The owner of San Francisco’s historic luxury department store is holding elected officials under fire over deteriorating conditions in the city, threatening to move his business elsewhere if nothing changes.
For more than 165 years, Gump’s has been a popular stop for shoppers visiting the City by the Bay. But in a full-page ad in The San Francisco Chronicle, its CEO John Chachas called out Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and the city’s Board of Supervisors, suggesting that the next season holidays could be the last.
“San Francisco now suffers from a ‘tyranny of the few’ – the behavior and actions of the few that jeopardize the livelihoods of the many,” Chachas wrote in the open letter to the newspaper. last week. “The ramifications of COVID policies advising people to abandon their offices are only beginning to be understood. Equally devastating have been a litany of San Francisco’s destructive strategies, including allowing the homeless to occupy our sidewalks, distribute and to openly use illegal drugs, harass the public and defile the streets of the city.”
“Such disregard for civilized conduct makes San Francisco unlivable for its residents, unsafe for our employees and unwelcoming to visitors from around the world,” he told lawmakers.
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In an interview with Fox News Digital, Chachas said there was no specific boiling point that led him to write the open letter, but that it had accumulated over “many, many months. it was the lack of public sentiment that failed to draw attention to how elected officials “seemed unable to grasp some fairly basic realities.”
“I have a wonderful business with great people who are deeply committed to it. And we live in a city that’s not working and it’s getting worse and worse,” Chachas said. “And Governor Newsom, Mayor Breed and city supervisors seem either unable to understand it or unwilling to make the policy changes necessary to make it a viable environment.”
“It’s kind of crazy to live in an environment where you go to work every day or where people go to work and customers can’t come into your store. I mean. It’s not an environment of normal operation,” he added.
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Chachas testified to first-hand testimonials from Gump’s most loyal customers, some who have been shopping there for more than 50 years and are refusing to enter due to current conditions in San Francisco.
“When we don’t see them, we actually call them to find out, ‘Hey, hey Mrs. Jones… you haven’t seen us in two years. Can we do something?’ And we have the comment that’s just consistent, which is “We love your store, we love the products you have. I’ll buy something online, but I won’t set foot in this city. “That’s what we hear. That’s the line,” Chachas told Fox News Digital.
He largely blamed the origins of San Francisco’s self-destruction on COVID-era policies that have deterred people from going to work in the city even in 2023, pointing out that it cannot survive “weeks of work three days”.
“You have 25 million square feet of empty office space in San Francisco. I’m still waiting for the governor to come up with a plan to get people back to their offices, which is what every governor in the country should be doing, that’s what the federal government should do, what every state government should do,” Chachas said. “And instead, everyone just keeps talking about it in veiled terms, like it’s not a problem. This is a gigantic problem for companies. Gigantic.”
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Chachas offered solutions that could revive San Francisco, urging Newsom to offer tax incentives to companies that require employees to work in person five days a week and calling on city officials to enforce orders already in place and double the police presence, saying it’s “basic stuff” but compared the direction the city is heading to “Gotham” of Batman fame.
“It’s not a mystery. It’s not complicated. You can be a rhesus monkey and look at the facts and find out exactly what people have been doing,” the CEO said.
When shopping for the full-page ad, Chachas told Fox News Digital he didn’t mind calling Newsom and Breed by name.
“They are responsible. She is the second highest paid mayor in the United States. He is a well-paid governor of one of the most important states in the United States. They are responsible for the cities in which they serve. If they don’t ‘don’t want the responsibility, they should quit, get another job,’ Chachas said.
Although he had no direct interaction with Newsom or Breed, Chachas said he was happy to speak with them, insisting he could be reached easily, although he was not don’t wait to hear from them.
Chachas said he was “optimistic by nature” but while he hoped for the best, he “planned for the worst” looking at other cities to move Gump’s. He suggested that Salt Lake City, home to the retailer’s warehouse and distribution center, is a strong contender.
“I can assure you that Salt Lake City doesn’t have those kinds of issues,” Chachas said. “Now they’ll say, ‘Salt Lake City doesn’t have a homelessness problem.’ It’s just that he handles it differently. He handles the problem differently.”
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Chachas’ political outspokenness comes naturally as he himself threw his hat in the ring when he ran in the Nevada GOP Senate primary in 2010 (he lost to the former member of Nevada Assemblyman Sharron Angle, who then lost to incumbent Democrat Harry Reid).
He is the first to admit he was not a ‘very good candidate’ and laughed when asked if he would ever run again, despite offering a challenge to the mayor of San Francisco .
“I would probably trade jobs with Mayor Breed for 180 days,” Chachas said. “I’ll let her run Gump’s for 180 days. She can let me run the city for 180 days, and we’ll see how we do. I’ll take a dollar as salary. I doubt anyone will take me on this, but this would be quite interesting… You would see a lot of change in 180 days, I can tell you that.”
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As someone who splits his time between New York and Park City, Utah, Chachas is calling for a comprehensive review of COVID policies and what has been implemented in cities across blue and red states in the form of a commission bipartisan, especially since COVID won will not be “the last virus we face” and such policies have had long-term ramifications for cities like San Francisco.
“Anyone looking today at major cities like San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Minneapolis, which were very, very vigilant about ‘Don’t go to the office, it’s going to be terrible. The implications of these policies have been nothing short of devastating for business. I mean, devastating,” Chachas said. “And we kind of danced around the edge of this problem. It needs to be solved. It needs to be solved. And it’s a lot bigger than Gump’s. It’s a lot bigger than San Francisco. It’s kind of a national question about occupation and real estate and business. But it’s a big deal.
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He continued: “We’ve never had a virus like this, but we’re going to have another at some point and someone better take advantage of all this data and learn something and not just to stick your head in the sand… The politicization of this whole thing is really problematic, because if you go back and look at the data… There’s a lot of data that the states that have kept shut down and away from the people from their offices are much, much slower to come out the other side. And in fact, I think that’s how we feel in San Francisco.”
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