Under One Roof shares store details
by Seth Hemmelgarn
A week after canceling an interview to speak with the Bay Area Reporter about its sudden decision to open another store despite telling the community last fall that it had no such plans, two Under One Roof board members shared more information about what's going on with the HIV/AIDS-related nonprofit.
The board members' decision to speak with the B.A.R. followed last week's article about UOR's plans to open a store in the Crocker Galleria in downtown San Francisco. The board members had wanted to submit a letter to the editor, but news editor Cynthia Laird declined to publish it, citing UOR officials' decision to renege on the interview.
In late January, the San Francisco organization, which was created in 1991 and has provided dwindling payouts to beneficiaries in recent years, shut down its Castro Street shop, where rent had been more than $200,000 a year.
At the same time, Under One Roof announced plans to move into the Crocker Galleria, a Financial district mall. Rent details weren't immediately made available.
But in an interview Monday, March 4, UOR board member Jennifer Kutz said her group has agreed to pay 15 percent of gross sales in a month-to-month lease on the new space, which will officially open April 1.
Board Chair Tony Hart said the April budget for sales in the new space will "probably be in the area of around $15,000," which would mean almost $2,300 in rent.
UOR held a ribbon cutting at the Crocker shop Friday, March 1, and Kutz said UOR distributed $1,000 apiece to 22 beneficiaries. The amount covered the nonprofit's last two quarters.
Officials had hoped to raise from $50,000 to $70,000 in the last two months of 2012. Hart said this week, "Through the development efforts, we raised about $3,000, but the attention was not focused on corporate giving like we'd hoped to be able to do."
Asked why board members didn't share news of the move to the new space with the community earlier, Hart said, "We really don't need to."
"We couldn't say anything until it was done," Hart added. "We were holding off talking about the closing of the Castro store as long as we could so we could maintain sale volumes at post-Christmas levels."
He also said the group decided to move into a new space "because it dropped in our lap."
"When a good deal comes along like this, in a really great location in the city with exposure to a whole new population and audience ... it makes perfect sense," Hart said.
Kutz noted "timely and temporary social enterprises" is part of the Greater Depths plan the group released in the fall.
She also said Hudson News, best known for its airport gift shops, is giving Under One Roof $50,000 a year to use the nonprofit's brand name. Hart said that would help Hudson "secure more space in airports across the country."
According to Kutz, former Under One Roof Executive Director Beth Feingold put the plan in motion, and the deal is good as long as the nonprofit stays in business as a retailer.
Hudson News didn't immediately respond to a request for confirmation of the deal.
As reported in last week's article, UOR's new retail plan has met with mixed reaction from beneficiaries, as some leaders of HIV/AIDS organizations questioned the viability of another storefront while others offered support.
One person who didn't attend last Friday's event was Leslie Ewing, executive director of the Pacific Center in Berkeley.
The LGBTQ nonprofit isn't a UOR beneficiary, but Ewing, who once served as director of merchandising for UOR, declined an invitation to the check distribution.
"In the last week I have had several calls from executive directors who work for UOR shareholder agencies," Ewing wrote in a March 1 email to Kutz that she shared with the B.A.R . "They have all said they were informed the store was closing and a final payout would be forthcoming. Now, all of that appears to be up in the air with the re-opening announcement. From what I gather, none of them were informed of the re-opening and none of them knows what is going on at Under One Roof. Nobody, other than the board of directors, seems to know what is going on at Under One Roof."
Asked about Ewing's email, Hart said, "We basically set her straight to let her know we aren't closing as an organization."
Kutz said the notion that UOR was closing down and doing a final payout had "mystified" her. She said she'd asked Ewing why she thought the nonprofit would close down and do a final payout.
"We've never ever said that once," Kutz said.
Ewing declined to share which agencies' directors had contacted her.
Asked why she'd canceled the interview with the B.A.R. last week, Kutz said, among other reasons, "Every experience I've had with you has been a witch-hunt."
Under One Roof will hold a public meeting at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 13 at AHF Pharmacy, 4071 18th Street. Discussion will include the Greater Depths plan and the Crocker deal.