Tuesday, December 10, 2013

From Lab Bench to Cure: Meet Doug Crawford of Bioscience Incubator Qb3

Qb3 Associate Director Douglas Crawford. 

Dogpatch is well known as a place for artists and artisans.  Now alongside the chocolate, messenger bags and craft cocktails the neighborhood has welcomed a different kind of start up -- Qb3 -- an incubator dedicated to nurturing entrepreneurs and their bioscience companies.

The organization is a joint venture between the three University of California campuses at Berkeley, San Francisco and Santa Cruz and this spot on Indiana street is its third bioscience incubator. 

The nondescript -- and most might say decrepit --  warehouse building on Indiana street has been transformed into a low-slung, modern facility -- its grey exterior blending smartly with the blue neon sign spelling out its name and address:  qb3@953.

The 24,000 square foot facility, which opened in October, offers both office space and lab space.  16 companies out of the 35 available slots have already unpacked their test tubes and set up shop.

When we visited, colorful cruiser bikes awaiting their riders gave the lobby the feeling of a Google campus. Doug Crawford, associate director of QB3, gave us a tour and was bursting with pride as he showed off the facility and its equipment.
Qb3 features a bike sharing program for its startups for tooling around Dogpatch. 

Why do you do what you do?

I love working with start ups and especially with teams that have a common goal. 

At QB3 we can be part of helping an idea become something of value to society.  We have folks here working on all sorts of projects -- from cancer to Alzheimer's. 

We want to reach out to the grad student or someone in the Life Sciences who has a great idea but needs access to very expensive and specialized equipment.  In traditional high technology, you can often just go to your local coffee shop or to your garage, open your laptop and you are in business.  But that environment doesn't work so well when you need to look at cells and viruses -- you can't bring microscopes or chemicals into a coffee shop or home office.  This makes it harder in bioscience to go from idea to prototype. 

All the equipment and supplies from tape to microscopes are offered a la carte so the entrepreneurs only need to pay for what they actually use.  We want to help them be as efficient as the big companies who have lots of funding.  For example, we have a freezer that costs $15,000 but our start ups can rent 1/2 shelf instead of having to buy the entire freezer.
Qb3 in Dogpatch rents out lab space as needed by start ups, as many as 35 different biotech startups at once. 

It is often a long and lonely road when you are starting a company so the opportunity to ask other entrepreneurs for feedback or to brainstorm is invaluable.

We also want to keep these companies in California if possible so QB3 also operates an $11 million seed-stage venture fund called Mission Bay Capital --  an independent venture firm focused on making early-stage investments in bioscience companies.  I'm the managing director of the fund.  We can invest up to $200,000 in qualified start ups.

Why Dogpatch?

Qb3 is all about what Dogpatch is about:  passion, willingness and fortitude.

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

I would be in a start up!  I used to be a professional sailor and sailing is all about teams, about a common purpose and that is what I get excited about.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Details are the Design: Meet Richard Liu of DSPTCH

Richard Liu at the new company headquarters for his gear manufacturer DSPTCH in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA. DSPTCH makes bags, camera straps and other items using military grade fabrics.
The basement office space under the Dogpatch Cafe at Third and 20th had been vacant for many months. Then we noticed that the basement stairwell that had long been the landing spot for old newspapers and other debris at the windy corner looked freshly swept.  Soon a clean, modern sign announcing the new tenant, DSPTCH, went up.

Inside, the quirky art objects that were the hallmark of the prior art gallery tenant were replaced by the deceptively simple yet functional accessories designed by company founder, Richard Liu, and manufactured in California.

The space is divided into two rooms with the back room functioning as workshop and office space for Liu and his two full-time and one part-time employees and the front space a bright, modern retail space.

Camera straps line one wall. iPad and MacBook covers hang on another.  Backpacks, or as the company calls them, Ruckpacks, and a smaller pack called a Slingpack are ready to be tried on and their many features explored. Liu's mission seems to be to not only make it easier to navigate our average day a bit easier, but also wherever our travels might take us.

Liu's passion for classic design and efficient production is obvious from a quick look at his bookcase where such books on Charles and Ray Eames and Hiroshi Sugimoto share space with books on prototyping and production and Chris Anderson's book, Makers.  It is also obvious from the vintage Steelcase Tank desk and Eames fiberglass stackable chairs as well as the Technics turntable that he believes in products that are functional and built to last.

Camera straps were the first product at DSPTCH in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA.

Why do you do what you do?
I have a real passion to bring products to market that serve a real need.

My first product, the camera sling strap, came out of such a need.  I'm not a professional photographer but I'm not an amateur either.  I had purchased a high-end, expensive camera made in Japan.  So of course the accessories that came with the camera were also made in Japan. But the accessories, like the camera strap, were made for a shorter, Japanese body type and not for a taller guy like me.  I looked like the stereotypical tourist with the camera hitting me mid-chest when I had it around my neck!

I deserved, and my fancy new camera deserved, a better strap so I made one that not only looked good, but was also functional.  People soon started approaching me asking where they could buy one like it.

At the time I had been working in the technology industry for about nine years in marketing but I knew the large company and corporate culture wasn't my style.  But I wasn't sure what I wanted to do so I started working part time -- while still working full time -- at 3Sixteen, a raw denim and accessories company.  I built out their website and in return, they let me in on all facets of what it takes to run a business -- from creative to operations.  I got to see all the ups and downs.  I learned that having the spirit of resilience is the most important quality to have if you want to run a business -- you have to stay positive even when your tank is dry.

