Hot Item at Safeway: Shopping Carts

Safeway's empty shopping-cart corral

Sometimes you just have make a Safeway run at 4:30 p.m. on a Saturday. And when you do, you generally expect to be able to shop with the help of, you know, a shopping cart.

But this past Saturday, despite there being plenty of empty parking spaces, there were no carts to be seen anywhere outside the building. (Unless you count a couple of locked off-brand ones sitting by the 29th Street cut-through.) Lucky for me, someone had abandoned a cart inside, near a cash register.

I asked courtesy clerk Derek what the story was. He said (very courteously), “They’re probably all in use. We don’t have much. Sorry about that.”

Hmm, is this some sort of Taoist simplicity thing?

PHOTO: Bronwyn Ximm

Confirmed: The Stray Bar Is For Sale, Announces Plan to Close in January


There’s been a lot of buzz around Bernalwood concerning this real estate listing, and now Miss Karen from the beloved and canine-friendly Stray Bar on Cortland has posted an announcement to explain what’s going on:

To our Friends, Customers & Neighbors:

YES! The rumor is true and Stray Bar (and building) are on the market as of this week.

I realize this saddens many of you who have come up to talk to me this past week and it was not an easy decision process by any means. This has been a year with some personal family tragedy – a year that has made me reflect on my goals and dreams for the future – and it is a year that has brought me opportunity to grow further as a small business owner.

There is absolutely no doubt that I have grown, learned, and benefitted from my relationship with so many of you, with this neighborhood, and as a small business owner in San Francisco. Running a business in this city has its challenges and is not for the faint of heart but I encourage anyone with a dream and the ability to pursue that dream to do just that – life is short and opportunities do not present themselves every day. When they do – grab and don’t let go!

Please keep in mind that the process of selling Stray Bar will take some time – licenses, permits, and all that is involved takes some time. During that time we hope you will join us at the bar for a drink, to dream about future endeavors, laugh about past memories, and to continue on with the friendships that we have built over this nearly seven year period.

Bernal Heights is an amazing neighborhood – I like to call it a little village in the midst of the city. We watch out for one another around here, we care, and nowhere have I seen that more than through the friendship, feedback, and support of our Stray Bar clientele.

We are here through January and we hope to see you soon! And please do not be sad – change is good and necessary to growth…

“20 years from now you will be disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one’s you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

Respectfully & Sincerely,
Karen Opp
Proprietor / Stray Bar

UPDATE: Coming on the heels of the announced closure of Nervous Dog Coffee earlier in the week, celebrity Bernal Heights journalist Tim Dickinson observes: “This is a bad economy for dog-themed beverage establishments in Bernal.”

PHOTO: Redfin

Nervous Dog Coffee Announces Imminent Closure; Sadness Ensues



Neigbor Vic brings sad news from the Bernalwood/La Lengua Liminal Zone. Nervous Dog Coffee is closing:

I saw this today and it’s a major bummer for me.

I get all my beans at Nervous Dog Coffee on the corner of Mission and Kingston and always appreciated their deliberately unhip, unpretentious atmosphere. Ritualistic Blue Barrel Coffee is all well and good, but sometimes I don’t care who massaged my beans and would prefer not to cross a street to get my fix.

I’m sure a lot of Bernal-Lenguans appreciate the cafe. The owner was always awesomely nice and it was a good place to work. So maybe you could get the word out so folks can stop by and say goodbye.

Also, economic downturn on the 3400 block? Say it ain’t so. If Zante goes I’m rioting.

I’ll be right there too, with pitchforks and torches.

PHOTOS: Top, via Google Maps. Nervous Dog sign by Neighbor Vic.

Red Hill Bookstore Will Close (But Won’t Go Away)

One of the greatest charms of Cortland Avenue is the way Bernal’s commercial district feels adrift in time — a 1940s vision of Main Street USA, but with much better food and electric bicycles.

