Displaced legacy business finds new home, will reopen
Carlos and Rubie Navarro—owners of Navarro’s Martial Arts Academy—were forced from their 3470 Mission Street location, following a legal battle with their landlord, which began in 2015, but they have found a new home at 960 Geneva Avenue.
The Navarros were pressured to leave the space when their monthly rent increased from $1,800 to $6,500, and later served an eviction notice when they requested some repairs be made. The eviction was eventually blocked because of a technical defect found in the “notice to terminate,” but the Navarros decided to leave anyway, because as their attorney Salvatore Timpano put it, “If we won, we would be winning a bad relationship.”
“We turned over the keys [to our Mission Street location] on Dec. 31,” said Rubie, whose father Carlos Navarro has owned Navarro’s Martial Arts Academy for more than 50 years (44 of them at the Mission Street location).
One of the reasons the Navarros were able to find a new location is because in December of 2016 their business was admitted to San Francisco’s Legacy Business Registry, which recognizes small business and nonprofits as historic assets. Three hundred businesses and nonprofits can be added to the list each year. Because of its legacy status, Navarro’s is now eligible to receive the Legacy Business Preservation Fund, a grant program established by the Board of Supervisors, which incentivizes landlords to rent to legacy businesses.
The San Francisco Small Business Development Center (SBDC) was instrumental in helping the Navarros move. A program of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, SBDC helps small businesses facing displacement around the city, according to director Angel Cardos. The program works with the Legacy Business Program Team and the Retention and Relocation Program.
Even after relocating, the Navarros are facing a civil lawsuit brought against them by the Escalade Capital Group (the owner of their old Mission Street location), which is seeking attorney fees, real estate fees, and lost rent from new tenants that is estimated at a total of $200,000.
“If we can help them stay, then we do that,” said Cardos, regarding lease negotiation for businesses like Navarro’s. “A consultant helps them [to negotiate] to stay. If they can’t stay because of [for example] rent, then we have a real estate and brokerage service to help.”
The Navarros were provided business technical assistance services to strengthen their marketing, and financing to help them cover their leases and expand.
Rubie also said that she and her father are working with a financial planner. At their Mission Street location, monthly rates for students were $79, and at times they have offered discounts to low-income students. Rubie has insisted that there be no dramatic increase in pricing, seeking to keep rates as low as possible.
“She [Rubie] and Carlos are such good people,” said Cardos. “They’re so involved in the community.”
The community that the Navarros have built has remained strong despite the struggles of being displaced. Students have kept in contact with Rubie and sought her out for classes even while they did not have a proper place to train.
“I’ve been teaching them [students] in parks, garages, people’s homes,” said Rubie. “My friend has been very generous to let me borrow her garage…The support of the community and these changes [referring to relocation] will allow us to keep moving forward.”
The Navarros are currently remodeling the new 960 Geneva Ave. location. Construction is expected to be complete in late May or early June, and classes will resume shortly after that.