The Luggage Store
Darryl Smith was nine years old the first time his father drove him through the Tenderloin, but even then he knew someday it would be his home. He was fascinated by the mixture of cultures, and the sights and sounds; he felt a vibrancy and energy he had never experienced before. After attending both City College and the Art Institute in San Francisco in the 1970s, Darryl turned his focus toward art and its transformational possibilities within communities. He devised a plan that would provide a space for local artists to gather and show their work, and in the process rehabilitate economically challenged neighborhoods. “The Tenderloin had been neglected for so long, there was nothing there for the community except bars, including the notorious 509 Club, which became our first art and community center in 1987,” says Darryl. The bar became the 509 Cultural Center, a nonprofit arts and community space.
Two years later, that building was damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake, and the Center was forced to move. Laurie Lazer, Darryl’s partner, spotted the “for rent” sign at 1007 Market Street, and eventually this location – a former luggage store – became known as the Luggage Store Gallery. In 1999 Darryl and Laura bought the building in partnership with other interested community investors. Although it offered three times the amount of space – including a downstairs rental unit – it needed a great deal of renovation.
In 2007, the Luggage Store lost their long-time tenant, and was using up reserves to stay afloat. At this time NCCLF was retained by the San Francisco Arts Commission and San Francisco Grants for the Arts to provide financial advice and assistance to arts organizations in the Mid-Market area. “Community arts organizations are incredibly important as a vehicle to bridge the barriers of race and class in low-income areas,” says Joshua Simon, Director of Consulting and Grants at NCCLF. “We saw the importance of the Luggage Store in the Tenderloin and knew we had to help.”
First, it was imperative to locate a new tenant for the downstairs unit. Working with the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, San Francisco Grants for the Arts and Asian Neighborhood Design, NCCLF secured funding to make the rental space ADA compliant. NCCLF’s Real Estate Consultant Leiasa Beckham oversaw the construction of the project as well as the management of the funding streams. The work was completed on time and on budget, and Hospitality House moved into this space.
NCCLF continues to work as an advisor to the Luggage Store. “NCCLF has helped me in both the short and long term strategy for our space,” says Darryl. “Their commitment to the Luggage Store has rekindled my belief that we can achieve our vision of a holistic, sustainable artist and cultural center for the community, and be a model for the entire city.”