While I was working with them I was also tinkering with my camera strap prototype.  I failed many times.  I finally made ten and put them on a website I had created but hadn't yet finished.  A men's lifestyle magazine called Acquire heard about what I was doing and wrote about my product on their site.  I woke up to my phone buzzing and the ten camera straps I had on hand sold out in about an hour.  I called in sick to my corporate job and finished the website!  I made 25, then 50 more straps and they also sold out.

I finally decided that I might have a real company here and so I left my corporate job in January 2013 so I could dedicate myself full-time to DSPTCH.

I primarily sell to high end men's boutiques -- we have about 38 wholesale accounts now.  In San Francisco, The Darkside Initiative carries our products.

The future of our company though are our bags and we will have three new bags coming out in January 2014. 

Why Dogpatch?
Our first office was in a small space in the Mission.  I knew about Dogpatch because I have always liked going to Triple Aught Design on 22nd Street.  Dogpatch is just one of three neighborhoods left in San Francisco that are still somewhat affordable for small businesses but the creative energy in this neighborhood is unparalleled.  Design is driving so much of what is happening here so it seemed the perfect spot for DSPTCH.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
I would probably be working in technology but it would have to be a small company.  I'm still passionate about technology but I would have to be working on ideas about how to make life easier for people.  I have a notebook filled with ideas!

Why did you call the company DSPTCH?
To me dispatch means the starting point before you head out on a trip or simply leave your apartment.  I want DSPTCH to provide all the gear people need whether it be travel gear or commuter gear.  We have products for you to carry the things you need every day but in a better way.
The manufacturing area at DSPTCH in Dogpatch San Francisco, CA. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

There's No Place Like Home: Meet Photographer Sarah Christianson

Photographer Sarah Christianson at her home in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA. 

For most of us our identities are very much tied to where we grew up.  "Where are you from?" is a typical first meeting question.  And it seems assumed that the answer will not be California.  No matter where we started, we invariably bring with us the traditions, language and preferences of not just our families, but also of the towns we lived in when we were younger. 

Like many current residents of California, photographer Sarah Christianson moved here seeking more job opportunities and a broader world view than the small town where she grew up in North Dakota could provide.  But she still considered that town central to her identity and more than that, felt the pull to tell the story of the people that still lived there.  From that desire came her latest project, Homeplace.

What is Homeplace about?

The name refers to my family's 1200-acre farm in the Red River Valley of North Dakota.  That farm is my center, my homeplace.

My family left Norway in 1869 for America in the hopes of finally becoming land owners under the promise of free land as a result of the Homestead Act.  They had heard that America was the land of opportunity for those willing to work hard.  Since those early years my family has worked the land, growing wheat and soybeans.

In 2005 I worked in New York City for a few months and was struck by the contrast between that busy city and my own hometown.  I truly saw how much North Dakota was part of my identity.

When I returned, I started seeing changes or perhaps I finally noticed them --  my grandfather had passed away so my grandmother had sold that farm and moved into town, my brother and sister moved away and my parents demolished my grandfather's childhood home because it was in such disrepair.  It started to sink in that my parents might be the last of four generations to actually work and live on the family farm.

I was just entering the MFA program at the University of Minnesota and decided to make my thesis project the documentation of my family's emigration and agriculture heritage through my photography and other archival elements such as historical documents and old family snapshots.   I even went to Norway in 2008 to trace the footsteps of my ansectors that had left.

Homeplace is the result of this journey.  What I realized is that our rich agricultural heritage will continue in some form -- no one can take that away.

Why do you do what you do?

I love photography -- it allows me to tell stories in a visual way.  And I feel compelled to tell the story of the people of North Dakota.  I feel it is so important to share the perspective of the people that live there with the rest of the world.

I recently received a grant from the San Francisco Art Commission for my latest project -- I'm documenting the oil boom that is happening in North Dakota as a result of fracking

It is so important to let the world know how fracking is changing the viability of the land to raise a crop and a family. 

Why Dogpatch?

I moved to Dogpatch in 2011 after I started working with artist Jim Campbell who was located in the American Industrial Building.  Dogpatch felt like a small town to me.  The neighborhood worked well for my city-minded husband Jesse Mullan and the small town girl in me.

Part of the small town feel for me is the fact that we know our neighbors and so many people you meet here are so friendly and welcoming.

What is an interesting story that has happened to you in Dogpatch?
We were looking at an apartment that was for rent on Third Street and decided to go behind the building on Tennessee Street to see what the back of the building looked like.  Immediately a Hells Angels member came out of their clubhouse with a pitbull straining on the leash.  Both were clearly on full alert and wanted to know what we were doing in that area. But when we told him we were looking for an apartment to rent his demeanor changed immediately.  He proceeded to tell us how great the neighborhood is and how welcoming everyone would be to us.  And of course the pitbull mirrored this change and flopped down on the pavement!

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

I would certainly try my hand at farming!

Editor's note:
Photographs from Homeplace are currently on exhibit at Rayko Photo Center until November 17.

Click here to purchase a copy of Homeplace.

On November 14 the artist will give a talk on Homeplace and will be signing books at SF Camerawork
Written by Patricia Kline
Photos by Scott R. Kline

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Dog, A Van and A Plan: Meet Artist Zannah Noe

Zannah Noe is a painter and mixed media artist. She has created the series American Bones. She sits in her studio in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA on September 25, 2013.
We see a wealth of street art on our walks around Dogpatch -- multi-hued hearts hidden on the big AT&T boxes, work vans without a spare square of original paint untouched, the vacant lot on Third Street that every morning sports a new image despite the landlord's preventive measures.

