Skip to main content

Popular San Francisco herb shop to close after 29 years

A storefront is seen along a sidewalk, with a person looking at a sign hanging above.
The Scarlet Sage Herb Co. is closing due to low foot traffic in the wake of Covid. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

A Fillmore Street herb and wellness shop will permanently shut its doors at the end of February.

Owner Laura Ash told The Standard on Friday that the the Scarlet Sage Herb Co. had been struggling from declining foot traffic, poor sales and lack of support from the city.

“It’s a perfect storm,” Ash said.

The news of the closure was first reported by Broke-Ass Stuart after Ash announced it on Instagram Tuesday.

Opened by Lisa Kellman and Dino Lucas in 1995, the store became known for its focus on wellness, holistic medicine and witchery. Think tarot cards, healing crystals and sacred talismans. Ash, who took over the business in 2015, said vitamin supplements, herbal teas and crystals were especially popular. 

A shelf full of dried tea leaves is shown on sale for 20% off as a staff member and a customer stand nearby,
The Scarlet Sage Herb Co. was having a 20% off closing sale when The Standard visited Friday. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

After a 28-year run on Valencia Street, the store moved to its new location at 1903 Fillmore St. earlier this summer as rents in the Mission became unaffordable, Ash said. Like other small businesses, Scarlet Sage struggled to regain its customer base after the closures of the pandemic.

Low foot traffic, a spike in shoplifting and a shooting incident in September 2022 all contributed to Ash’s decision to leave the storefront on Valencia Street after an 18-year run.

After a pricey build-out, Scarlet Sage opened its doors on Fillmore Street in July.

But since the move, sales have dropped by 60%, Ash said. Though the rent has been cheaper at the new location, Ash has seen her core customer base dwindle. She blamed declining foot traffic after Covid and growing competition from e-commerce giants like Amazon.

“The city is empty, and people aren’t supporting small businesses anymore,” Ash said.  

A shop contains shelves of dried tea leaves, vitamin supplements and other products.
The Scarlet Sage Herb Co. is closing on Feb. 29 after nearly three decades in business. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

She added that she was unable to qualify for a local grant or a business loan to help keep her business afloat. 

“I tried to get aid from every city department I could think of, but my only option was to take out a loan on a personal line of credit,” Ash said.

A spokesperson for the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development said the office has no record of Ash applying for any of the small business grants offered by the city.

But she confirmed that Ash had applied for a loan through a Community Development Financial Institutions fund but said her shop did not qualify because the loan was specifically for entrepreneurs establishing or expanding businesses rather than moving to a different location.

A shelf contains essential oils and vitamin supplements.
Herbal supplements, skin care products and herbal teas are among the most popular products at the Scarlet Sage Herb Co., the owner said. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

“We empathize deeply with the challenges faced by businesses, particularly amidst the global shift in consumer behavior impacting San Francisco and beyond,” the Office of Economic and Workforce Development said in a statement. “While our city offers resources, these resources may not ensure a business’ long-term success.”

Ash said she put the store up for sale in November but was unable to find a buyer.

“In the end, I ran out of money, and my only option was to close,” she said.

Ash said she’s also struggled to comply with permitting requirements. Last September, she received a cease-and-desist letter from the health department for selling bulk dried herbs, which officials said required a food permit. Ash said that would have tacked tens of thousands of dollars onto her costs.

The requirement was later removed, as Ash was able to secure a temporary permit that allowed her to continue selling bulk dried herbs.

“None of it really matters, though, since I’m closing at the end of the month,” she said. “It’s a lot of grief. We were a big community hub.”

More information on financial resources can be found on the Office of Small Business website. Additional information for grant opportunities, such as Storefront Opportunity Grants, can be found here

Garrett Leahy can be reached at