High Bridge Arms in Bernal Heights, San Francisco’s Last Gun Shop, Set to Close


This story has been generating lots of buzz around town and on conservative media organs across the nation: High Bridge Arms at 3185 Mission Street in Bernal Heights, San Francisco’s last remaining gun shop, plans to close by the end of October.

High Bridge has been a fixture in Bernal since the 1950s, when it was opened by Bob Chow, a Chinese-American who had represented the US shooting team in the 1948  London Olympics. Chow died in 2003, but the store carried on under owner Andy Takahashi and manager Steven Alcairo until a Sept. 11 Facebook post announced that closure was imminent:

Dear friends and family, it’s with tremendous sadness and regret that I have to announce we are closing our shop. For many reasons I cannot get into at this moment, it appears our final days will be through to the end of October of 2015. We will clearance out what ever inventory we have in the shop and offer sale prices for anything you would like us to order. This is not a joke. For any of you Vultures, (you know who you are) please don’t bother us. For if you do, I give you my solemn promise that we will make it a very unpleasant experience for you. For all our true friends and followers, I would like to sincerely thank you for all your support, likes, positive feedback and best of all, your friendship. Hopefully, we’ll see you soon. It has been a long and difficult ride, but a great pleasure to be you’re last San Francisco Gun shop. Our warm regards, High Bridge Arms.

If this sounds like ripe fodder for Fox News, well, rest assured, they’re on it.

Ever since it was opened in the 1950s by a celebrated Olympic shooter, High Bridge Arms has been a defiant fixture in San Francisco’s Mission District, (sic) but a coming wave of new firearms restrictions has prompted the last gun shop in the liberal City by the Bay to pack it in.

The proposed new city regulations, which could only be aimed at High Bridge Arms, would have required the shop to take and preserve video of all transactions and turn customers’ personal data over to police on a weekly basis. General Manager Steven Alcairo said the shop’s owners finally threw in the towel after years of what they consider being unfairly targeted with burdensome rules and regulations. Past regulations have required the shop to bar ads and displays from its windows and install cameras and barriers around its exterior. The shop has 17 cameras as it is, and turns video over to police on request, he said.

“This time, it’s the idea of filming our customers taking delivery of items after they already completed waiting periods,” Alcairo said. “We feel this is a tactic designed to discourage customers from coming to us.

To be sure, a great many Bernalese will be glad to hear High Bridge Arms is closing. That’s understandable; the gun shop has long been an incongruous part of our local landscape, and gun violence is a disease that plagues our city and our nation.

That said, the store was popular among law enforcement officers, and I don’t recall hearing any stories that involved bad guys using guns that came from High Bridge. Awkward though it was, that incredible, faded GUNS sign out front provided a link to a lost time in San Francisco, and here in Bernal Heights. Here’s Bob Chow’s biography from the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California:

Bob Chow […] was born in 1911, in the U.S. to Chinese immigrant parents and passed away in 2003. He was a pioneer ham radio operator in his youth. He joined the Navy Reserve in the early 1930s. He became a noncommissioned officer, a rarity then for an Asian American.

Bob established 37 world pistol records, and in 1948 qualified for a place on the U.S. Olympic Team and competed in London. He was the first Chinese American to compete in pistol shooting in an Olympic game. Bob was the only U.S. rapid-fire shooter to score 60 hits in the match and placed 13th overall. After returning from the Olympics Bob coached young American shooters and raised the standard of American gunnery to competitive internationally.

bobchowaccuracyDuring his stint as a movie extra he taught John Wayne, Roy Rogers and others how to increase their accuracy in pistol firing. Bob was an all around sportsman and loved motorcycles. Bob played saxophone and banjo with American jazz groups during the Prohibition days following World War II. Eventually he and his wife Bobbie settled in San Francisco where he owned and operated a gun shop.

High Bridge was a juxtaposed holdover from the midcentury, working-class Bernal Heights that was here before almost all of us — before the Summer of Love, before Santana in the park, before the SLA, the Esmeralda Slides, BHNC, the Good Life, the coffee shops, the Subarus, the Priuses, and plenty of other events and symbols that reflect the sensibility Bernal Heights is known for today. High Bridge was an icon of diversity of a different sort, and even if you never liked it, or only barely tolerated it, it always provided a tangible reminder of different ways of looking at the world, and our own neighborhood.