But an image that has intrigued us for many months is the stencil of a roller coaster, generally with the words "American Bones"at the bottom, that has popped up on sidewalks, overpasses and then finally, the billboard at the bottom of the 20th Street overpass that usually is advertising something much less interesting.

The billboard was very obviously not a sanctioned project with its street art banner look.  Not long after the billboard mysteriously appeared we started spotting flyers advertising The American Bones art project that was on display at the studio of artist Zannah Noe on Tennessee Street -- located right next to that 20th Street billboard.

We were greeted at the airy light filled loft by the artist as well as by her rescue dog Diesel Lamar, a beautiful and gentle ten year old greyhound.

The studio walls were covered with the many creations of this mixed media artist but what caught our eye was the red acrylic 48" laser cut metal stencil of the roller coaster -- the American Bones image we had been seeking.

What is the American Bones Project?
Everyone has a roller coaster story.  It is such an American icon and it transends race, class and gender.  The infrastructure of a roller coaster reminds me of scaffolding -- of bones -- of what is left standing.  I first used this image of the roller coaster in my series of paintings called Amusement Architecture -- portraits of Coney Island and the Santa Cruz boardwalk.  I started wondering, what are the images that represent America now? And just as important, what icons are still left in America?

I decided to search for and then document those icons through my photographs and paintings.  I was greatly influenced by the book, American Nations which looked at American Regionalism. 

In 2012 I launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the trip.  My mode of transportation is a Chevy van I lovingly call, Foxy Brown, and she consumes lots of fuel!

In April 2013 the American Bones road trip began.  I traveled throughout the U.S. -- trying to stay off the beaten path as much as possible.

I discovered that while some of our remaining icons are obvious ones, such as cowboys and guns, there were also less obvious ones such as water towers.  I also discovered that America loves the mash up -- two icons that you wouldn't think go together.  For example, White Sands National Park in New Mexico is a park but it is also a missile testing site.

But my favorite mash up had to be the Prison Rodeo in Louisana.  Only in America could we put together a prison, rodeo and art show all in one place.

I love portraying these mashups as public art.
Zannah Noe traversed the country in her van, Foxy Brown. 

Why do you do what you do?

Through my art I attempt to reveal what is personal but also universal.  The American Bones project very much represents that to me.

I love the act of creating, whether it be photography, painting or catering.

I grew up in Massachusetts.  I studied fine art in college as well as photography.  After college, I decided I could only live in New York or San Francisco.  I used to think that those were the only two places an artist could live in the United States.  Of course I feel differently since my road trip!

When I first moved here in 1991 I was a photographer for the club, The End Up.  I like to say I started from the End Up!

I also did editorial photography for the SF Chronicle and the SF Weekly.  I eventually went back to school and learned how to be a web and graphic designer.

The catering comes in because editorial and fine arts don't necessarily pay the rent so I also became a caterer, working mostly as a personal chef on yachts.

Why Dogpatch?

In the 1990s I had a darkroom in this neighborhood that I used.  I also photographed a lot of punk bands with this neighborhood as a backdrop.

The neighborhood reminded me of a neighborhood I love in Boston, Fort Point Channel.

I have lived many different places in the city from the Lower Haight to a tugboat at Pier 50, but it wasn't until 2010 that I finally found a place to rent in Dogpatch.

I love the industrial mix use -- almost the feel of an urban desert.  It is less so now of course but the creative mix of people are still here.

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

A traveling photo journalist.  I certainly became one as a result of this road trip.

And we have to ask, why did you name your Chevy van, Foxy Brown?

It reminded me of something out of a Quentin Tarantino film.  And I guess you could say that the van is also an American icon. 

Greyhound Diesel Lamar is the constant companion of Zannah Noe.
Article written by Patricia Kline
Photographs by Scott R. Kline

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Liquid Courage: Meet Tim Obert and Clint Potter of Seven Stills

Clint Potter and Tim Obert, of Seven Stills in Dogpatch,  sit on barrels that will be used for their whiskey dubbed, Chocasmoke.
When Tim Obert of the new craft distillery, Seven Stills,  asked us to meet him at his office on 23rd Street, we were a bit puzzled -- we weren't familiar with an office building or even a warehouse at that address -- just a building dedicated to storage units.

We discovered that it is pretty amazing what can be done with a few sheets of plywood these days.  Tim Obert and his business partner, Clint Potter, have set up shop in about 800 square feet in the Storage San Francisco building where they finally relocated after suffering through much less desirable digs nearby.

Although their actual distillery is located in Petaluma, their small office functions as their laboratory and maybe eventually, law permitting, a small tasting room for customers and the general public.  With their official liquor license prominently and proudly displayed, Obert and Potter showed us around their compact space.   The majority of the space was taken up with about 300 cases of their first product, California Courage, a vodka made from a base of corn that they describe as having sweet citrus and floral overtones.  Describing how they enlisted family and friends to help them to bottle and cork their first product, Obert and Potter flexed their fingers and massaged their wrists at the memory of the effort. 

Another wall was lined with jars filled with lemons, oranges and other herbs, fruits and spices that they are tinkering with for the bitters program they also hope to launch.  Chris Barry, one of the owners of the Dogpatch Saloon was stopping by later to taste some of their latest concoctions. 

But their true passion lined yet another wall where small kegs filled with their first efforts of using different beer styles as a basis for whiskey rested.  These kegs were filled with a whiskey inspired by a chocolate stout beer from Mill Valley Beer Works.  Their first whiskey, dubbed Chocasmoke, should be ready to drink in 2014. 

