We’re optimistic about the future, and we believe we can help solve extreme poverty in our lifetimes,” the website reads.

But that optimism didn’t last a full year in San Francisco, which has seen an eight percent increase in crime through September over 2021 numbers, with nearly 50 percent of residents saying they have been robbed in the last year, according to an NPR affiliate poll released in September.

“One of the most beautiful and amazing cities in the world is now a place where many no longer feel safe visiting or living,” the CEO posted on LinkedIn. “We opened a retail store a year ago on Hayes Street, the charming shopping district just blocks away from the famous Full House home. Our first week there, our windows were smashed and thousands of dollars of product was stolen.”

Smith immediately replaced the window and repaired the damage, only to have the same thing happen four consecutive times. The company ordered a metal security gate but had to wait more than a month for installation because crime has increased demand to levels local vendors cannot meet.

“As of today, we are closing the store due to rampant organized theft and lack of safety for our team,” said Smith, who has stores across the U.S., as well as in Australia, the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. “Our store is hit by organized theft rings several times per week. They brazenly enter the store and grab thousands of dollars of product and walk out.”

To contend with the brazen daytime robberies, staff began keeping the doors locked, only opening them when customers came to the door, Smith said. But, criminals adapted and started using women to get staff to unlock the door before bursting in behind them.

“Our team is terrified,” the University of Pennsylvania Wharton Business School graduate said. “They feel unsafe. Security guards don’t help because these theft rings know that security guards won’t/can’t stop them. It’s impossible for a retail store to operate in these circumstances, especially when cities refuse to take any action (despite us paying taxes well above any other state we operate in).”

San Francisco’s decision to limit policing in the area was the final straw, Smith wrote.

“The city recently announced a reduction of police presence in this neighborhood, despite mass-scale crime,” Smith lamented. “It makes me sad that I’m now avoiding San Francisco, a city I used to love.”

During a 2020 trip to the city by the bay, an intoxicated person verbally assaulted Smith’s wife, their rental car was broken into and all of their belongings stolen, he said.

“When calling the police to report the theft, they let us know this happens hundreds of times per day in the city and said it was our own fault for parking in the street,” Smith said. “I grew up in Latin America and spent much of my adult life there, and I never felt this unsafe there. Something has to change in San Francisco.”

Commenters on the LinkedIn thread attempted to liberal-shame the entrepreneur for not offering empathy and compassion to those suffering from mental illness.

“Has Cotopaxi or the businesses around tried to create some community for the homeless and unfortunate in that area?” one commenter wrote, suggesting Smith and other business owners offer free breakfasts and dinners to local homeless, pay for restrooms nearby and hire social workers to work inside their store to meet the needs of the unhoused.

Cotopaxi, which creates sustainably designed outdoor gear that fuels both adventure and global change, dedicates a percentage of its revenue to nonprofits and assisted nearly 1.3 million people in 2021, according to their website, and Smith was quick to respond to the assumption that he is a heartless capitalist fleeing the unattractiveness of mental illness.

“We have worked extensively with refugees and the homeless in a number of communities across the United States,” Smith said. “That said, I definitely agree with you that there’s more that can be done in San Francisco specifically, especially in conjunction with our neighboring retailers who are suffering some of the same frustrations. I also want to be realistic about the challenges of working with these communities. We have enough experience in this space to understand that mental health issues and other challenges can make it difficult to have a lasting impact, and it can also be unsafe for our team members. This is an incredibly challenging issue.”

From a business standpoint, remaining open in San Francisco is not viable.

The city has come under fire from others in response to their soft touch with criminals and a ballooning homeless problem, confirming San Fransisco has descended into a city of chaos.

Charles Barkley trashed the Warriors’ “dirty ass streets,” during Game 4 of the NBA Playoffs on TNT earlier this year.

“But all that dirtiness & homelessness—y’all gotta clean that off the streets…San Francisco needs a good washing,” he said.


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