The story about Gump’s began modestly in 1861. Founded by two brothers, Salomon and Gustave Gump, the iconic store initially sold picture frames and mirrors.
In time, Gump’s grew into a luxury retailer. The store became famous for selling home furnishings and home décor, jewelry, precious gemstones, cultured freshwater pearls, luxury goods imported from Asia, and designer brands such as Hermès and Buccellati.
But more importantly, Gump’s became a beloved San Francisco tradition and landmark. The store was a go-to location for unique and exotic gifts for many San Francisco locals and tourists.
Speaking of tradition, Gump’s was among the Union Square stores that traditionally decorated their windows for the holiday season. The famous Gump’s windows also often included kittens put up for adoption, and drew some of the largest crowds.
“The city waits for Gump’s Christmas windows each season the way it waits for S.F. Ballet’s Nutcracker,’” a chronicle columnist Herb Caen wrote in a 1966 column. When Gump’s unfortunately filed for bankruptcy and closed in 2018, the news left a gap in the San Francisco’s local tradition, but also, in the hearts of those who loved the store.
To the delight of San Francisco locals and tourists, the Gump’s new owners, John and Anne Chachas, will reopen the store at 250 Post St. in Union Square. New Gump’s is at the same spot it had occupied for most of its lifetime from 1909 to 1994. The retailer found its home there following the historical earthquake and fire that devastated San Francisco in 1906.
Gump’s Plans for the Future
The Chachas family comes from New York and they plan to keep the store open during the holidays. According to the Chachas, Gump’s could be there longer, depending on the family assessment of holiday sales.
Gump’s stay also depends on how the store will cope with the changing life in San Francisco. High rents, a retail labor shortage, and concerns about the crime in the city have a great impact on the Chachas’ plans for the retail store.
“Gump’s is such a whimsical, elegant, old-school store with a rich San Francisco history, and we’re ecstatic to bring it back,” Annie Chachas, Gump’s executive vice president and daughter of John Chachas, the chief executive said. “We promise the same service and sophistication that Gump’s was known for.”
While the new Gump’s is in its former longtime home, the store now measures 2,000 square feet, which is smaller than the old three-level space. “The exciting thing is to have it back in our building,” Antoinette Gump, a descendant of the company’s founder said.
As always, Gump’s will sell what the luxury retailer has always been known for: jewelry, finely crafted ornaments, tableware, linens, apparel and furniture. As for the famous Buddha statue that used to watch over shoppers for decades — it will no longer be there.
The famous statue was given to John Chachas in a previous purchase of Gump’s from Hanover Direct. Mr. Chachas sold the Buddha at Christie’s auction in Hong Kong as an “important and monumental” piece of religious statuary, the largest of its type.
While there is also a 3-D replica of the famous Gump’s Buddha, there won’t be room for it in the smaller space. However, the new shop won’t be missing its traditionally rich holiday spirit and elaborately decorated windows that lured so many people for a century and a half.
“There will always be a customer for Gump’s provided Gump’s begins to realize who that customer actually is,” Helen Bulwik, a retail consultant in Oakland, said. According to Bulwik, Gump’s customer base is in San Francisco, an affluent city, and “they’re in their 30s and 40s with expendable income.”
Although excited about the temporary store, John Chachas still has concerns about the state in retail in San Francisco. According to him, uncleanliness, homelessness and crime are the main reasons for his hesitation in signing a longer-term lease.
“I’m happy we’re coming back to San Francisco but we’ll decide where to go for a permanent home after the holiday season,” Chachas said.
But for the loyal shoppers, the news about the store reopening is a reason to celebrate. “I’ll be the first one in line,” Susan Stauter, a San Francisco resident and retired artistic director at San Francisco Unified School District, said. “I spent a lot of time at the store because it was such a wonderful place to be. For me it was an alternative universe, the Buddha, the ambiance, the people and the environment — all of it was charming,” she concluded.
For others, the news of Gump’s return is a reason to make a trip to San Francisco. “I hope to see a little bit of the old Gump’s in the new Gump’s. That’s why we shopped there, it evoked a beautiful feeling every single time,” Christine Suppes from Palo Alto, an author and fashionista said.
The grand opening of Gump’s is scheduled for October 16. The same day its website will also reopen for business, offering a wider selection of the products than what’s in the store.