Obert and Potter met at U.C. Santa Cruz and kept in touch after graduation with both eventually moving to San Francisco.  It seems fitting that they two figured out how to be in business together over drinks one night at Dobbs Ferry.  On that night they had what Potter described as a "light bulb moment" -- why not combine their passions for beer and whiskey with their own financial resources into their own craft distillery business. 
Bitters sit on a shelf at Seven Stills in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA.

Why do you do what you do?

Tim Obert:
I've long been a home beer brewer and after college had a few internships in the beer industry.  The idea of making something from scratch really appeals to me.  And I love to take traditional ideas and put my own spin on them.  That's why we use our own beer recipes as well as adapt existing recipes at Seven Stills.

But the craft beer market has become pretty saturated in San Francisco.  We see a real opportunity to take a local, artisan focus on spirits just as small producers have done in the beer industry. 

Clint Potter:
I was studying at Berkeley and was preparing to go to grad school in San Diego to study engineering when I met and became inspired by Fionnan O'Connor who is well known as Mr. Whiskey and teaches class on Irish whiskey at Berkeley. 

When Tim and I decided to combine our two passions of whiskey and craft beer, I decided to use my grad school money to help form Seven Stills. I decided this business might be a bit more fun and social than engineering. 

Why Dogpatch?

We didn't know a lot about this neighborhood but we did know that it was becoming a mecca for craft beer and spirit ventures and knew this is where we wanted to base our company.  

What is an interesting story that has happened to you in Dogpatch? 

We started Seven Stills in January 2013 and in August we finally got our liquor license.  We had just eaten at Marcella's Lasagneria and thought we would check out Reno's Liquor Store as a possible place to one day stock our spirits.  We introduced ourselves to Dames, the owner.  He ordered two cases on the spot!

We walked next door to the Dogpatch Saloon and they ordered two bottles.

We were thrilled -- we really felt like we were on our way.

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

I would be brewing beer and making moonshine but not legally.....

I would have gone to grad school but since that money is gone now....

So explain why you called your company Seven Stills?

We really want to be known as a local craft spirits company.  There are really few spirit companies left that are truly local anymore.  So our label has all these great San Francisco landmarks on it.  And the name is meant to honor the seven hills of San Francisco.  We hope to have a whiskey for each hill.

A sign above the bench at Seven Stills in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA.

Article written by Patricia Kline
Photographs by Scott R. Kline

Monday, September 9, 2013

Where Everyone Still Knows Your Name: Meet Marc Goldfine of Dogpatch Saloon

Marc Goldfine sits in the newly remodeled Dogpatch Saloon. The bar has been updated, windows have been added, but the original bar top remains. Photographed on August 20, 2013 in San Francisco, CA.

Most residents of Dogpatch welcome the new food and drink venues that seem to be opening in the neighborhood at a furious pace.

But there were more than a few furrowed brows and crossed fingers that not much would change at the Dogpatch Saloon, long a neighborhood anchor, when owner Mike Apicelli decided to retire and sell to Chris Barry, Derek Jostad, Sky Wegman and Marc Goldfine -- the team behind financial district watering hole, 83 Proof .

For months we walked by the construction at 22nd and Third and wondered what changes would the new owners make -- would there still be jazz music on Sunday nights and what about that never ending crock-pot of chili?  Would they make it into a "fancy" bar or would we still feel a sense of belonging no matter what drink we ordered or how we were dressed? 

When the doors were flung open on a warm Monday in July it seemed that most of the neighborhood had turned out to see what had changed and what had remained the same.

And it seemed that a collective sigh of relief was heard as many in attendance voiced that the bar "felt good."  The enlarged windows meant a welcome breeze would flow through the bar and no one regretted the remodeled bathrooms.  The crock-pot is gone as well as any possibility of food service since the small kitchen was also removed.  Live music remains a possibility but for now the Sunday night jazz tradition has been retired.

The original Dog still stands guard in the stained glass window over the front door and the brass bell by the bar remains at the ready for last call.  The last bar stool is still reserved for the original owner, Tugboat Annie, and Mike Apicelli's name has been added to the brass plate. 

The Bell for last call at the Dogpatch Saloon is one of the pieces remaining from the old salooon before the recent remodal.

But the majority of the bar was completely renovated and designer Tess Parker added furnishings and other touches that fit right in; such as the 100 year old bar stools that came from a Stanford University science lab and the benches that were formerly church pews.

Owner Marc Goldfine left his post at the bar to welcome customers and to chat about the renovation. His radio-ready voice was easily heard above the large crowd. It truly felt that hardworking Apicelli had turned over the bar to a like-minded team who provided a much needed refresh to the Dogpatch Saloon.

A few weeks after the opening Goldfine agreed to chat with us about his background and the process behind reopening the Dogpatch Saloon.  As we chatted, Mike Apicelli poked his head through an open window to say hello and to check in.  Delivery men pounded on the locked door and one of the bartenders stopped by before their shift to see if anyone wanted her to pick up a sandwich for them.    We uncrossed our fingers.

Why do you do what you do?

It sounds simplistic but I love bartending and luckily it pays the bills.  I enjoy the social aspect of being a bartender and I like the creativity of creating cocktails.

I grew up in Chicago and first visited San Francisco when my brother came out here to live.  I fell in love with the city and knew I would be back.  I currently live in the Sunset neighborhood and I've been in SF for 15 years.  I was in the food business in Chicago and I also had always been told that I should go into voice acting.  So for awhile bartending paid for my voice acting classes!

