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.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Spicing Up 3rd Street: Meet Bonnie and Sarah Gemmell of Spicer Bags

Bonnie and Sarah Gemmell are the mother-daughter team behind Spicer Bags. They are shown here in their manufacturing facility at the American Industrial Center in Dogpatch. Their new retail store is opening at street level in the complex.
For many months we passed by the construction at the American Industrial Center (AIC) on 3rd Street and hoped that the new storefronts being carved out of the existing brick walls would bring more retail to 3rd Street.

We enjoy the bars and restaurants in our vibrant neighborhood but boy it sure would be great to have a place where one could pick up a gift bag for that bottle of wine from Dogpatch Wineworks or a last minute birthday card or hostess gift.  We already knew that the flaky goodies from Neighbor Bakehouse would finally have a permanent home in one of the four new spaces but we were excited to find that a current tenant of the AIC would be expanding into one of the storefronts and that this tenant would offer a line of retail products. 

Spicer Bags will officially open at 2341 3rd Street on Saturday, December 6 -- just in time for the annual Dogpatch Warehouse Sale.  The new shop will be called Spicer on 3rd and will carry not only the company's line of totes and bags that have been long been cult favorites, but also a selection of curated items such as ceramics, furniture, gift bags and paper products.  And like their bags, all the products are from companies that manufacture in the U.S.

Although Spicer Bags has been around for more than 14 years, the shop on 3rd is a new beginning of sorts for the company and for the new owners, Bonnie and Sarah Gemmell, the mother and daughter who bought the company in 2013 from the founder and designer of the company -- the late Sally Spicer Rankine.
Some of the products from Spicer Bags made from innovative materials like cork. All are made in the Dogpatch neighborhood in San Francisco, CA.

We met with Bonnie and Sarah in their studio on the second floor of the AIC -- almost directly above their new storefront.  In contrast to the yet to be filled storefront, their studio space was packed to the ceiling with textiles and manufacturing equipment.  Sarah is the COO and is in charge of all operations and the constant trouble shooting that occurs in a small business with lots of moving pieces.  Bonnie brings her many years of retail, catalog and small business expertise to Spicer Bags as the CEO.

Why do you do what you do?

We both have a love of well-designed products.  And we are long time entrepreneurs and supporters of products that are manufactured in the U.S.  In 2012 we found out through a mutual friend of Sally Spicer that Sally was being forced to shut down Sally Spicer Bags because of her health issues.  It made us so sad that after all her hard work she was facing the loss of her business and the legacy that she had been building for her son. We were amazed that with very little marketing effort she had build an incredible fan base for her bags. 

We were both looking for our next project and we weren't afraid of the challenge.  We knew we had to buy the business to keep it going.  We were ready to take on the challenge of not only keeping Sally Spicer Bags open for business, but also the challenge of expanding the core business and looking into new marketing opportunities.  

We had lots of marketing experience but absolutely no manufacturing experience!  But we jumped in and although we kept the best sellers, we tightened the offerings and redesigned the bags where needed.  We have assured our existing customers that if a favorite bag is no longer offered on our website, we can still make it for them if they request it.  We also added a cork line that has a very modern feel to it.

When customers started showing up at our manufacturing space requesting to buy the bags here, we realized we might have an opportunity to keep a retail space busy.  We starting pestering the AIC folks about what might happen with the retail space they had been talking about building out.  They agreed to build one out for us.

We go to a lot of trade shows and had discovered some amazing people who were designing and manufacturing great products in the U.S. We always said if we had a retail space we already knew what products we would want to sell.  We decided that the retail space would sell not only our bags, but also a curated selection of these products we had discovered.  Some of the products we will have include easy to open water bottles manufactured from recycled aluminum cans from Liberty Bottleworks, a furniture company located in the Outer Richmond called Anzfer Farms, ceramics from Portland-based Pigeon Toe Ceramics and many more fun products including dog collars and leashes!

We will now have two businesses that each have their own website -- Spicer Bags and Spicer on 3rd.  We like that if all goes well we could possibly open other Spicer retail locations in other areas.  We will continue to offer Spicer Bags through other retail outlets as well as through the Spicer Bags website.  We have two employees and hope to add one more to staff Spicer on 3rd. 

