Is it true? … Bullshirt is going out of business…. The owner has decided to retire… The new owners of the block are making it impossible to stay…. Bullshirt?? Bullsh*t!!
These sentiments, as well as dozens more, have featured as comments on social media since the first hint of Bullshirt’s closing was posted December 15th on Facebook. This announcement closely follows the news that neighboring store, Bay Books, is also scheduled to close. Residents are justifiably concerned with the ever-changing face of Coronado’s Orange Avenue and have responded with feelings ranging from nostalgia to outrage.
Bullshirt, which opened its doors at 1007 Orange Avenue in 1976 describes its place in the Coronado community and niche in the retail market as a provider of merchandise for the U.S. Navy SEALs:
“Since 1976, BULLSHIRT has specialized in providing high-quality merchandise for the U.S. Navy SEAL community. Over these many years (42) we have produced most of the BUD/S training Hellweek shirts and have them on full display in the store” ~ Bullshirt Website
In addition to service to the military community, Bullshirt is also known for its custom printing, responsible for thousands – if not tens of thousands – of names printed on sportswear for local Coronado teams over the years. As supportive community partners, they have loaned their prime storefront location to countless local organizations for bake sales and fundraisers. Right now, a portion of the store is dedicated to the holiday pop-up Mistletoe – featuring local ornaments and baked goods among other holiday-themed inventory.
The Bullshirt staff, while courteous and warm, have been decidedly tight-lipped about the pending closure. Despite many journalistic attempts to garner a quote over the past two days, the unilateral default response has been: “You need to talk to the owner.” Unfortunately, the owner is unavailable for comment until after Christmas, so speculations abound.
One of the most oft-occurring conclusions is that the rising cost of retail real estate in Coronado has pushed small businesses out. Images of gold-coin-counting Ebenezer Scrooge come to mind this time of year, followed by the requisite head-shaking in disapproval of perceived corporate greed.
But local resident and business owner of Blue Bridge Hospitality Group, David Spatafore, also contributes to the comments thread on Facebook, his with a perspective that is informed and practical:
“The internet, wages, and rent has virtually killed retail. Shopping malls are dying. Big retailers are dying. [Local businesses] are competing against Costco, Amazon, ebooks, subscriptions etc… at the same time, their costs continue to rise… Nothing gets cheaper from year to year for any business…. insurance, repairs, water, cost of goods, SDGE etc…. then add the rising minimum wage…. $12/hour in Jan… that is .20/minute! We are doing this to ourselves California/America!”
While the true reason Bullshirt has elected to close remains somewhat vague, a more heartening explanation has been that the owner, Donna Frese, has decided to retire. Gauging the positive demeanor of employees working there, this seems a hopeful ‘happy ending.’
Bullshirt is open daily from 9am-5pm. They will remain open until mid-January.