When I came to SF my brother helped me get a job at a bar where I worked my way up from working the door to a barback to eventually one of the bartenders.  From there I worked at various other bars including The Black Cat in North Beach.  I met the other 83 Proof guys while working at LuLus.  Chris Barry had always had a goal of opening a bar.  At the time I had zero interest in being an owner but I loved bartending.  He and the other guys opened 83 Proof in 2007 and I started out as their sole employee and over time became one of the owners.  But I'm still the anchor bartender at 83 Proof!

Why Dogpatch?

Former owner Mike Apicelli approached Derek and indicated that he was ready to retire and wondered if we might be interested in taking over his saloon.  I had heard about the neighborhood but hadn't spent much time here.  When this opportunity came along, I walked around the neighborhood and liked what I saw.  I loved the Pelton Cottages, the weather and liked that the grittiness is still here despite all the changes.

We felt that the bar had good bones and just needed a refresh -- it hadn't really changed with the neighborhood.

Who is another fascinating person you have met in Dogpatch?

Everyone has been so welcoming to us -- merchants and neighbors.  And we are very thankful for Hard Knox Cafe and Just For You Cafe because we were frequent diners there during renovation! 

What is an interesting story that has happened to you in Dogpatch?

This isn't really one story but once we got into the renovations we were just amazed to find out how much this place was jury rigged!  Just one example -- turns out the bar had been using the electricity from the wine bar next door, Yield, for years.  But somehow it all worked anyway!

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

Probably voice acting.  I broadcast the sports and news on college radio but beer and girls made me less dedicated than I might have been.

Article written by Patricia Kline
Photographs by Scott R. Kline

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Passion and Production: Meet Mark Dwight of Rickshaw Bagworks

Mark Dwight founder of Rickshaw Bagworks in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood, explains his philosophy of making things locally. Behind him are rolls of the material used for the many colorful bags they make. 
Mark Dwight, founder of Rickshaw Bagworks, a manufacturer of custom messenger bags of all sizes, rides his bike through the roll up door of his retail/manufacturing space and calls out to an employee not to miss lunch today -- it is a special lunch celebrating the company's sixth anniversary.  And he seems as energized and excited as if he were just launching the company.

As he gives us a tour of his shop that serves as a major anchor of the Dogpatch neighborhood with its location at Minnesota and 22nd, it is clear that Dwight has managed to marry his finance, marketing and business savvy with his background in production to create not just a company that employs 20, but also to give a voice for local manufacturing in San Francisco.

He is a founder of SFMade, an organization dedicated to supporting SF-based manufacturing and was appointed by Mayor Lee to serve on the SF Small Business Commission.

His commitment to the Toyota Way of continuous flow manufacturing is evident on the manufacturing floor and the fact that Rickshaw outsources to five companies within a bike ride's distance from their offices emphasizes Dwight's commitment to other local SF companies.

But the Toyota Way doesn't just mean continuous improvement in manufacturing but also indicates a commitment to innovation, long term vision and respect for the people involved in the process and as such Dwight is a true evangelist.

Some of the bags produced at Rickshaw sell in the company store in the manufacturing facility on 22nd Street in Dogpatch. The store is their only brick and morter retail location.

Why do you do what you do?

I love to make things.  My dad was an entrepreneur so I was exposed to that way of thinking but even more than that I was always obsessed with making things.

When I was a teenager my parents bought a house that needed a lot of restoration.  There was a craftsman they hired that worked to replace the stained glass windows in the house.  I became fascinated by his work and learned all I could from him.

I like to say that I used to work with colored glass and lead and now I work with colored fabric and thread!

I spent 18 years in Silicon Valley working for various technology companies and even considered becoming a venture capitalist but couldn't stand not being hands-on, literally, with a company's products.

At Rickshaw we did the reverse of what some companies do as they grow -- we used manufacturing in China for some of our bags to get started with the goal of bringing all manufacturing back to SF as we grew.  After all, sustainability starts at the bottom line, we wouldn't have a company story to tell if we were out of business!

We know that we live in a global economy but many people don't realize that there is still a big overhead cost in working with China for manufacturing.  So a key business goal for Rickshaw in 2013 is that we will completely stop using manufacturing facilities in China.  We will either make the product here in SF or will discontinue the product if we can't make it here in a profitable way. 

I'm committed to minimal design and lean manufacturing -- make simple, elegant products and make them fast.  Our sewers are craftspeople, an industrial sewing machine is like a race car, you need to have special skills and a mastery of the technology.

I don't differentiate my work from my play -- I love the community of it and the feeling of a small group with a common purpose.

The "parking lot" where Rickshaw employees, most of whom commute by bicycle, park their rides.
Why Dogpatch?

When I decided to start this company I wanted an office and manufacturing facility that would be a bike ride away from where I lived in SF.  I was riding around and saw this building that we are in now.  And honestly, I had never even heard of Dogpatch at the time.

The previous tenant had literally just moved out.  I looked in the windows and it was love at first sight -- it was a big open space with no pillars.  I loved the brick and the timber.  It was just beautiful.  There was a "for lease" sign in the window and I immediately called right then and there and it was ours.

I then fell in love with the pioneering spirit of this neighborhood.  In some ways the folks that live and work here are refugees as well as pioneers -- refugees from the overwhelming intensity of the core of San Francisco.  In Dogpatch they have the space to do the work they love.

Who is another fascinating person you have met in Dogpatch?

Joel Benson, the owner of Dependable Letterpress.  He is a real craftsman.  It was a long time goal of mine to use letterpress for our business cards.  I finally was able to realize this goal but the local company I was using then went out of business.  I had seen Joel's work when he produced notebooks with a bicycle design on them for a pop-up event for SFMade one year -- he is a letterpress nerd!  We are lucky to have him nearby in the American Industrial Building.

