Inner Sunset Korean superette wunderkind Queens will close its innovative shop on July 1. The business posted to its Instagram that the retail shop and cafe will close, but owners Clara and Eddo Lee launched a WeFunder campaign to assist in a pivot toward online sales; the entrepreneurs are looking for $120,000 to expand the Queens brand and offerings. “We’re super excited about this next chapter,” the post reads. “And ready, more than ever, to do whatever it takes to make Queens a brand deeply committed to bringing good to people and the planet.”
The pivot from shop to brand is further detailed in the small company’s WeFunder post. COVID’s impacts were enormous on the business, the owners write, but they felt they survived those challenges with panache. Instead, certain realizations hit the owners in ways they didn’t anticipate; a staffer pointed out that importing so many Korean goods, such as mega-popular Fritz Coffee, took a heavy toll on the planet. “It changed the way we began to look at the products on our shelves facing customers,” the post reads. Now, the Lees say they want to be the first Korean American food brand to develop pantry products from local ingredients with zero-waste packaging.
The Instagram post also points to the owners’ interest in growing their food products and ingredients, including gochugaru and sesame oil. On top of making their own products, Queens always sold ready-made food including bibimbap and seaweed salad in addition to hot food. The couples’ jungwha restaurant Hotline never found its footing and closed after just five months in October 2022. With this news and new direction, Queens might be able to stay in San Franciscans’ hearts more sustainably than ever. “We wanted to combine the education component by introducing ingredients and recipes to the community,” Kim told the Sunset Beacon in 2019, “as well as serve awesome food.”