Monday, April 18, 2016

Always Something New to Learn: Meet David Netzer of The Wine House

David Netzer of The Wine House in Dogpatch loves wine and passes along his passion to customers. 
The area known as SoDoPa (south of Dogpatch and not to be confused with DoReMi) is quickly becoming a bustling corridor along 26th Street with ShopFloor Design and Harmonic Brewing as anchors off of Minnesota and The Wine House off of Third Street.

The Wine House might be a newcomer to Dogpatch but the company has been in San Francisco for almost 40 years.  The Wine House sells direct to consumers and also has a thriving distribution business.  The company started as a French importer with a focus on Bordeaux but has widened its focus through the years to include wines from Italy, Germany, Austria, South Africa, California and more.  Today the company enjoys a reputation as a place where the staff is knowledgeable and friendly and the wine selection is highly curated.

Tell us about The Wine House

I became president of The Wine House in 2009 but I joined the company in 1984.  John Carpenter started the company in 1977.  He grew up in Maryland but taught history in France -- in the Bordeaux region  He caught the wine bug when he was there and started the Wine House when he returned to the U.S.  He offered a small group of investors wine at cost if they invested and it is still the same small group that owns the company today along with myself.  John isn't active day-to-day in the company now.  We have a staff of four and most of them have been with me ten years or more.

John was one of the pioneers in focusing on Bordeaux and on grower champagne long before it was popular to do so. Grower champagne is produced by the farmers who grow the grapes -- not a big luxury consumer company who owns a champagne producer.  That is anything but artisan.  The goal of the luxury champagne producers is for every bottle to taste the same.  Someone sees an orange label and they know what to expect every time.
The Wine House team really knows wine.   Right to left: Anya Balistreri, David Netzer and Peter Zavialoff 
In contrast, we want to work with small producers, with the farmers.  Producers like Pierre Gimonnet and Pascal Doquet.  We work with people we like.

We have lots of wine from some very obscure places.  But we aren't stuffy wine people.  When you come in to our shop we don't ask you how much you want to spend but instead, we ask what you are serving it with.  We don't take ourselves too seriously.  We are here for the wine lovers and the foodies because that is who we are as well.  We recommend what we would want to have.

Why do you do what you do?

I adore wine.  It really is a miracle that you can grow grapes and get something amazing like wine from them.  I love the conviviality of the wine and the miracle of it existing.

It's something that I've never gotten tired of learning about.

I also grew up in Maryland -- in the D.C. area.  It was a very aware place to grow up and it was also a very diverse place.  I studied music composition and piano at the University of Maryland.

I had my wine epiphany at a restaurant with a 1973 Red Burgundy that I still remember to this day. I had never tasted anything like it.  I started studying wine and reading everything I could about it.  I read all the book by the master of wine, Michael Broadbent

I went to every retailer who had a tasting room and went back time after time.  Many of the owners got sick of me showing up but some answered my questions and mentored me.  I developed my wine palate with the classics -- Bordeaux, German Riesling, Burgundy -- there were no California wines in our area at that time.  Every bit of my disposable income went to wine and books and I even started a tiny cellar in my parent's basement.

My girlfriend wanted to go to business school in California so we moved together to Albany in 1983. I had decided I wanted to focus on the retail side of the wine business and not the wholesale side because I thought I would learn more.  When I got to California I went to every fine wine retailer in San Francisco but didn't have any luck landing a job.  But I did however meet John Carpenter of the Wine House but he wasn't hiring.

So, I ended up at Liquor Barn in Albany.  Not quite my dream job but the wine buyer there took me under her wing and brought me to tastings and introduced me to the right people in the wine industry. John  offered me a job two months after I started at Liquor Barn but I turned him down -- I felt bad leaving so soon.  But after a few more months they cut my hours and luckily John called again and this time I took the job.  The job at The Wine House was only my second job in the wine industry and I'm still here and still learning.

Why Dogpatch?

John opened The Wine House in a 3300 square foot space on Bryant in SOMA in 1977 which then was simply called, South of Market.  He was there for 22 years until we were pushed out by the dot-com boom.  Our landlord was a great guy but our lease was month-to-month and he told us to take our time but that we needed to find another space so he could accept the lease of a dot-com for our space. 

