Bank of America Plans to Eliminate Human Bankers from Cortland Branch

BankofAmerica1936

Action Alert: Bank of America has announced plans to eliminate human tellers from the bank’s Cortland Branch.

Bernalwood visited the Cortland Branch yesterday to confirm the rumors that have been swirling around the neighborhood for the last few days.

We were told that BofA does indeed plan to turn the Cortland Branch into an Express Banking Center. That means the building is slated to undergo significant remodeling, with human tellers replaced by a zeal of indoor ATM machines. Safe deposit boxes will be eliminated along with the tellers, but the site will be staffed by non-banker humans to assist with account-management issues. The remaining humans will be customer support people, basically.

As currently envisioned, remodeling will begin in April, with the branch set to reopen in July.

The B of A on Cortland has been there for a long time. A really long time; almost 100 years, practically since the time of the ancient Bernal druids. Which is to say, the B of A on Cortland is very much a local institution. During Bernalwood’s visit yesterday, the Cortland branch was bustling; There was a short line to visit the tellers, as a few more customers waited patiently on chairs to talk with a personal banker. While they still can.

Neighbor Darcy Lee from Heartfelt on Cortland was very sad to hear about BofA’s plan for the Cortland Branch, and she is rallying to keep the human bank tellers there. Neighbor Darcy writes:

As you might know, the B of A plans on renovating our branch to make it indoor ATMs.

I just went in the bank; There were 4 senior citizens waiting for service and 3 merchants in line. I could have made a video right then and there why a neighborhood branch is so important. B of A owns the building, and they want to make it an indoor ATM. They want to stay in Bernal, but just change what they provide.

This has a big impact on us as merchants, and that further extends to our customers that use the bank. There are many senior citizens that use this as a resource in Bernal.

All of us as merchants need money — actual coins and bills — sometimes multiple times in one day. We also make large cash deposits (or, at least hopefully large). From my observation over the years, this bank takes the time to explain to their elderly population often not English speakers what is going on with their accounts and statement charges.

B of A has made this announcement when their process is pretty far along, but I want to fight it.

Stay tuned for more details, but if you’d like to find out more, check in with Neighbor Darcy at Heartfelt.

UPDATE: In the comments, Neighbor Darcy adds:

HI all, Darcy here… thanks for your input- it is helpful to hear what you have to say. Please note that many folks that bank there do not read Bernalwood. There have always been safety issues with this branch, a few botched robberies over the years thus the bullet proof glass, a senior citizen mugged at the ATM. A door that opens during business hours without having to use your ATM card seems important to me, literally and symbolically. I do not feel it is an issue of “yeeesh old folks can learn to use a technology that has been around a long time”. For me it is an issue of letting an institution know that their decision made many miles from 94110 is affecting us. If you have ideas for the cause email me at info@heartfeltsf.com and if you have an account you will close because of this change please also let me know.

PHOTO: “Crowd of people standing outside the Bernal Heights branch of the Bank of America, on Cortland Avenue, after a bank robbery” December 24, 1936, via SFPL Image Library

Valentine’s Day Pro Tip: Floral Popup at Pinhole Coffee Today and Tomorrow

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Here’s a special way to get your Valentine on. Natasha Lisitsa is a ridiculously glamorous Bernal Heights floral designer, and just in time for the arrival of Cupid, she’s doing a pop-up floral boutique today and tomorrow, February 13 and 14, at the fabulous Pinhole Coffee on Cortland.

Natasha says:

My name is Natasha Lisitsa, and I own a floral design studio in Bernal Heights at 1501 Cortland. We don’t have a storefront since we focus on special events and floral art installations, so you probably never seen us.

This weekend I am doing a Valentines Day popup shop at Pinhole Coffee. It will be open from 12-6pm on Friday, and from 9-6pm on Saturday. We will have fresh floral bouquets in variety of colors and prices.

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PHOTO: via Waterlily Pond on Facebook

Fabulous 331 Cortland Getting an Indoor Seating Upgrade

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Are you sitting down right now? Because as you read this, the fabulous food marketplace at 331 Cortland is getting a major upgrade, in the form of an indoor seating area. It’s also getting a new mission statement. 331 Cortland owner Debra Resnik brings the tell:

What: 331 Cortland Marketplace remodel to result in 10 seats at the formerly seatless kiosk shop.
When: Shops close for remodel Feb. 1-5 and reopen Feb. 6 with new daily opening hour of 8 a.m.
Who: Anda Piroshki, Paulie’s Pickling, and Mae Krua food kiosks
Why: To give customers exactly what they’ve asked for.