PHOTO: High Bridge Arms sign, by Telstar Logistics

Succulence Is Having a Sidewalk Sale All Weekend


Neighbor Ken Shelf from the fabulous Succulence at 402 Cortland wants to tell you about a plantastic sidewalk sale happening at the store this weekend:

This coming weekend, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 26th and 27th, Succulence is having a sidewalk sale from 11-4 each day.

We are moving a lot of awesome items out of the shop that we’ve had for a long time. There will be planters, home stuff, some plants that need TLC, some products that will give you TLC, and a variety of other fun stuff.

This is a cash only sale, just available on the sidewalk those two days. We are making room for tons of new stuff coming for the holiday season.

Hope to see everyone out next weekend!


PHOTO: Ken Shelf in situ, Courtesy of Succulence

Coming Soon: Ampersand, a Tiny New Shop from Team Heartfelt


Neighbor Darcy Lee, a resident of Alemanistan and owner of Heartfelt on Cortland, has a new shop in the works. The new place will be just across the street, in the tiny former storefront at 409 Cortland, near Bennington between Epicurean Trader and Vega.

We’ve heard Neighbor Darcy describe Heartfelt as a “general store for the 21st century,” and her new place will take that idea in a slightly different direction.  She tells Bernalwood:

Wanted to let you know that I signed a lease for a storefront on Cortland in our block (409 Cortland Ave). It will be a small shop called Ampersand, and we will carry women’s clothing, accessories, books and good cheer.

When I incorporated Heartfelt, the name Heartfelt was taken so I added an “&” and it has brought me good luck ever since. Thus the name.

There will not be a ton of books, but I can special order almost any title and for those who like our smattering of clothing found at Heartfelt, there will actually be a changing room! And more choices! We plan on soft opening October 1st, if not before. Promise to keep you posted.

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Heartfelt

Tonight: Grand Opening Celebration for New East-West Bernal Clinic on Cortland


Neighbor Nicole Kurth, a resident of Bernal’s glamorous Santana Rancho district, invites you the grand opening gala for East-West Bernal, the new integrative therapy clinic located at 486 Cortland, in the former Integral Body space. The grand opening happens this evening, and Neighbor Nicole writes:

I’m writing to invite all of our neighbors to join us for our Grand Opening Celebration of East West Bernal on Wednesday, August 26, from 5:30pm-8:00pm. We’re located at 406 Cortland, in the space formerly occupied by The Integral Body.

This is a second location for East West Integrative Medicine, which is an acupuncture and massage therapy clinic that’s been in business for over 12 years on Chenery St in Glen Park.

Marnie McCurdy and her experienced team of acupuncturists, massage therapists, and homeopaths will be available to provide free sample treatments and demonstrations throughout the evening. Mini massages, pulse readings, ear seed acupuncture, and refreshments will be offered on an ongoing basis. At 6pm and 7pm respectively, we’ll offer a Kombucha class and a Jin Shin Jyutsu demonstration.

Come check out our space, meet our team, get a free treatment… We look forward to meeting our neighbors and providing Bernal with the best in health and wellness services.

PHOTO: Courtesy of East West Bernal

Venerable Navarro’s Martial Arts Academy Faces Eviction on Mission Street


The beloved Navarro’s Marital Arts Academy on Mission near Cortland is being evicted, thanks to the gentrifying effects of… Christian book stores???

San Francisco Magazine reports:

For 43 years, Carlos Navarro has run a small martial arts gym in Bernal Heights whose community involvement and affordable classes have kept local lower-income youths from the temptations of drugs and guns. But decades of community goodwill have earned Navarro little credit with his new landlord, who asked him to vacate the gym by September 20 after he refused a rent hike from $1,800 to $6,500.

As the latest addition to a long line of small businesses being displaced in San Francisco, Navarro’s Martial Arts Academy had its lease terminated, despite pleas from the Navarro family and supervisor David Campos. Their request to at least extend the gym’s tenancy for a few more months was denied by the owner, Alice Tse of Innovistech Realty. Once the gym is gone, Steve’s Bookstore—a Christian bookstore based in North Carolina and owned by Olivet University, a SoMa-based for-profit university—is in line to take its place at the Mission Street storefront, near 30th Street.