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

I would still be making something.  If not bags, then something else.  I like to say that I want to make a living and not a killing so I would find something else where I could get my hands dirty and make it happen.
The manufacturing floor at the factory in Dogpatch.  

Article written by Patricia Kline
Photographs by Scott R. Kline

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Resilience, Craft and Design: Meet JoAnn Edwards of the Museum of Craft & Design

JoAnn Edwards, Executive Director of the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco, CA stands amidst sculptures by Michael Cooper. Photographed April 9, 2013.
Resilience?  What does that have to do with the opening of the Museum of Craft and Design in Dogpatch?  Plenty, it turns out.  Not only did co-founder and executive director JoAnn Edwards have to deal with the to-be-expected difficulties of opening an 8,500 square foot museum, she had to do it without her brother and co-founder, Seb Hamamjian, by her side.

Hamamjian passed away just days before the April opening of the museum.  Edwards continued with all the events marking the opening of the museum just as she did in 2004 when her mother, who was also involved with the museum, passed away prior to the founding of the museum.  She persevered yet again in 2010 after losing their Union Square location when unsafe conditions in the building caused damage to some of the art.  Instead of closing, she soon had a series of pop-up museums open to the public.

Resilient and obviously passionate about her much stated goal of having a "museum for people who don't necessarily go to museums."

We sat down with Edwards a few days after the flurry of events marking the opening of the museum.  Nearby, workers continued to hang signs and put other finishing touches on the museum.  Although anyone would have expected her to be exhausted after the emotional roller coaster of the weeks and days leading up to the opening, Edwards projected a calm, focused intensity.
American Artist Michael Cooper with one of his sculptures at the Museum of Craft and Design in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA on Thursday, April 4, 2013. 

Why do you do what you do?

For the artists.  They do not get the recognition that they deserve.  When the museum opened in 2004, we were the first to support craft artists.  Now of course the De Young as well as other museums like the MFA in Boston and Houston support this type of artist.

But in 2004 we were the first.  Since the early 1980s, my brother and I had promoted the work of artists in craft and design through the galleries we operated in Palo Alto, Menlo Park and San Francisco.  Eventually we came to believe that while a gallery that is focused on selling art is important to an artist, a museum exhibition can change their career.  We wanted to focus and nurture artists that may not be instantly commercially successful.

But of course a non-profit museum is very different from a retail business!  And we had no idea how to start a museum.  But no one told us we were crazy to do it so we did our research then secured the needed funding, artists and management team and we were launched!
Creatures of the Deep by artist Arline Fisch at the Museum of Craft and Design in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA on Thursday, April 4, 2013.

Why Dogpatch?

Dogpatch was a very considered choice for us.  And a natural fit.  After we lost our Union Square location, we launched a series of pop-up museums.  We hosted temporary locations in several neighborhoods including the Castro, SOMA, Hayes Valley and Dogpatch. At the same time we continued to look for a permanent space. We must have looked at 100 potential locations.  One day our architect said, "you guys are scrappy and you think outside the box so look for a neighborhood like that."  We realized that he had just described Dogpatch!

We immediately felt at home as we walked around this neighborhood.  Everyone we met was welcoming.  The small town feeling really appealed to us.  And we loved being surrounded by the makers and designers who call this neighborhood home.

The other important factor in choosing Dogpatch is that the neighborhood mirrors the type of person that visits our museum.  We like to say that this isn't the "typical" museum goer.  This type of person might be a technology person or an artist or both.  Or maybe a chef or even a member of the Hells Angels!  I sometimes think that museums can be too concerned with loftier things -- we like to think that our museum is more down to earth and accessible than most museums. 
Artist Rebecca Hutchinson with her sculpture Affinity at the Museum of Craft and Design in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA on Thursday, April 4, 2013.

Who is another fascinating person you have met in Dogpatch?

So many!  We feel so supported and championed by so many Dogpatch residents and merchants.  We immediately bonded with our landlord, Greg Markoulis who worked with us to make the museum a reality.

I feel close to the team at MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing) because they are another mother, brother and sister team.

And I love what Ann Hatch is doing at Workshop Residence.

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

Well, I could use a vacation!  But if I weren't doing this I would write a book.  It would be a series of short stories about family and relationships -- a subject close to my heart.

JoAnn Edwards, Executive Director of the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco, CA takes a break on a bench designed for the museum by Isaac Arms. Photographed April 9, 2013.
For a slideshow of the art and exhibits at the museum, please click on this slideshow.

Article written by Patricia Kline
Photographs by Scott R. Kline

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Can of Corn: Meet Michael Aicardi of SF Baseball Academy

Michael Aicardi shows off his fine swing between instructing classes at San Francisco Baseball Academy in the Dogpatch neighborhood in San Francisco, CA. 
Can of corn in baseball lingo means an easy catch, a no-brainer.  And that's what we thought when we heard that Michael Aicardi had opened a baseball academy in Dogpatch.  It only seemed to make sense that a great baseball town would have a facility to train future baseball players.

So we were surprised when we actually found out that not only is his academy the first of its kind in San Francisco, but also that San Francisco is no longer known for its homegrown baseball talent like it used to be -- do the names Joe DiMaggio, Lefty O'Doul or Tony Lazzeri sound familiar?

Although Dogpatch is within walking distance of AT&T Park, the area isn't exactly teaming with green playing fields.  But we do have a lot of warehouses.  And that is where we found Aicardi just finishing up a lesson to several young hopeful future Hall of Famers.

