Art and Artisans
Building Community Through Food and Craft in the Bayview
by Sean Timberlake
Initially you may think you've lost your way. East of Third Street in Dogpatch, 22nd Street seems to end, then curls down a slope toward a series of seemingly derelict corrugated steel buildings. As you approach, you hear live music booming through the vacuous space. Welcome to Pier 70, a vestige of San Francisco's ship-building past. Here, every Thursday, the Bayview Underground Food Scene holds its weekly Community Pop-Up Market, a grassroots oasis in one of the city's food deserts.
The market stemmed from a pop-up market called Bayview Mercantile at All Good Pizza (1605 Jerrold Ave at 3rd Street; www.allgoodpizza.com), a restaurant turning out sandwiches and Neapolitan pizzas from a converted container. Fun fact: The mirror ball that hangs from the patio at All Good comes from the original location of The Stud.
The original set of vendors met in neighborhood meetings.
"We could never fully agree on where to put this or what to paint that," says Earl Shaddix of Earl's Bread and Brittles (www.facebook.com/EarlsBread), "but the one thing we could always agree on was the food. The food was always fabulous."
It inspired them to come together and form an ad hoc market where they could showcase their goods together. Only then did they realize that many of the players in this new group were LGBT. In fact, the area has a burgeoning gay population; you can meet some of the community at a Pre-Pride BBQ at All Good Pizza on Friday, June 13, from 6pm to 10pm.
That's not to say that the food scene is exclusively the domain of the LGBT population. One of the original vendors, still participating to this day, is Yvonne's Southern Sweets (5128 3rd Street; www.yvonnessouthernsweets.com), who has been making classic pralines and pies since 2003, having opened her storefront in 2006. April of Auntie April's (4618 3rd Street) sets up shop with a deep fryer and turns out piping hot fried chicken.
It's also not to say that the influx of gay and lesbian residents is entirely new. Cody Reynolds has lived in Bayview with his partner for more than 20 years. An avid gardener, Reynolds joined up with the Oakdale Housing Community and City of Dreams to establish a community garden, and works with children in the community to teach them how to grow food. The efforts have born fruit – literally – and the produce from the garden is now being offered as affordable CSA boxes to community members. This helps fill a void created by last year's closure of the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, among the few markets in the neighborhood.
Barbara Gratta and her partner Cathy purchased their Bayview home 15 years ago. Gratta had been making wine for a few years, and the new home's garage offered her an opportunity to expand on her passion. In 2006, Gratta Wines (www.grattawines.com) became one of just four bonded wineries in San Francisco at the time. Since then, the city has seen a renaissance of local wineries.
Gratta aptly means "from scratch" in Italian, and she lives up to the name, crushing and fermenting tons of grapes from Teldeschi Vineyards in Dry Creek Valley each year. Last year she produced sangiovese, old-vine zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah. Gratta Wines are currently available by the bottle at Canyon Market in Glen Park and at Rainbow Grocery, and is available at El Rio and Hotel Rex's Library Bar, as well as by the glass at the market.
Gratta is looking to expand operations with another BUFS vendor, Xan Devoss of Fox and Lion Bread ( www.foxandlionbread.com ). A self-taught baker, Devoss bakes in Bayview's Eclectic Cookery, starting with grains sourced from Grass Valley Grains, about 140 miles northeast of San Francisco. She mills some of the flour fresh at time of baking to give it a richer flavor and spur enzymatic activity. Devoss and Gratta have their eye on a space on 3rd Street, a former barbershop, which they aim to convert to a bakery and wine tasting room, a casual space for the community to congregate.
Though no longer based in the Castro, Jake's Castro Kitchen (www.jakescastrokitchen.com) sells both food and craft. Jake himself makes a wide spectrum of jams, sauces, and chutneys from fresh produce sourced locally, and while you're at the booth, you may wish to pick up one of the hunky cowboy or fireman-themed aprons lovingly made by his mother in Utah. Jake's partner, Clint, is the BUFS market manager. Other crafts at the market have included leather goods, letterpress stationery, handmade soaps and jewelry, and more.
Shaddix himself no longer sells his bread at the market, taking on more of a leadership role. He was one of the first in San Francisco to launch a business under the auspices of AB1616, the California Cottage Food Operations statute that went into effect at the beginning of last year, allowing individuals to retail certain classifications of foods, including breads and brittles, produced in home kitchens. Through the market, he is able to offer classes on helping others start and grow their food businesses.
With the support of consultant Andrea Baker and Supervisor Melia Cohen, he focuses on growing the market, and with growth comes opportunity. They've been able to hire from within the community, including a paid intern.
As popularity of the market grows, so can they bring in more vendors, and add on new features. For the existing vendors, it's mainly been a labor of love.
"They know," says Shaddix, "that for now, if they make $20, that's a good day. They don't do it for the money. They do it for community."
In this city, when the forces of gentrification are being scrutinized in the media daily, the melding of divergent populations in a place like Bayview demands discussion. Artists Melonie and Melorra Green of Gallery 1307 (www.facebook.com/gallery1307) are taking the discussion to the streets, including occasional appearances at the BUFS market. By asking people to provide their definitions of community and gentrification, they hope to capture a holistic view of the issue. Catch them Saturday, June 14, 12pm at Lush Life Gallery to engage with the "Can Art Save a Community?" project.