We found a 7200 square foot space in Potrero Hill and moved but unfortunately the company that wanted our Bryant space backed out of the deal and that space sat vacant for three years.  That dot-com is long gone.  Well, we were in Potrero Hill for 14 years and again our landlord was a great guy but we had a month-to-month lease.  The San Francisco market got hot again and the landlord wanted to build condos on that land so we were once again looking for a home. 

We told our real estate agent we wanted to stay in this general area so we never really looked anywhere else.  We love the feel of this area and already knew several of the shops like Piccino Restaurant who we sell wine to, Olivier's Butchery and Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous ice cream shop. There are so many hidden gems in this neighborhood just like in Potrero Hill.  We loved 22nd Street but at first worried that this location on 26th Street was too far south but we saw that Bayview was just exploding with cool new spots so grabbed this location.  Each move has taken us further south and I joke that we will soon be on a barge out in the Bay!

But the good news is now we have a ten year lease and 11,000 square feet which is perfect for our retail and distribution spaces.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?

Well, only my lack of talent keeps me from my goal of being the second baseman for the SF Giants. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Pick. Bottle. Enjoy: Meet Carl Sutton of Sutton Cellars

Sharon and Carl Sutton of Sutton Cellars at the winery in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco, CA. 
It's the laugh that most people hear first.  That slightly maniacal, yet full of glee hoot that makes you wonder exactly what is going on in the warehouse space at the corner of 22nd and Illinois.  But don't let the trademark laugh of Carl Sutton of Sutton Cellars fool you into thinking that he doesn't take winemaking seriously. Underneath that laid back demeanor is a great intensity which comes out in full force when asked about his wine.

Sutton Cellar's offerings include cider, a house red, rose and a digestif wine.  But their most popular offering might just be their Dry Vermouth which is the basis for the very refreshing Sutton & Soda -- vermouth with a splash of seltzer and a grapefruit twist.

His tasting room, which is located in the American Industrial Center (AIC) looks like a winery but it also feels like it might be your living room or at least one furnished in slightly shabby yet chic couches, chairs and tables.  And that is the vibe Sutton and his wife and business partner Sharon Sutton have worked hard to create.  There is a definite sense that you are welcome to hang out and drink wine as long as you want but if you want to learn about the wine you are drinking then just ask and an education will be had.

Sharon, who joined us at the end of our interview with Carl, is in charge of quality control at Sutton Cellars -- she makes certain anything with their name on it is a quality product.  The couple met in 2001 and married in 2004.  Her position as a senior design manager for Old Navy's international franchise operations has her traveling 2-3 weeks each month so her time at the winery is limited. Her business travel and her travels with Carl inspired many of the products they produce -- their trip to Italy inspired their vermouth product; the rose and their digestif were inspired by travels to France and their house red by a trip to Milan.

Carl Sutton puts the finishing touches on the Sutton & Soda made with Sutton Cellars' dry vermouth. 

Here is our interview with Carl:

Why do you do what you do?
Well, I generally answer that question by saying that I'm unemployable elsewhere.  But the truth is that I find winemaking very fulfilling -- I'm still discovering how you can take grapes and have something delicious come out of the winemaking process.  That's still a big accomplishment to me.

I grew up in a town in Monterey County -- outside of Salinas -- where the only culture is agriculture. San Francisco of course was the Big City and once I had a car, I spent all my time in SF.  I knew I wanted to live here someday.  My high school teachers inspired me to pursue my love of creating art and I spent more than three years at Sonoma State studying fine art and photography.  But it was when I interned at a winery during one summer that I knew I had to switch gears.  I loved the work.  I did everything at the winery -- vineyard work, winery work, tasting room.

I went back to school at Santa Rosa Junior College and earned a certificate after four years there in vineyard management and wine marketing.  I learned so much there -- their Schone Farm has more than 100 acres of experimental and commercial vineyards.  While I was in school I also received even more hands-on experience by working at various wineries including DeLoach Vineyards and Cline Cellars.