While we waited, we checked out the equipment and the space.  Aircardi appears to have spared no expense in setting up his academy and his players for success -- state of the art pitching machines stood at the ready as did the regulation height pitchers mound.  Nets, bats and cages were all the best quality.  Even the padding on the walls were the same regulation height as at a baseball field.

And then there is the overall look of the room:  the walls are painted light blue to make you feel like you are outside, the lighting feels like natural light and there are even park benches around the training area to make bystanders feel like they are at a ballpark.

Lesson finished, the happy students took their leave but not before the mother volunteered to us how grateful she was to not have to continue to drive out of the area to find this same high level of instruction.

Can of corn, indeed.
Michael Aicardi explains the finer points of baseball at San Francisco Baseball Academy in the Dogpatch neighborhood in San Francisco, CA. The academy offers instruction to youths from the area.
Why do you do what you do?

I was always a natural athlete so I played all the various sports.  I didn't focus exclusively on baseball though until I was a teenager.  I'm from an old San Francisco North Beach family so of course my Grandma called me Baseball Joe. 

My goal was never to play professionally but I did play Division One baseball in college.  As I started to focus on baseball it became clear that San Francisco was no longer a baseball town.  Playing fields are hard to find and those that are available are in bad shape.  Bad shape because soccer tends to dominate sports here and that sport can really tear up a field and create opportunities for injuries to baseball players.  And unlike players from nearby Bay Area cities, it is rare for a SF player to get a scholarship to play Division One college baseball.

So bringing baseball back to SF is one of the main reasons I started the academy.  But an equally important reason is to help future players avoid all the injuries that I endured.  I've already had eight surgeries and I will need more in the future.  I truly believe that I injured myself because I wasn't trained properly.

When I start training with a student, I don't care if they have the baseball player "look".  I want them to have the right form and mechanics so they don't get injured and can play for a long time.

A lot of areas of study use the "who, what, why, where and when" methodology and I think it is just as important in sports so I focus on that as I train young players.

Training players is an important focus for me but just as critical is training for the coach.  So often in schools the baseball coach is the dad who has some free time.  He might be an athlete as well but most likely not properly trained.  My goal is to also offer clinics for coaches.  Proper training of player and coach will certainly reduce potential injuries for the players.

Why Dogpatch?

I feel like SF Baseball Academy is a bit of an underdog -- not well known yet but with a lot of potential.  Dogpatch has that same feeling to me.  People here seem to attack what they do with passion so they can make a living from it.

On a practical level, it is great that I was able to find a place that is so easily accessible from all parts of SF.  The landlord has been very supportive in letting me create an indoor baseball environment.

Who is another fascinating person you have met in Dogpatch?

I recently met a fellow named Paul -- he has lots of great stories about this area and about baseball.  He was a liquor salesman so he knows a lot about the sport bars in this area.  He is well dressed but still a bit edgy -- kind of like Dogpatch.

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

Well, I'm from a family of professionals so I think at first I was expected to be a doctor or a lawyer.  And in college I did study communications and business.

But I knew at age 12 that I wanted to start a baseball academy in San Francisco.  So I'm finally doing what I was meant to do with my professional life. 

Article written by Patricia Kline
Photographs by Scott R. Kline

A San Francisco Giants bobblehead sits amongst a collection on the front desk at the San Francisco Baseball Academy in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Give me some Sugar: Meet Greg Mindel of Neighbor

Greg Mindel of Neighbor Baker photographed at his pop-up in Sutton Cellars on Thursday, February 21, 2013 in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA.

Loving thy neighbor is easy when it means choosing from trays of sweet and savory pastries at Neighbor bakery and when the neighbor is baker Greg Mindel.

Although it isn't that easy choosing from among the more than ten different selections available early this morning at Mindel's Thursdays-only pop-up at 22nd and Illinois in the space normally occupied by winemaker Carl Sutton and his Sutton Cellars.

Mindel's traditional croissant has garnered him much deserved praise and press for perhaps offering the only "authentic" croissant in SF but it is hard to pass up the bacon kimchi green onion croissant or the passion fruit, cocoa and almond brioche.  In the end we do indeed select the traditional croissant but also three (or four or five) of his other creations.

We were thankful to have the treats to occupy us since a seemingly endless stream of customers came in as soon Mindel opened for business.  In neighbor-like fashion, he seemed to know most of them -- shaking their hands and asking many of them if they wanted their usual or something new from the hand-written menu.

His genuine excitement at greeting each customer never flagged despite having baked all night as he does every night followed by early morning deliveries to such wholesale customers as Front Cafe, FourBarrel Coffee and SightGlass Coffee

Many of the customers were from nearby businesses -- even pastry rock star Michael Recchiuti lined up and filled a pastry box full of goodies to take to his co-workers. 

Although soft-spoken and modest, Mindel is exudes a quiet intensity when speaking about his plans for his year old business.
Greg Mindell serves a customer at his pop-up in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA on February 21, 2013.

Why do you do what you do?

I grew up in New York and in Florida and I started in the food business when I was 14 years old.  My first job was in an Italian deli as a dishwasher and then I worked my way up to other jobs.  The baker there was an old Navy guy who had lots of great stories.  I learned so much from him and from all the other places I worked where there was always someone who took the time to share what they knew with me.

For many years I was an instructor at the San Francisco Baking Institute, among other places, and I heard people describe me as self-taught but really, even though I didn't have a formal culinary school education, I was taught but folks like these. 

So I have this urge to give back what I've learned to the community -- to create a place where food and stories can be shared.

