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Upstart Mission des Flores Takes Over Excelsior’s Storied Fregosi Flower Store

Steve Rubenfaer, owner of Mission des Flores, inside the company’s Excelsior District location. EMMA MARIE CHIANG/INGLESIDE-EXCELSIOR LIGHT

Last July, the Mission District’s Mission des Flores flower shop opened in the J. Fregosi & Son florist space, located next to the Valente Marini Perata & Co. funeral home in the Excelsior.

“I want to honor the history of the space,” said florist, partner and production manager Sally Sparks. “We have people shopping here who have been coming here for 50 years.”

The Excelsior location, at 4834 Mission St., is the flower shop’s second storefront. Its first location opened on 2590 Folsom St. three years ago, and a small kiosk is opened in November on 20th and Valencia streets.

Fregosi & Sons opened in 1927, and catered largely to the neighboring funeral home. While Mission des Flores wants to continue and preserve much of Fregosi’s legacy, the full-service florist also attracts walk-in clients with its wide array of succulents, plants and make-your-own bouquet options. The Mission District shop features more flowers, while the Excelsior location includes far more large potted and hanging plants.

Many customers and clients said they didn’t even know there has always been a florist in that location, but the display of vivid blooms out front of Mission des Flores is hard to miss.

“People say, ‘It’s so nice to add color to the street,’” Sparks said.

The large shop, with its terra-cotta floors and large front windows, features expansive, greenery-filled tables and shelves of plants, flowers and potted succulent gardens. A large back room houses relics from the former tenants, including old floral wallpaper and a massive wooden walk-in refrigerator. The back room’s size was a huge plus for the owners and has become the center of production for the business.

“It’s kind of a tragic story,” owner Steve Rubenfaer said of the store’s beginnings. He bought the first business in the Mission as a silent partner with a friend who worked as a florist. His business partner took his own life not long after, and Rubenfaer, who had no experience in the flower business, ended up taking over day-to-day operations.

“I’m really trying to grow, and get a lot of market share in San Francisco,” he said.

After the busy holiday season ends, Sparks and other employees will finish setting up the front, with a pot-your-own succulent station, a gallery wall of historic framed photos from the store’s past and plans to offer up the front room for community events.

As a full-service florist, Mission des Flores offers a range of services. In addition to their retail store and sympathy arrangements, they also provide floral displays for events and weddings, and offer monthly bouquet subscriptions. Mission des Flores offers a partner plan at a low-cost to provide displays and bouquets for local businesses.

“We also sell flowers at about 35 markets around the city,” Rubenfaer said.

As for the large vintage Fregosi Flowers sign that projects from the building, Rubenfaer said there is a good chance it will remain, especially since getting a permit to construct a similar one would be virtually impossible today. They may incorporate the Mission des Flores name and logo, but want to pay tribute to the Excelsior staple, a piece of the neighborhood’s Italian-American history.

Mission des Flores is located at 4834 Mission St. between Russia and France. Open Mon. – Fri. 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sat. – Sun. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.missiondeflores.com.

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