There’s definitely some truth to that impression, but it is a fragile illusion. Cortland feels adrift in time, but it is not immune to larger forces of change. Those forces recently claimed the venerable Four Star Video, and today we learned that they will also take the much-loved Red Hill Books.

Yet much like Four Star, we learn that Red Hill will half-disappear, and half-evolve into something new. Red Hill Books manager Jeremy Hatch explains:

I wanted to share with you all the sign we just put in our window, which I’ve included in full below. But to summarize: unfortunately, we’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that we can no longer sustain a full, general-interest bookstore here in Bernal, but we love the neighborhood too much to leave, so we’re going to try something new. We’re planning to close down Red Hill Books per se at the end of the year, and in January, transform the space into a sort of co-op similar to 331 Cortland. We’ll remain as one of the businesses in the co-op — we’re planning to open a new store, focused on children and young readers, in our part of the space. This (a children’s store) is something we’ve been talking about doing for a long time, so we’re excited to give it a try! We’re planning to call the new store Chickadee.

Right now, we’re just starting the search for interested business people to join us. We’ve gotten a few informal proposals, but we’re looking for more, and I’m hoping you’ll highlight that on the blog. Our minds are open, and we’re willing to enter into short term agreements (of say 3 months) just to test things out.

Here are additional details, as described in the sign that’s now in the window of Red Hill Books:

Dearest neighbors:

First of all: we’re not leaving!

However, we do need to change what we’re doing. We’ve had increasing financial difficulty over the past few years and we can’t continue the way we have been. We love Bernal as much as you do, though, and we want to stick around, so we’re planning to transform ourselves after the New Year in two ways: first, we’re going to become more focused on children’s books and events; second, we want to create a co-op-type space like 331, with several other small businesses. Here are the details on each idea:


We’ve noticed that, with the growing numbers of young families here on the Hill, our strongest category of sales, day in and day out, is books for children and young readers. So we’ve decided to take the hint and try something we’ve been contemplating for a long time anyway: create a store with a focus on books and other products for children and parents. We’re thinking of calling it Chickadee.

There are a few things you should know about this transition:

  • At this time, we plan to continue to stock a small selection of adult books – we’ll definitely have the latest best sellers, parenting books, and some periodicals, for example — but we’ll be using the same distributor as we do now, and we’ll remain connected to our sister stores, Phoenix Books, Dog Eared Books, and Alley Cat Books, so you will be able to order any title you want from us.
  • We’re working on a nice website where you will be able to order books from us online, at your convenience. Beyond new books, we’re talking about bringing our entire catalog of sale books online as well. And we also plan to offer direct home delivery of your orders within Bernal Heights.
  • If you have store credit, that credit will continue to be honored here and at our sister stores.
  • All Bernal Bucks earned at Red Hill will be honored at Chickadee
  • If you’re interested in trading more books here, you should be aware that through the end of 2012 we’re going to be selective about the adult titles we take – recent best-sellers and titles we know the other stores could use. For Chickadee, we’ll mostly be interested in children’s books.


Chickadee won’t require as much space as we have today, so, inspired by the example of 331 Cortland, we’re planning to share our building with other small businesses — we are looking for proposals, and our minds are open. (Of course, your idea would have to work well with a kids-oriented bookstore.) If you have an idea, or know someone who might, please talk to us!

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

BYO-Bagism Up in Bernal Heights, Plus: Get a Free Canvas Tote This Weekend

It’s been three weeks since the city instituted its 10-cent minimum charge for compostable, recycled paper, or reusable sacks at the checkout counter, and so far the policy seems to be an easy pill for Bernal Heights to swallow. (No big surprise there, since green is, after all, glamorous.)

A micro-interview with cashier Alex at the Good Life on Cortland indicates that the ordinance is having its intended effect:

Bernalwood: Have you noticed any difference in the bag situation recently?

Cashier Alex: We’re definitely seeing a lot more people bringing their own bags.

Bernalwood: What happens when they don’t?

Cashier Alex: Then we have to count up all the bags at the end and charge for them.