I became a pretty serious home winemaker and I like to say that it got a bit out-of-hand as it started to take all my time and resources.  So in 1996 I started Sutton Cellars.  By 1996 I felt that I knew the nuts and bolts of winemaking and I knew that if I kept working for other wineries I would never be able to make a wine that was totally my vision of what I thought it should be.

My vision, which was really unusual in 1996, was to make wines with very little intervention -- no yeast, unfiltered, no preservatives.  Basically:  Pick. Bottle. Enjoy.  Oh, and don't mess it up!  I wanted to make wine that tasted like the grapes.

And I felt it was important to sell direct to the customer so I could explain to them that they should treat wine like they treat milk.  They should enjoy it right away because it is alive and won't keep. But of course my intentions don't mean shit if customers don't like the wine. So my end goal is to have people enjoy the wine while I educate them.

Why Dogpatch?
I feel like Dogpatch chose me, I didn't choose it and I'm so glad it did!  I had been living in San Francisco since 2002 but commuting to Sonoma to make the wine.  About seven years ago I started talking to Dave McLean (Smokestack) and Scott Youkilis (Hogs and Rocks) about coming together to do a project in San Francisco that was a winery/BBQ/brewery all under one roof.  We wanted a destination place.  We looked in a lot of places including SOMA and Bayview.

Michael Recchiuti (Recchiuti Confections) and Erin Rooney (Serpentine Restaurant) --  who both have their businesses in the American Industrial Center in Dogpatch -- encouraged me to talk to Greg Markoulis, one of the owners of the AIC.   Greg suggested a smaller place for just my winery and as soon as I saw this space I knew this was it.  It was a beautiful space -- the light was streaming in from the windows and it had a huge roll up door.  I decided then and there that I would take this space for my winery until the plan with McLean and Youkilis came together.  That venture didn't end up happening although I do a lot of joint events now with Smokestack.

I finally opened in December 2010.  We really feel like we opened in Dogpatch before the neighborhood started to change.  I felt like if I got in to the neighborhood and hung on through all the changes good things would happen and they have.  It feels like everything is happening on the 22nd Street corridor.  Mark Dwight (Rickshaw Bagworks on 22nd Street) and I decided that we are the bookends of 22nd Street.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
I would most certainly be driving a forklift at Costco.  No, this is it for me! Sharon and I would like to see more of the world - not as an observer but as a participant -- to merge wine and travel together. One idea we have is to lease space from wineries in different countries and produce a local vermouth from their local wine and brandy.  I want to continue to take an agricultural product and turn it into an amazing beverage.  Really, it's no different than making ketchup.
The Menu Board at Sutton Cellars is headlined by their famous Dry Vermouth.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

An Art Gallery that is Open and Thriving in SF: Meet Theodora Mauro of Ampersand International Arts

Theodora Mauro of Ampersand International Arts in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood in the gallery with her dog Yoko.
We had seen the art postcards next to the dog treats at Piccino Coffee Bar but our attempts to visit the art gallery on Tennessee Street with the unusual name of Ampersand International Arts were met with a "now closed" sign.  Just when exactly was this gallery opened we wondered.  It took awhile but finally one day a sandwich sign out front proclaimed that the gallery was open.  Up the steep wooden stairs and into a sparse room with floor to ceiling loft windows we went.  That day we met curator and owner Theodora (Thea) Mauro and was introduced to two contemporary artists whose many works were adorned with quite a few "sold" stickers.

Turns out the gallery is in a Live/Work building and the Live part of the building is occupied by Mauro's extended family and the Work part of the building is the gallery and a custom drapery business owned by her mother.  Since the family lives in the building, the gallery has limited hours that it can be opened to the public.  Mauro informed us that the gallery was the first art gallery in Dogpatch.

After our visit we reached out to Mauro to find out more about her and the history of the gallery. Dogpatch is quickly becoming an arts destination with the excellent Museum of Craft and Design calling the neighborhood home since 2013 and the soon to open Minnesota Street Project bringing numerous artists to the neighborhood.  We wanted to hear more about this pioneering gallery and its owner.