Visitors to the “three shops in one” at 331 Cortland in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood pretty much all say the same thing: “This place is amazing!” They also ask the same question: “Is there anywhere to sit?” The shop is pleased to announce that the answer is about to change to “Yes.”

In a total redefinition of purpose, the storefront is set to transform itself from small-business incubator into microcafé. Although the incubator model has been spectacularly successful, launching Ichi Sushi and Bernal Cutlery into their own storefronts (and other businesses into wholesale and retail,) property owner and in-house theoretician Debra Resnik has worked hard to give customers what they want: seating. Resnik and 331 Cortland residents Anda Piroshki, Paulie’s Pickling, and Mae Krua Thai food are excited about the forthcoming seating and remodel: Kiosk chefs Anna Tvelova, Liz Ashby, and Anucha Kongthavorn hint at expanded menus in the near future, thanks to the improved space. Paulie’s will continue to carry favorite retail items from 331 alum and friends in the new configuration as well — including Suite Foods waffles.

Locals Paul Ashby of Paulie’s Pickling and recent Russian transplant and Anda Piroshki cook Roman Ugrimov will do the construction, while a bittersweet note comes from the decision of waffle shop Suite Foods to change focus to wholesale and catering work. Their presence in the shop will be missed. However, Deb and the team look forward to giving customers from Bernal and beyond exactly what they want: seats!

PHOTO: 331 Cortland time capsule, circa 2011; by Telstar Logistics

Pinhole Coffee Connects With Bernal’s Filipino Community

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A few weeks ago, Bernalwood’s search robots brought an interesting headline to our attention: “Enterprising Filipina opens hip cafe in hot San Francisco neighborhood.” The accompanying article tells a very cool story about JoEllen Depakakibo, the fashionably caffeinated Filipina entrepreneur who opened Pinhole Coffee on Cortland Avenue.

Inquirer.net, a news site for Filipinos, describes how Miss JoEllen from Pinole has connected with the Filipino community in Bernal Heights:

“[Bernal Heights] was the type of neighborhood I was looking for, a mix of the old and modern, giving me the feel of the 1950s,” Depakakibo related.

“Here, you see amazing people walking and talking to each other,” she added. […] Bernal Heights has had its share of woes because of the rapid gentrification occuring in San Francisco. Before the tech surge, it was a more diverse mix of working class residents, artists and activists. Buck Bagot one of the founders of the Occupy Bernal Movement, was quoted in a piece in Bernalwood blog, saying, “When I moved here, every house on my block had a different ethnicity. There were Latinos, Blacks, American Indians, Samoans and Filipinos. … Now they’re all gone.”

Members of the Occupy Bernal movement are currently fighting to save homes from foreclosures and maintain diversity in the neighborhood. When Depakakibo chose Bernal Heights for her venture, she was not yet aware of the history of Filipinos in the neighborhood.

The late Filipino American Bill Sorro, a longtime resident and beloved civil rights and housing activist, was one of the leaders of the movement in the 1970s that struggled for nine years to prevent the eviction of low-income senior citizens, including Filipinos, from the International Hotel in San Francisco’s Chinatown. (The International Hotel Manilatown Center now stands on the site, a testament to the early organizing for affordable housing rights in the city.)

The number of Filipinos in Bernal Heights spiked starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s because of the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which paved the way for immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East to become permanent residents in the U.S.

Gloria Carvajal, one of the beneficiaries of the law, has lived in the neighborhood since she arrived in the US in 1968 and worked for Pacific Bell Telephone Company (now AT&T) for almost 30 years until her early retirement in 1996. She was active in Saint Kevin Church’s close-knit Fil-Am Association, which no longer exists, but she continues to keep in touch and care for housebound members of the group. […]

One afternoon, Carvajal went to Pinhole to have a cup of java, and as soon as Depakakibo saw her, she bowed, took Carvajal’s hand, and put it against her forehead, a sign of respect for elders among Filipinos. In turn, Carvajal gave her a blessing and welcomed her to the neighborhood, immediately proceeding to tell the young Pinay about Filipinos living and working in Bernal Heights. While decades separated their ages, respect for an age-old tradition and love for coffee and community bonded them instantly.