Bernalwood: Sounds like kind of a pain. Is it? 

Cashier Alex: A little bit.

If you need to add to your collection of reusable bags, make sure to find SF Environment’s booth at Fiesta on the Hill on Cortland Street this Sunday starting at 11 a.m. The fine folks there will be handing out nice ones as part of their consumer education campaign.

PHOTO: Bronwyn Ximm

Kickstarting Bernal Heights: Hillside Supper Club, Barbasket, and Zip Cup

Here in Bernal Heights, Kickstarter fundraising efforts have become kind of like Louis Vuitton handbags on Cortland Street: Everybody has one. Let’s sit in on pitch meetings from three Bernal entrepreneurs:

Hillside Supper Club
Bernalwood has been following the adventures of the Hillside Supper Club since the days when it was called the Bernal Supper Club. In addition to making exceptionally yummy food, HSC wants to transform the sad Cafe Cozzolino space into a permanent culinary hotspot.

By this fall, we plan to be open six nights a week for dinner, self-service lunch (to include picnics in Precita Park), and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. In addition, we will hold special dinners/classes with local farmers, artisans, wine makers, and butchers. We will stay involved with Slow Food and other local food communities to share food and nutritional education with others, especially the next generation of children. Once a month we plan to bring back an original 50’s “supper club” where we encourage guests to dress the part, with live bands and singers performing. We want to host “HSC movie in the park” events in Precita Park that will feature classic films along with hot beverages and popcorn.

Hillside Supper Club is looking for $25,000 to get the job done, and you can contribute until September 7.

Neighbor Chris from Alabama Street cooked up a clever idea to build a way-new bicycle handlebar that includes an integrated frame for a handy-dandy fabric cargo basket:

The Barbasket is a one-piece handlebar and basket rim that supports a fabric basket. The fabric basket holds your stuff snugly, and has a clever bungeed flap on the top that keeps your goods secure. But the best part is that it does all that without looking like a janky add-on. It’s a basket that becomes part of your bike.

Love this. Chris hopes to raise $20,000, and you can contribute until August 13. Hurry!

Zip Cup
Neigbor Karla lives over on Coleridge, and she wants to create the ultimate to-go coffee cup:

A few years ago, I got sick of schlepping my reusable coffee cup to Martha’s and Nervous Dog. So I went out and created Zip Cup–I took the collapsing coffee cup you had as a kid, made it safe by adding locking mechanisms used on space shuttles and submarines, made it stylish/attractive, cut out the BPA and voila — an easy-to-carry, safe, awesome, Made in Bernalwood collapsing coffee cup that fits in your pocket, (diaper) bag, and much more.

Clever! Karla is using an alternative service called Indiegogo for her fund drive, and she hopes to raise $70,000 by Sept. 11.

This Young Bernal Entrepreneur Wants to Jog with Your Dog

Bernalwood supports our many merchants and businesses in Bernal Heights, and in that spirit we bring you this announcement from one of our more energetic local service providers:

My name is Enoch Pacheco. I’m a 14 year old resident of Bernal Heights who is providing a Dog Jogging Service for the Neigborhood. I heard about the blog you have by word of mouth and think it would be great if you could post an advertisement on your blog for the service that I provide.

The jogging session is done in your neighborhood when possible. My preference is to use nearby parks. My main goal is to provide your dog with the necessary exercise to keep their bones and joints in good health. Being cooped up in the house all day can lead to boredom, mischief and a severe lack of exercise. I look forward to hearing from you. Whether your dog needs a running or a fast paced walking service, he/she is sure to benefit from a daily fitness routine!

If this a service that may be of use to you, please dial the number on your screen:

Oh, and as for his other qualifications… Bernalwood’s research revealed that in 2011, Enoch broke a San Francisco AAA Middle school Track Record in the 400 Meter Dash, with a time of 58.90.

Hopefully, your dog can keep up with him.

PHOTOS: Enoch Pacheco, by his friend Shawn