The rainy day we met with Thea we were greeted at the gallery door by the barking of her dog Yoko -- an adorable mix who promptly jumped in my lap and briefly settled in before she was off to see what that photographer was up to.
Art by Brian Perrin and Melissa Miller at Ampersand Gallery.

Why do you do what you do?

Well, it's a lot of fun and I love it.  I so appreciate the artists and love making a connection with them in order to get their work out into the world.  I'm not an artist but a curator although I like to call myself an art enthusiast.  Everyone has a different response to the art they see in the gallery.  I love it if the piece can make them think and they then develop their own relationship with the artwork and the artist.

My grandmother bought this building in the 1980s for her custom drapery business, MaisonTenn20 . My mother worked in the business with her and the business is still going strong today.  My sister now works in the business as well.

My father, Bruno Mauro, was originally from France and my mother from the middle east.  He came to the U.S. to study art and he worked in several galleries before he opened this gallery in 1999.

I'm so fortunate to have been brought up in the gallery world.  My siblings and I were gallery kids. My sister and my brother and I would often help out at openings with the food and cleaning up.

We lived in the Richmond neighborhood but in the mid-1990s we added a floor to this building to create a Live/Work space and we moved to Dogpatch to live.  I was in middle school when we moved here.

I studied in California and in Paris. When I returned to the U.S. I went to work at the restaurant Jardiniere in Hayes Valley where I stayed for about five years. I did many jobs there with one of them being front of the house which helped me learn how to engage with the public which has been a big help in the gallery business!

My father passed away in 2012.  The last show at the gallery before he died was in 2011.  Before he passed away he asked me to consider running the gallery.  He believed in me and he knew I could do it.  I had actually already curated a show at the gallery with several of my friends in 2009 and we eventually curated three shows.  We called ourselves the Young Ampersands.  Even so I wasn't ready to take on the running of the gallery without my father.
Theodora Mauro of Ampersand International Arts with artwork from Brian Perrin.

But in 2014 a light bulb went on and I left Jardiniere to reopen the gallery.  My light bulb moment was realizing that so many galleries were having to close in San Francisco because high rents were forcing them out of the area.  Ampersand didn't have to be one of those galleries.  I had the space and the knowledge to keep it open.  I also wanted to offer a space to other curators to show the work of the artists they represented since so many of the spaces they used were now gone.

I've keep the focus similar to what my father envisioned -- we feature conceptual art as well as more commercial art.  Often the conceptual art is more about the story behind the piece than the actual piece itself.  The public might not get the chance to see that type of work anywhere else.  I like to also focus on many mediums -- not just one style.

Now that so many galleries are calling Dogpatch home, it would be great to have a regular event for the public similar to the First Thursday that takes place among Downtown SF galleries.

We are limited by the hours we can be open but I hope to eventually work with other artists and curators in other galleries.  And as the name of the gallery indicates, we feature local artists but we also extend our reach internationally and hope to do more of that.

Currently I don't do any fund raising to support the gallery.  We rely on the commissions from each show to keep us going.  I also have other part time jobs as time allows.

Tell us more about growing up in Dogpatch

Well thank goodness for the 22 bus because when we moved here in the 1990s there wasn't much here!  No T-line and not many shops.  My siblings and I were not allowed to even go from our house to 22nd street by ourselves.  But it was a true neighborhood in the sense that we got to know all of our neighbors and still do.

In the early days of the gallery if someone came to the gallery it was because they truly wanted to be here -- we were certainly off the beaten path of the art scene in San Francisco! Once they were done there was no place else for us to tell them to visit in the neighborhood.

Now of course there are so many things to do here.  I love the Museum of Craft and Design, Workshop Residence and all the restaurants and shops.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?

I would probably still be at Jardiniere!  It was a lot of fun and the people were wonderful and the food amazing.  But I would most likely be in the art world in some way -- either working in a gallery or a museum.

But Ampersand is where I want to be and need to be.  I'm not a political person, that's just not me, but I feel keeping the gallery open is my response to other galleries being pushed out.