Read the whole thing on Inquirer.net, here.

PHOTO: JoEllen Depakakibo (right) gives longtime Bernal Heights resident Gloria Carvajal a traditional Filipino greeting at Pinhile Coffee. Photo my Mila De Guzman for Inquirer.net

Photo from Early 1970s Reveals Evidence of Barber Shortage in Bernal Heights

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Our friends at the Bernal Heights History project just shared this ridiculously groovy photo of Bernal residents posing for a photo on Cortland Avenue (looking west from Andover) in the early 1970s.

Let’s zoom and enhance to partake of some details:

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A few things to notice:

  • Today’s Lucky Horseshoe used to be called The Cherokee.
  • There was a phone booth at the corner! Perhaps that’s where everyone went to change into superhero costumes?
  • Today’s Lama’s Kenpo Karate used to be the Middle East Delicatessen corner store.
  • It looks like there was a pharmacy in the location of today’s Discount Club liquor store.
  • Judging from the hirsute appearance of the gentlemen, it we can surmise that either a) there were no barbers in San Francisco at the time, or b) business was probably very slow for them. (EDITORIAL NOTE: That was a joke.)

Meanwhile, there’s a fun conversation happening at the Bernal History Project Facebook page as some Bernal old-timers try to identify the people in the photo.

UPDATE, January 26: Bernal alum and black-belt history geek David Gallagher points us toward a terrific, reverse-angle 1951 shot of the Arrow Pharmacy that occupied 439 Cortland (today’s Discount Club liquors store):

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The caption says:

When Arrow Pharmacy on Cortland was sold by owner Michael Anthony Callagy, Jr. in 1996, San Francisco columnist Steve Rubenstein penned “Ode to a Pharmacy’s Passing – For seniors, S.F. druggist’s closing is a bitter pill” in memoriam.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Bernal Heights History Project on Facebook. Arrow Pharmacy, via Western Neighborhoods Project

Andi’s Market Now Serving Fresh Deli Sandwiches on Cortland

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Neighbor Andrea Cohen from Andi’s Market at 820 Cortland tells Bernalwood she’s added fresh deli sandwiches to her store’s repertoire  — as well as a secure way to receive package deliveries:

When I was first considering taking over the old JC Market, one of the comments I heard over and over from Bernalites was that Cortland Avenue had no traditional sandwich deli—a place when you could get in and out with a fat sandwich, potato or macaroni salad or chips and a drink for $10 (or under). So now we’re doing that, and it’s <finally!> up and running.

We’re hand-slicing the basics: pastrami, roast beef, ham, turkey, salami, chicken breast, tuna salad and putting it on fresh Dutch crunch and sweet French rolls or wheat or sourdough bread. We also have gluten free bread for those who need it. We found an awesome old panini maker in the back of the store, had it refurbished, and can grill sandwiches as well. Green salads are fresh and simple—they can be ordered with or without deli meat.

Right now the deli is staffed at lunch (from 10am to 2pm), but if you want to pick up a sandwich later in the day, you can call it in between ten and two and we’ll have it ready. We also have a handful of “grab and go”. The macaroni and potato salads are great. We’ve priced everything sanely—and we’re using Columbus meat and high quality cheeses.

Also, separately, wanted to mention that we now have a Swapbox automated kiosk at the store — it’s a physical location for packages to be picked up and delivered. The box is at the store year-round, but is extra handy around the holidays for those not home to sign for packages. It’s a great way to avoid having packages stolen, and it’s easy to set up online.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Andi’s Market

TONIGHT: Jazz, Kid Fun, and Cookies at the 2014 Bernal Library Winter Festival

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The Bernal Heights Public Library is a genuine hub of awesome throughout the year, but tonight the library is hosting a seasonal festival that celebrates music, kids, and tasty food. Library manager Valerie Reichert tells us:

Please join us for our annual celebration! The evening features the awesome Bernal Jazz Quartet playing seasonal selections, holiday craft making in the children’s room AND A COOKIE CONTEST & RECIPE SWAP! Bring your favorite cookies with recipe, and maybe YOU will get a blue ribbon!

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 10TH FROM 6-8:30 PM
Information: 355-5610
For all ages!

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PHOTO: Telstar Logistics