Why Dogpatch?

Well, Spicer Bags was of course already manufacturing in the neighborhood when we bought the business.  And the two employees who worked with Sally stayed with us and were comfortable with the neighborhood.  We didn't see any need to make a location change.  And we loved the vibe of the neighborhood.  It felt like so much was happening here and was only going to get busier.  We are always discovering something new.  We want to be part of that growth. 

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

Bonnie -- I would be an organic farmer!  I grew up on a farm in Ohio and I love my tomatoes!

Sarah -- as the "nerd" in the family I've always been drawn towards product technology -- the user interface design part.  I would probably be working in a technology company that was developing the next great App!

Bonnie and Sarah:  "and this is why we work well together"!

Monday, October 27, 2014

All Men Are Equal Before Fish : Meet SF City Attorney and Dogpatch Resident, Dennis Herrera

Dogpatch resident and SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera stands in front of the former Bethlehem Steel Administration building. The building is part of Dennis' home neighborhood and the center of the Pier 70 development coming soon.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera is on the short list of Dogpatch residents who could be considered an unofficial mayor of the neighborhood. 

He is also known not only in San Francisco, but also nationally for the efforts of his office to advance civil rights and affirmative litigation -- the high profile fight for the Case Against Proposition 8 being only one example.  He is also in the forefront of legal efforts to protect consumers.

But in Dogpatch he is known as that guy in shorts and a SF Giants baseball hat who can tell great stories and is also quick with a joke and who turns up to support numerous neighborhood events such as the opening of the new playground or restaurant.

Given the busy nature of his job as City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, it is not surprising that it took us almost three years to catch up with him to chat.

Why do you do what you do?

I love being involved in issues that make a difference to people in the community and in the state.

And since I'm independently elected -- only one of ten in the state has this status, the rest are appointed -- I have tremendous independence when I get involved in an issue.  I can get involved in any issue from local to national.

I grew up in New York -- on Long Island -- where I did a lot of fishing.  I pursued an expertise in maritime law because it allowed me to combine my love of international law and fishing -- the love of law and water!

While I was in law school in Washington, D.C. I read an article about rock fishing in San Francisco.  I needed a summer job so my best friend and I came to San Francisco during Thanksgiving week and slid our resumes under doors at various law firms around town.  I actually got hired by one of those law firms.  The internship was during the summer of 1987 and it was the 50th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge -- I will never forget that -- it  made a huge impression on me as did this city.  The law firm gave me an offer after law school and here I am!
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has lived in Dogpatch since 1993. 

Why Dogpatch?

In 1993 I was single and was living in a great place near Coit Tower.  I saw a real estate ad featuring a Victorian home for sale in Potrero Hill.  I told my real estate agent I wanted to look at it.  It was of course actually in Dogpatch, not Potrero Hill but real estate agents at that time didn't think anyone would know where Dogpatch was.

The Victorian was built in 1884 and was surrounded by the Hells Angels clubhouse, empty lots and was accessed by a dirt road which real estate agents call "an unimproved road!"

It was a neighborhood that was almost in hibernation because at that time there weren't that many places for residents to gather.  But it was affordable and I loved the sunny weather. 

I looked at it once and told my agent to make an offer which she was very surprised about.  I have actually lived in the neighborhood longer than Susan Eslick!

Right before I closed on the house I received an offer to work in the Clinton Administration.  The offer really made me stop and think if I wanted to be in SF or D.C. long term.  I knew others who had gone to D.C. for supposedly a short period of time but ended up staying permanently if they stayed longer than two years.  I offered my girlfriend the house to live in while I was gone -- I would come back every six weeks.  She agreed and I did this for 2.5 years.

Over time the limitations of the geography of the area contributed to making it feel like a real neighborhood.  I think the sense of community comes from having those boundaries.  I like that not only are the residents activists but so are the local businesses. 

What would you be doing if you weren't a lawyer?

I would be a fishing boat captain or drive a cab.  When you campaign as I did for Mayor of San Francisco, you really get to know your way around the city.

(editor's note: "all men are equal before fish" quote taken from an essay by Herbert Hoover)