Note:  Ampersand International Arts is located at 1001 Tennessee Street.  The gallery is open Thursday & Friday noon-5pm and by appointment.  Their current show is open until February 19 and features the artists Brian Perrin and Melissa Miller.

Roses at Ampersand International Arts in San Francisco's Dogpatch

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Art + Function: Meet David and Christina Whippen of ShopFloor Design

ShopFloor Design focuses on custom metalwork, fine art sculpture, metal fabrication and machining. Here are owners Christina and David Whippen sitting with their Modular Side Table and Modular Cabinet.
Although the look of the Dogpatch neighborhood has changed tremendously over the past few years, it is still home to many artists and craftsmen.  Finding out how to stay in the neighborhood calls for a long term vision and the willingness to adapt to changing market conditions.

ShopFloor Design is one such business that has figured out how to create and thrive not just for their own business, but also for local designers as well.

Located in SoDoPa (south of the Dogpatch!) at 26th and Minnesota, the ShopFloor building is home to just opened (and already much visited) Harmonic Brewing as well as other designers and artists.

Founded by David Whippen seven years ago and expanded by David and his wife Christina over the past two years, ShopFloor Design focuses on custom metalwork, fine art sculpture, metal fabrication and machining.

Why do you do what you do?

I can't imagine doing anything else.  I like the idea of using my fine art background in a practical way.  I moved to San Francisco from New York to attend grad school in 2004 -- I received my MFA from the Academy of Art in sculpture.  I love working with metal and the precise nature of machined parts. I was initially inspired by my grandfather who started a machine tool shop after WWII.  After grad school I worked on several public art projects in Tomales Bay and commuted to my home in SF.
I enjoyed working on the projects but became focused on finding a way to work closer to home.  It was also becoming obvious that many of the artists I had graduated with were having a terrible time finding and keeping studio space.  They needed a spot they could rely on to be there long term and a landlord that wouldn't charge them huge fees to use the machines.  When I found this building I knew I could have my own studio as well as be a resource for my fellow artists.  I own all the equipment and charge a flat fee to other artists to use the machines.

This business is a good mix of my creative nature with my sales and marketing side.  I started my professional career at Google in marketing and sales but left to pursue my passion for pastry.  I graduated from the pastry program at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa and together with another pastry chef opened a pastry catering company called Bicyclette.  I actually had a commercial space across the street from ShopFloor.  I bring my creative skills to the design part of our business but also my precise pastry nature to sales and marketing.

Right now we design and manufacture custom furniture and design pieces and sell them primarily to architects and designers. We are refocusing our company to also sell direct to the consumer.
Michael Walsh sands a table at Shopfloor in Dogpatch.

Why Dogpatch?

Even seven years ago there were few places available to rent for a commercial machine shop. We were fortunate to find a landlord who is fair yet business minded.  It is a family owned business and they are in it for the future so they weren't opposed to giving us a long lease.  Our business fit the current zoning and usage for this neighborhood so the city gave us the go ahead.

We love the neighbors -- it feels like a small town within the large city.  We even sometimes lend tools to our neighbors or produce small jobs for them on the machines.

I had a vision for a space with large windows that would showcase the industrial space within.  I had seen a similar space years ago on the East Coast.  I wanted a showroom that would showcase how these pieces were made right here and by me.

We started to renovate the rest of our space several years ago with this vision in mind.  We did a lot of the work ourselves.  I wanted the space to look old and established, like it had been here a very long time.

The result is our showroom just for our custom furniture designs.  We had originally planned to put a commercial kitchen space that could be rented in the other part of the large space but when Christina decided to join the company we decided we wanted a different type of a business there like a distillery or brewery.  We are very pleased that Harmonic Brewing is in that space now.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?

I'm already doing what I love, where I want to do it with people I enjoy working with.  But if I had to pick something else I might do well as an architect.

