While it's known for being home to historical landmarks like the Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard, Bayview Opera House and Sam Jordan's Bar, the Bayview District is also a historically under-resourced neighborhood. It's considered a food desert and has struggled over the years to secure basic neighborhood amenities such as a full-service affordable grocery store.
Despite these setbacks and a nationwide pandemic, over the past year, a group of solution-oriented and relentless craft makers and "do-it-yourselfers" combined their resources to create a booming food and art scene. And while COVID-19 shuttered hundreds of businesses citywide, the Bayview District gained twelve, with seven owned by women of color along 3rd Street.
Here are seven more businesses owned by community trailblazers who pivoted toward success.
The people: Owner and chef April Spears opened her second restaurant, Cafe Envy, in 2018 after her first, Chicken, Waffles & Soul Food, became a neighborhood favorite.
The pitch: While Auntie April's is known for its Southern-influenced comfort food in a diner setting, Cafe Envy is a bar and grill that serves American food.
The pivot: During the pandemic, the restaurant was the first to incorporate a parklet as part of the city's Shared Spaces program and partnered with SF Black Wallstreet to create a "First Friday" event centered on supporting black-owned businesses and local artists. They also partnered with Young Community Developers (a neighboring organization) and passed out personal protective equipment.
The people: While bread baking became a hobby for many during the pandemic, Xan Devoss of Fox and Lion Bread perfected the craft years ago when she opened her business on Third Street in 2011.
The pitch: Fox and Lion Bread is a neighborhood mainstay that serves craft pastries, sandwiches, salads, coffee and pizza in a quaint storefront with walls full of local art.
The pivot: Locals kept Fox and Lion afloat, but Devoss said partnerships with other local businesses were key.. During the pandemic, she partnered with neighboring business Las Palmas on an outdoor parklet, which allowed both businesses to expand seating for customers.
The people: Chef Marcel Banks, a San Francisco native and owner of Frisco Fried, keeps a low profile but has fed the Bayview community for over a decade.
The pitch: "Fried with pride" is this award-winning and family-owned restaurant's motto. They serve a wide array of Louisiana-style soul food, and are known for their fried chicken. It can take up to 20 minutes to prepare, but it’s worth the wait.
The pivot: Last year, Banks was looking forward to celebrating the 10th anniversary of Frisco Fried's opening with a public celebration, but COVID brought those plans to a screeching halt. Instead, Banks doubled down on to-go orders and participated in the city's Shared Spaces program, which enabled him to build a double parklet.
The people: In 2015, Bayview resident and winemaker Barbara Gratta opened the first and only wine tasting room in the neighborhood.
The pivot: Gratta's long-term goal was to expand her business beyond the wine bar by opening an Italian market. Once the pandemic hit, Gratta pivoted to essential goods and opened a second storefront called Gratta's Italian Market. At the market, Gratta sells everything from fresh pasta to sauces, olive oils and wine. The market even features a community shelf that sells goods from other craft makers in the Bayview District.
The people: Bernadette Smith, aka "Ms. B" is the owner of The Jazz Room, which is one of the Bayview District's oldest businesses.
The pitch: Since 1962, the Jazz Room has served as the Bayview's "Cheers" and a place where you are likely to run into some of the neighborhood's longtime residents. Interestingly, you are not likely to hear jazz music when walking into the Jazz Room. Instead,Funk, R&B and old-school Hip-Hop music fill up the bar and pour onto the street.
The pivot: In the early stages of the pandemic, when the city announced that bars were allowed to serve to-go cocktails, that news was a relief to Ms. B. The only problem was that to-go cocktails also had to be served with a bonafide meal, and the Jazz Room didn’t have a kitchen. So Ms. B. sprung into action and transformed the Jazz Room into a temporary food facility. She partnered with a local caterer and secured a shared spaces permit, allowing the Jazz Room to serve their longtime customers.
The pitch: Tato has been open since 2018 and is a restaurant known for its innovative style and authentic take on Mexican cuisine. The restaurant's theme was inspired by Houk's son, who is half Mexican.
The pivot: Like so many businesses, Tato took a financial hit due to the pandemic, but partnering with nonprofit organizations like SF New Deal to prepare meals for seniors and the unhoused became a lifeline for the restaurant. Houk also invited the community to Tato for a pay-what-you-can "Taco Love '' on Tuesdays, where participants’ $10 cash donations go to feed a Bayview neighbor or a person in a Shelter in Place (SIP) hotel or homeless encampment. One taco Tuesday, a customer paid $1k for a taco plate.
The people: Word A. Cafe was built from owners Kat Anderson and Carl Hall's love for reading and writing—hence the cafe's name.
The pitch: Since 2018, Word A. Cafe has been a cafe by day and a bar by night. They offer breakfast dishes, gourmet sandwiches, homemade soups and salads. They transform into a bar in the evening and offer craft cocktails and a light dinner menu that changes weekly.
The pivot: Throughout the pandemic, and as the city continues to work toward recovery, the duo brainstormed on creative ways to not only keep their business afloat but also energize the commercial corridor. It had nothing to do with reading or writing but with live music. Every weekend evening and during their Sunday brunch, Word features live music from renowned Bay Area musicians. Kat and Carl took it a step further by building a coalition of local musicians and venues, which they call the Musicians and Venues Development Alliance (MAVDA). Their mission is to revitalize neighborhoods in San Francisco, starting with Third Street by producing high-quality live music events. They also want to ensure fair workplace standards and compensation for artists, venues and their staff.
Stay tuned for our first episode of “When the Lights Come Up in the City” on July 22, 2021.
Meaghan Mitchell can be reached at email@example.com