IMAGE: via Google Maps

Tonight! Celebrate the 8th Anniversary of Secession Art & Design


Secession Art & Design is a Bernal Heights treasure, and tonight it’s proud proprietor, Ms. Eden Stein, is celebrating her store’s eighth anniversary.

It’s hard to emphasize how hard she’s worked to make this happen. Secession has always been awesome, but when she lost her lease in the space across from Safeway in 2014, Ms. Eden had to scramble to keep Secession alive. Thankfully, through lots of hustle and a little good luck, Secession was able to re-open in the former SoCha Cafe space at 3235 Mission (near Valencia). Today, the store is bigger and more vibrant than ever, Ms. Eden is a pillar of the glamorous Mission-Bernal Merchants Association, and Secession become an  integral part of La Lengua’s increasingly lively (and delicious) Mission Street corridor.

Ms. Eden writes:

I am hosting our 8th anniversary on Friday night!

Secession is throwing a party to celebrate 8 years in the Mission Bernal neighborhood. Please join us this Friday, August 14 6:30 to 9:30 pm to honor what we’ve all built. Meet our featured artists Andreina Davila, Heather Robinson, as well as many others who’ve been part of our community over the past eight years.

Sometimes you have to dream big and just go for it. Thank you to everyone who helped us on our journey to our new home when we lost our lease a year ago. Thanks to your support, we were able to stay in the neighborhood and relocate to our beautiful 3235 Mission Street gallery and boutique. You rock!

Many of you have asked how you can help us to make sure Secession is part of the arts community and the changing San Francisco retail landscape. If you’d like to support us, the best way is to shop in-store (we’re open Tuesday-Sunday, noon to 7pm), shop online, or donate to our ongoing fundraiser.

Hope to see you tonight.

Congratulations, Eden, and best wishes for 800 more fabulous years!

IMAGE: Courtesy of Secession Art &; Design

Charlie’s Cafe on Precita Park Is For Sale


It’s sometimes hard to remember how much Precita Park has changed in just the last five years.

Think back, however, and you may recall that the Precita Park of 2010 was lovely, but rather lifeless. The eastern side of the park near the playground was home to two beer-and-chips corner stores, one of which was frequently shut down because of run-ins with the law. On the western side, along Folsom, Cancilla’s Market was yet another corner store offering beer and chips. Cafe Cozzolino was sometimes open and always empty, in no small part because it offered some of San Francisco’s most disappointing Italian food. The Park Bench Cafe coffee shop was also sad and empty, which left Charlie’s Cafe as Precita Park’s only real restaurant and community gathering place.

Fast-forward to today, and the landscape is transformed. The Precita Park Cafe now occupies one of the former corner stores across the street from the playground, and it’s such an institution that it already feels like it’s always been there. Hillside Supper Club moved into Cafe Cozzolino, Harvest Hills Market is a walkable alternative to schlepping to a supermarket, and Neighbor Eliza is building a new pizza shop inside the former Park Bench Cafe.

Now Charlie’s Cafe proprietor Charlie Harb writes Bernalwood to tell us that his cafe has just been listed for sale, and he wants Bernal neighbors to have first dibs:

After over 14 years in the neighborhood, it’s time for me to sell my beloved cafe. Adam, the current manager, is leaving town after running Charlie’s for 2 years, and I now have other interests. If you are interested, or know of someone who is interested in purchasing the cafe, feel free to contact me at charliescafesf AT gmail DOTCOM.

All the particulars are in this Craigslist ad.

A personal footnote: Your Bernalwood editor would like to extend my gratitude to Charlie for running his cafe. When I first landed in Bernal Heights after moving from the alien shores of The Mission, all the way on the other side of Cesar Chavez, Charlie was one of the very first people to welcome me here, and his kitchen fed the construction crews that rebuilt my home during two grayhair-producing years of renovations. In so many ways, he was the first person to teach me about the strength of the Bernal Heights community. Thank you Charlie!

PHOTO: Charlie’s Cafe on August 10, 2015 by Telstar Logistics