I've already sampled enough careers and I'm very pleased with what I have ordered this time!
Shopfloor Design's Christina and David Whippen at their Weldsafe Platen Table in their shop in Dogpatch.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Harmonic Convergence: Meet the Craftsmen Behind Harmonic Brewing

The founders of Harmonic Brewing in their new brewery and tasting room are (l to r) Eric Tisch, Jon Verna and Eddie Gobbo.
Harmonic Brewing.  The name alone makes one feel calm and ready for a brew.  And so does the sleek, industrial yet modern space with its gray painted walls and sleek table tops.  The 5,000 square foot space carved out of a larger warehouse space includes a brewery visible to the public, a small tap room and seating with office space overlooking the entire operation.  The site of a former nut factory, Harmonic Brewing subleases this part of the warehouse from ShopFloor Design, a metalworking shop that designs high-end furniture and sculptures. 

With the arrival of The Wine House down the road and all the new businesses planned for the area around 26th and Minnesota, it seems that this area of Dogpatch needs its own designation, maybe -- SoDoPa -- Southern Dogpatch. 

Eddie Gobbo, Jon Verna and Eric Tisch -- partners in Harmonic Brewing would prefer BrewPatch but we will let the denizens of Dogpatch decide.

The small, privately funded brewery hopes to ramp up production to 1,000-2,000 barrels and will sell to local SF bars like the Dogpatch Saloon.   They will have six to seven beers to start and consistently on tap.  They also hope to offer seasonal offerings and special brews as the inspiration strikes them. 

Although the brewery will not offer food for sale, the partners hope to have food trucks onsite as well as bring in soft baked pretzels from The Salt Point Pretzel Company. And of course with a name like Harmonic, live music is a possibility in the future.  

Gobbo and Verna met long ago when they both lived on the East Coast then reconnected when they moved to California.  Tisch and Verna met through their online marketing careers.  All shared a common interest in home brewing.  And all three partners kicked off the dust of their corporate lives to form Harmonic Brewing.  

With the smell of grape nuts in the air, we sat down with the partners and sipped their flagship Rye Old Fashioned Pale -- a nod to the classic American cocktail.
Harmonic Brewing Co-Founders Eddie Gobbo and Jon Verna at the Harmonic Brewing tasting room in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA.

Why do you do what you do?

EG:  I'm a chemical engineer and scaling home brew to major production was very similar to my previous career of scaling drug processes from lab to production.  I love the science aspect of the work -- to tinker with the recipes and see what works and what doesn't work.  And then the creative aspect of creating something and sharing it with customers and to get that feedback whether good or bad.  I want this to be a place where people want to come again and again -- to make it their hang out. I want it to be like the old school places in San Francisco that we used to go to when we first came to SF and that we feel are now disappearing.  We know we have to earn that and we are up for it!

JV:  It feels so great to be making a tangible product versus working on spreadsheets and being in client meetings and chained to a desk.  I love interacting with people who care about the product we are making.

ET:  This is strictly a passion project for me.  It is what I always enjoyed doing when I wasn't working so the opportunity to turn this into my career was a no-brainer for me.  I feel so fortunate that a hobby has translated into a career.

Why Dogpatch?

JV:  This neighborhood is the perfect vibe for us.  It's industrial but it is also a real neighborhood. We love how neighbors have stopped by while we were under construction to wish us well and to welcome us to Dogpatch. Everyone is so friendly and wants us to succeed.  It is perfect for us.
Eddie did a pub crawl here with his wife and had a chance to explore the neighborhood.  We looked for more than eight months for a place for Harmonic and we were getting discouraged.  We finally saw a listing on Craigslist from ShopFloor Design and the way the listing was worded, it almost seemed liked they were looking for a tenant like us to share space with.  We signed our lease in November 2015.
Harmonic Brewing Co-Founder Eric Tisch oversees the process at the brewery in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA.
What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?

EG:  Make my living as a musician -- form a band and play bass.

JV:  I would be a music promoter like Bill Graham which is what I originally came to California to do!

ET:  This is the only thing that I want to be doing -- this is it, no other option!

Why did you decide on the name Harmonic Brewing? 

Well, we are all music lovers so the name reflects that but it also refers to the fact that we want all our offerings to be in balance -- smooth -- not too bitter or too strong of an alcohol taste.

