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Nordstrom closes San Francisco store on grim note amid naked mannequins, empty display cases

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 26: A sign is posted outside of Nordstrom's flagship store at the San Francisco Centre on August 26, 2023 in San Francisco, California. Nordstrom will close its flagship store this Sunday after more than three decades at the San Francisco Centre. The Covid pandemic and rising crime in the area has contributed to a 25 percent sales decline at the mall and stores in the surrounding area. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Nordstrom's flagship store at the San Francisco Centre mall has closed its doors. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Nordstrom’s San Francisco flagship, which for decades occupied crucial real estate at the San Francisco Centre mall on Market Street, closed its doors Sunday.

The last days of the high-end store known for its shoes and its service were grim; ABC7 on a recent visit captured images of empty display cases and stacks of naked mannequins and interviewed an employee — whose worn black sneakers were the only part of him in the shot to protect his identity — speaking darkly about crime in the city’s once-vibrant shopping district.

During the store’s last hours on Sunday afternoon, the pattern appeared to break. An employee answering the phone said they were too busy with customers to talk.

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Read more: Is there a retail exodus in San Francisco? Some say Union Square is 'beating strong'

The store’s closing has prompted yet another round of hand-wringing about the future of downtown San Francisco. Since the pandemic sent tech workers home by the thousands, with some never to return, foot traffic in the area has plummeted. Stores have closed in droves. The retail vacancy rate in the city was 6% in the first quarter of 2023, the highest in the city since 2006, according to data from Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate services firm.

In announcing the closure of Nordstrom this spring, Jamie Nordstrom, the company’s chief stores officer, said “the dynamics of the downtown San Francisco market have changed dramatically over the past several years, impacting customer foot traffic to our stores and our ability to operate successfully.”

But critics of San Francisco’s political leaders have jumped on the closure as yet another result of the city’s progressive Democratic leadership.

Incidentally, the headquarters of X are just a few blocks west of the now-shuttered Nordstrom, and Chief Executive Elon Musk recently tweeted that he planned to stay. He took a dig at the city in making the announcement, though.

“The city is in a doom spiral, with one company after another left or leaving,” he said. “We will not. … San Francisco, beautiful San Francisco, though others forsake you, we will always be your friend.”

Read more: Elon Musk blocks James Woods on X after the actor criticized his move to end blocking

Though San Francisco’s mayor, London Breed, has frequently been at odds with Musk in recent months, on this she expressed a similar sentiment.

After Nordstrom announced its closure in May, Breed held a news conference in Union Square to announce funding to revitalize some streets in the area.

Earlier this month, she also announced that the city was studying the idea of turning the struggling mall that Nordstrom is abandoning into a soccer stadium.

“We know we need to combat the issues around crime and public safety and affordability and transportation," Breed told the San Francisco Chronicle. "But I am optimistic about the future, because what we are seeing in San Francisco is something like nothing else before. We have the possibility to be whatever we want to be.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.