Besides  teaching pastry, I also baked for other shops such as Tell Tale Preserve, Spruce and  Tartine.  I always had a goal to open my own shop.  But I want to do it the right way and to me that means having as much start up capital as I can before I open a brick and mortar shop.  My current catering and wholesale business in addition to holding pop-ups will help me get the majority of the capital I need.

Why Dogpatch?

Dogpatch is my first choice for my brick and mortar shop. 

I like that Dogpatch still feels a bit like uncharted territory still -- there is still a bit of chaos in the neighborhood and I like that. 

I also really like the mix of people in the neighborhood.  My customers are PG&E workers, winemakers, caterers, technology folks, etc. and they all seem to appreciate what I have to offer.

And I grew up near the water so I like that Dogpatch is on the waterfront.

Who is another fascinating person you have met in Dogpatch?

I rent commercial kitchen space in this building from Jamieson Leadbetter, owner of Leadbetters Bakeshop.  When Tell Tale Preserve ended up shutting down, Jamieson reached out to me and offered me his kitchen space.  I appreciated his support and admire what he has done with his business.

Also, there is a guy, Paul, who is the original founder of International Pastries which is also in the American Industrial Building.  Although he sold the company, he still works there and he so reminds me of some of my early teachers.  He is a quiet character but has lots of great stories -- when he does speak you know you should listen!

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

When Tell Tale didn't work out, with my wife's blessing and much appreciated support, I took six months off and did a walkabout.  I traveled, taught, baked and thought.

And running Neighbor is what I want do be doing.  This industry is so inspiring and dynamic that you can really do so many things.

If I weren't working on this bakery then I would still be in the food business but probably in some academic way -- perhaps studying anthropology of food or culinary science.  

And why name your new adventure, Neighbor?

While on my walkabout I thought a lot about names.  I like that Neighbor means community and about being connected but not in an overly trendy or overly hyped way.  The name is inclusive -- it can cross borders and include everyone.

Article written by Patricia Kline
Photographs by Scott R. Kline

The barrel points the way to Neighbor bakery in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Blue no more: Cup of Blues Ready for Its Makeover

A common sight at the corner of 22nd and Minnesota is the figure of Joshua Shertz, dapper in his ever present cloth cap, pacing back and forth while talking on his cell phone or enjoying the sun with customers and friends at a table in front of his cafe, Cup of Blues.

We have often wondered why Cup of Blues serves only coffee and pastries and a few sandwich offerings and closes at 2 pm.  And as far as we could tell, there never seemed to be any blues played at all -- at least not the musical kind.  It seems like a perfect location for a bustling all day restaurant located as it is on the main merchant street of Dogpatch and within customer sharing distance of Chocolate Lab and Piccino Cafe.

Turns out Shertz and a new business partner have been planning and plotting for many months and they are almost ready to close Cup of Blues and transform the cafe into a restaurant offering something for everyone -- whether it be stopping by for a glass of wine or somewhere to go on date night.

A steady stream of customers ordered coffee and pastries the day we sat down to talk to Shertz about his plans for the cafe.

Why do you do what you do?
I love to entertain people and I love food and wine.  I started out my professional life in the music business.  I'm from New York City but moved to Los Angeles to pursue my music career although I briefly lived in San Francisco for a year before heading to L.A.  In L.A. I was a music producer and songwriter for about a decade.  I came back to SF when my dad was ill.

I decided to stay in SF -- I was pretty much done with the music business.  The business had changed from a live act business once MTV started -- I decided I needed a break.  The food/wine business is another form of entertainment.

Why Dogpatch?
I wanted a cafe that initially would be a coffee cafe but could someday be a full service restaurant.  I actually signed a lease on a great spot in  Berkeley but when I went to complete the paperwork at City Hall, I was told the city was putting a moratorium on cafes!  I was lucky that I was able to get out of my lease.

A friend drove me around SF and we eventually discovered Dogpatch.  I had never heard of this neighborhood but I liked what I saw -- homeowners putting money into their homes by painting them or doing maintenance.  And I loved all the Victorian homes.  It seemed like a neighborhood on the rise -- and this was in 1994.  And of course I liked how sunny the neighborhood was!

This site was originally a grocery store for many decades but it was being used as a living space.  I signed a lease and fixed it up and we have been here ever since.  What I didn't know that due to some issues I had with a former business partner that it would take so long to realize my goal of having a full service restaurant.

We are working on a complete redesign of this space with an architect and designer.  I can't wait to get the bars off the windows and open this place up!  We have our beer and wine license and I'm in discussions with general managers and executive chefs.  I want an approachable all day menu that will have items for breakfast, brunch as well as happy hour and late night dining. 

We will most likely close at the end of March for renovations and reopen in May. 

And there while we may at some point have live music, it will not be Blues!

Who is another fascinating person you have met in Dogpatch?
There are quite a few musicians and film people who live and work in Dogpatch.  I've really enjoyed meeting filmmaker David Munro and his wife, the producer Xandra Castleton,  of Grotto Films.  They are both so creative and David has some great stories.

What is an interesting story that has happened to you in Dogpatch?
Well the first month I was in business a customer had a medical emergency in here.  I thought, "oh great, this is what it is going to be like to deal with the public!"

Over the years it has been fun to watch various production companies film in our neighborhood.  The TV show, Nash Bridges, starring Don Johnson used to film here all the time.

And the first year the Burning Man Decompression event was held on Indiana Street was just bizarre!

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
I would still be doing something in the entertainment world but would probably be managing a band or a club.  I love to introduce people to music and artists that they may never have heard of and preferably do that while sipping a great glass of wine.

Article written by Patricia Kline
Photographs by Scott R. Kline