Editor's Note:  Harmonic Brewing passed their final inspections and is now open for business!
Business Hours:  Thursday & Friday 3pm-11pm, Saturday noon-11 pm and  Sunday noon-5 pm

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dogpatch Warriors has a nice RING to it: Meet your neighborhood Warriors' Ambassadors

Three Dogpatch residents who support the new Golden State Warriors Arena in Mission Bay pose at the site which is at 16th and 3rd in San Francisco. Left to right Scott Van Horn, Vanessa Aquino and Adam Gould.
The proposed move by the Golden State Warriors to Dogpatch Flats (aka Mission Bay) has been met by much excitement by many in Dogpatch but also with some concern about the resulting increase in traffic and worries about even more parking woes.

A movement to help educate the communities located around the arena about the move to SF has been dubbed (yes, I said it) by the team as Warriors Ground SF.  Warriors Ground SF is a group of Dogpatach neighbors and business owners who act as ambassadors to help spread support for the Warriors Arena and for the entertainment center and offices that will also be part of the complex.

In Dogpatch, Scott Van Horn, Vanessa Aquino and Adam Gould are part of the Warriors Ground SF coalition.  Two days after the Warriors were crowned NBA Champions, we sat down with Van Horn, Aquino and Gould over pies from Longbridge Pizza to chat about all things Warriors.

You can find out the details about what the Warriors management is proposing for the site at Third and 16th Street at this link as well as some of the concerns that have been put forth in this SF Chronicle article.  We wanted to hear why these three were offering their public support.

Why do you do what you do -- how did you get involved with the Warriors move to San Francisco:

Vanessa Aquino:  As a huge sports fan and a native of San Francisco as well as a resident of Dogpatch for more than ten years, I was of course excited when I heard that the Warriors were considering a move to SF.  I had first heard of the move when Warriors management came to the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association to present their plans for the arena and to discuss how their move to SF would affect Dogpatch.

Scott Van Horn:  I grew up in the East Bay and I started following the Warriors during the "we believe" team which was in 2007.  I met some of the Warriors organizers through various community events and offered to volunteer my time to help educate the community about the issues surrounding the arena. For the Warriors to be the powerful franchise that I think they aspire to be they really need to be in SF.  A new arena in SF will allow them to have luxury boxes and more to offer corporate sponsors.  This in turn will allow them to pay more for the top players.

Adam Gould: I must confess that I have never been much of a basketball fan!  So I'm just now jumping on the bandwagon.  My interest has been less as a sports fan and more as a Dogpatch business person as well as a Dogpatch resident who sees a lot of benefit to the Warriors coming to our neighborhood.
The UCSF Medical Center in Mission Bay looms over the site of the new Golden State Warriors Arena. Supporters of the arena from left to right Scott Van Horn, Vanessa Aquino and Adam Gould.

So what are those benefits to Dogpatch?

VA:  There will be people who are going to the Warriors games and to the other special events at the arena who will start their day or evening here in Dogpatch.  That means more business for the restaurants and more foot traffic for the retail businesses.  And all that foot traffic will bring even more energy and buzz to the neighborhood.

SVH:  I agree that the arena and events space will bring a different sense of vibrancy to Dogpatch that the building of apartments and condos does not.  I think the community will also benefit from the use of the bayfront park that is part of the project as well as access to all the new retail shops that will be part of the complex.

AG:  What has hindered Dogpatch is the lack of services such as a grocery store and a bank.  Having the arena is the best kind of growth to have and we are fortunate that the Warriors are interested in this part of SF to build their arena.  Their interest and arrival will hopefully attract similar growth minded companies and Dogpatch will be the beneficiary in terms of not just more retail, but also some of these essential services. This is absolutely the right kind of growth for Dogpatch.

What are some of the challenges to Dogpatch?

VA:  Parking of course but also there is some concern that the spill over crowd after games and events will be less than well-behaved.

SVH:  Most people would say that parking issues are the biggest challenge but I believe that the numerous new apartments and condos that have recently been approved and are in progress will have more of a long term negative impact on parking than the Warriors arena will have.  I think increased traffic during commute times is a bigger issue and the Warriors have addressed that in their plan.

