Hayes Valley business briefs: KitTea returns with kitten room; Dish Clothing, Ernest Alexander close

Hayes Valley business briefs: KitTea returns with kitten room; Dish Clothing, Ernest Alexander close
Photo: KitTea/Facebook
By Teresa Hammerl - Published on July 22, 2020.

Here's a brief roundup of recent changes to Hayes Valley businesses during shelter-in-place.


Dish (541 Hayes St.)

After almost two decades in Hayes Valley, clothing boutique Dish will permanently close its doors at the end of the month.

"My decision has not come easy," owner Desiree Alexander wrote on Instagram. "This disconcerting time has been a hurdle for small businesses, but has given me a moment to cultivate vision and gratitude."

The shop was hard-hit by the pandemic. Alexander told SFGate that she tried to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, but ultimately got too frustrated and gave up. Crime was another factor: the store has had three break-in attempts since the beginning of shelter-in-place.

Before it closes, Dish is holding a liquidation sale. Customers can book one-hour shopping appointments on the shop's website, for individuals or small groups. 

Hayes Valley has seen a rash of pandemic-related closures of small boutiques. Personal care shop Nancy Boy and vintage store Ver Unica, both neighborhood veterans, have closed permanently in the past few months, citing an inability to keep up with rent. 

Alexander is trying to look on the bright side: "This little store has brought me deep happiness, and I leave with a grateful heart," she wrote on Instagram.

Ernest Alexander (327 Hayes St.)

Just two blocks away, another boutique is also saying farewell to Hayes Valley.

Ernest Alexander, a New York-based maker of luxury bags, accessories and shirts, appears to have quietly departed the neighborhood after five years. Its 280-square-foot space is listed for rent

The Hayes Valley store was the company's first outside of New York, where it was founded in 2009. It may also have been its last: it doesn't appear to have a retail location in its home city anymore.

The brand has not officially announced the closure, and a request for comment was not returned. The Hayes Valley location is still listed on Ernest Alexander's website, but no new postings have appeared on its Facebook or Instagram pages since March 24.


KitTea (96 Gough St.)

In happy news for cat lovers, KitTea is officially welcoming back guests to cuddle with its array of rescue felines. The cafe portion of the business is being mothballed for the time being, creating two cat play rooms — one dedicated to kittens, the other to adult cats. 

Because of the pandemic, visitors will need to wear masks, use plenty of sanitizer and keep their six-foot distance from unrelated visitors. Cat hang sessions will be shorter — 40 minutes instead of the usual 55, so the space can be thoroughly sanitized. And kids under 12 are also barred from visiting for now.

But what it loses in time, the visit makes up for in intimacy: unrelated groups are limited to just four people in each of the two cat lounges. (If you're exclusively sharing the space with fellow household members, there's an option to book for groups of 6-10, with younger kids allowed.)

The return of cat hangout sessions aims to keep the cafe — which raised $35,000 on GoFundMe — alive and purring in what's usually its summer busy season. 

"We are still not yet in the clear," owner Courtney Hatt told donors, since KitTea is "unable to open at normal capacity during our most crucial summer months."

She's also hopeful that reopening will continue to funnel the cafe's rescue cats into permanent homes. 

"[We want] to save kittens and cats that are facing euthanasia due to overcrowding in shelters, as spay and neuter programs were unable to continue operating during most of shelter-in-place," she wrote.

Thanks to tipster Tracy! See something interesting while you’re out and about? Text Hoodline and we’ll try to find out what's going on: (415) 200-3233.