AG:  I'm not as concerned with the traffic and parking issues but I do think that there needs to be some sort of monitoring for the "rowdy" crowds that might descend upon the neighborhood after events.

So, how about the name -- Golden State Warriors, San Francisco Warriors, Dogpatch Warriors...?

VA:  I think it should stay the Golden State Warriors.  It is a more inclusive name -- this is a California team, not just a San Francisco team.

SVH:  San Francisco Warriors!

AG:  San Francisco Warriors.  I think it would be prestigious for a basketball team to be associated with this city.
Nick and Nora the cranes at Crane Cove Park in Dogpatch which won't be used for parking.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Science & Art of Character Building: Meet Phil Jaber of Philz Coffee

Phil Jaber, founder of Philz Coffee, stands on the landing above the new cafe at the company headquarters in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco, CA.
Phil Jaber, founder of Philz Coffee, cuts quite a recognizable figure with his ever present fedora perched on his head and a equally ever present cup of coffee in his hand.  We will be seeing a lot more of that fedora and that coffee now that Philz Coffee has opened their new corporate headquarters plus cafe on Minnesota Street (at 23rd) in Dogpatch. 

For certain Jaber, whose mantra is love, faith and truth, is the soul of Philz Coffee but he is also a no-nonsense planner who has a well thought out long-term corporate vision for his company.  Jaber, along with his son and CEO Jacob orchestrated and recently closed on an additional $15 million (bringing the total to $30 million) in funding from venture capitalists (including that known lover of coffee, Snoop Dogg) to help him spread the love, one cup at a time, nation-wide or as Phil also put it, "conquer the world, one cup, one city at at time."

Why do you do what you do?
I do it because I want to bring people together so we as a community can all learn how to live together.  It used to be that generations of families would live together in the same town, maybe the same house but now we are all too busy in this world.  I love to put people together.  I want Philz Coffee shops to be a place where you can make a friend, seal a business deal, or fall in love.

But I also do this because I love coffee.  I was born in Palestine (pre-1967) but grew up in the East Bay.  As a kid I would drink coffee even though I wasn't supposed to and I also sold coffee to make money when I was eight.  When I was 17 I opened a grocery/liquor store in the Mission at 24th Street.  For 25 years, while I ran my convenience store, I also researched recipes for unique coffee blends and for a brewing method that would dissolve the acid out of the coffee. 

I didn't just research coffee though.  I also observed the traffic at other coffee shops and high-end restaurants.  I wanted to see how long the customers lingered and whether or not the employees and managers seemed happy. For the most part I discovered that these weren't places where the customers wanted to stay longer than it took to get their coffee.  That's not what I wanted, I wanted customers to think of my coffee shop as their Grandma's house -- a place full of love and where they didn't want to hurry away from.
Phil Jaber, founder of Philz Coffee crafts a coffee for us at the new company HQ in Dogpatch, San Francisco.

In 2003, I was finally ready and converted my grocery store to the first Philz Coffee.  I actually brought my large breakfast table from my house to use in the shop so everyone would have a big communal table to sit at together.

We offer a unique experience.  I like to say that we don't have Barista's -- we have artists.  Each cup of coffee is made entirely by hand and our artists adds the milk and sweetener if requested.  Each customer is then asked to take a sip and say whether it is perfect or not.

We have also established a business methods and values program called "Philz University" which trains our new employees and managers to make the best coffee and best experience for our customers.

My father told me to let your life speak for you and that's what I'm doing.  You treat people right then you get a good reputation and that is what has happened for our business.  People want quality -- they will fly, drive or walk to quality and that is how we know that we will do well with our expansion in other cities. 

Why Dogpatch?
I'm a San Francisco kid so I knew about Dogpatch.  I like how this neighborhood is not too busy.  When we first started I had my offices in a walk-in freezer then we moved to Potrero and 25th but we still needed more room.  Dogpatch has the room for us.  This neighborhood has an artistic feel to it as well as a neighborly, social vibe -- just like Philz.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
I would be delivering coffee door to door like milk was delivered long ago.  I would still find a way to spread the love.