Bernal Neighbors Exasperated by Long Lines at Local Safeway

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Our Taoist Safeway, is indeed timeless and unchanging. Although, not always in a good way…

Sure, the interior received a sporty makeover a few years ago. But one part of the Bernal Safeway experience never seems to get better: There are seldom enough cashiers, so the checkout lines are infuriatingly long.

This is sad, because in theory, there’s a lot to love about our local Safeway. The location is very handy, and the store’s compact footprint means that finding what you need can be done efficiently. And the prices are reasonable enough by contemporary ridiculous post-gentrification standards. Yet all that is overshadowed by one grim fact: The checkout lines are so insane at our Safeway that many Bernalese have given up on the store entirely.

Complaints about the long lines pop up regularly on social media, but a recent blow-up even got the attention of the hapless soul who staffs the official @Safeway Twitter account. It all started here:

That prompted this Official Response…

… which only generated further rancor, because the long-line problem has been so bad for so long. Pretty soon, the trickle of complaint turned into a flood:

No surprise, then, that the Bernal Safeway gets a paltry two-star ranking on the Yelp. Typical comment:

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So will anyone at the Safeway Mothership actually do anything about this?

Last year, the entire Safeway chain was acquired by a group of private equity investors led by Cerberus Capital Management, which also merged Safeway with the Albertson’s supermarket chain. That does not bode well for the long lines at the Bernal Heights store, because it generally suggests the new leadership team is likely focused on the tricky task of integrating management teams and meeting near-term profitability targets, rather than on the nuts-and-bolts tasks of local staffing and customer satisfaction.

Coincidentally, on January 30, 2015 — one day before the local Twitter blowup — a Supermarket News article marking the completion of the Safeway-Albertsons merger included this comment from Safeway’s CEO:

“We plan to be the favorite local supermarket in every community we serve,” said Safeway president and CEO Robert Edwards, who becomes president and CEO of the newly combined company, effective immediately, in a statement. “We will do this by knowing, listening to, and delighting our customers; providing the right products at a compelling value; and delivering a superior shopping experience. We will also continue to be active members of our local communities.”

Memo to Safeway CEO Robert Edwards: NOT SEEING THIS IN BERNAL HEIGHTS.

But who knows. Maybe someone at the Safeway Mothership will read this and realize they have a problem on their hands at 3350 Mission Street. Maybe they will understand that our Taoist Safeway is a store that many Bernalese want to love, if only the management didn’t make that so difficult. Here’s hoping…

PHOTO: Another long line at the Bernal Safeway, on January 31, 2015, by Li Jiang

Secession Art & Design’s Victorious Re-Opening Party Happens Thursday Eve

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If you’re a fan of Secession Art & Design you probably know the basic story. If you’re not a fan of  Secession Art & Design, well, here’s why you should be…

Secession Art & Design is a creative atelier founded a few years ago by owner Eden Stein. For many moons, Secession was located on Bernal’s stretch of Mission Street, just across from our Taoist Safeway. During that time, founder and owner/impresario Eden carved out a terrific niche for Session, seamlessly combining art, fashion, home decor, and resident-artist workshops to create a storefront that won four San Francisco Bay Guardian “Best of the Bay” awards for Best Art Gallery (before the SFBG itself disappeared). Eden also became a core member of the Mission Bernal Merchant Association.

Then Secession’a landlord decided not to renew the lease. After much scrambling, negotiating, and anxiety, Eden managed to find an even better space just a few blocks north — and still in Bernal!!— inside the former SoCha Cafe/former Dell’uva Wine Bar location at 3235 Mission @ Valencia. Then came the stressful  renovation, and redecorating, and rethinking. And now, finally, Secession Art & Design is ready for its grand re-opening: Tomorrow, Thursday, Feb 5, at 6:30 pm.

Eden says:

3235 Mission is officially open on Thursday, February 5. Join us 6:30-9:30pm for a welcoming party and thank-you to everyone who helped us dream big. Celebrate with us with champagne – cheers to new beginnings!

Our new gallery and boutique has 30 feet of clothing, a showcase of locally-made jewelry, and over 250 pieces of art hung. Our current art collection features Silvi Alcivar, Shannon Weber, Hilary Williams, Melissa Wagner, Rachel Znerold, Heather Robinson, Rob Sakovich, Faern, Bughouse, Mark Brunner, Andrzej Michael Karwacki, Victoria Veedell and Nate 1.

Our doors closed at our old location last Christmas Eve. I thought we would quickly be able to re-open, but opening a new location in San Francisco requires time, patience and jumping through a lot of hoops. My team has met every challenge, and we kept our heads high when inspections went south. We passed plumbing and electrical on Friday, and passed our final inspection Monday with flying colors. We spent the month of January perfecting the look of the store while we waited for the city of San Francisco to let us open. So much fun, and I’m thankful to have a contractor who could make every whim a reality. This truly is my dream store, and I look forward to reconnection.

Our new gallery and boutique will be open our regular hours, Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 7pm, starting on Friday, February 6.

XO Eden and the Secession team

PHOTO:Eden Stein on Feb 4, 2015, by Telstar Logistics

Fancy Boot Workshop and Store Opens in La Lengua

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There’s a new shoemaker in the La Lengua Autonomous Zone: Beneduci Shoemakers just opened up an honest-to-goodness boot factory and store on the corner of San Jose and 30th Street.

To be sure, Beneduci’s is far more Milan than Brothers Grimm. The designs are gorgeous, owner  Frank Beneduci’s workmanship is world-class, and the prices… well, the prices are probably a bit steep for forest elves. In 2013, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote:

The grandson of an Italian-born craftsman, Beneduci, 48, went to Milan to study with master cobblers to satisfy his desire to “create something tangible.”

“My aesthetic is informed by two things,” said Beneduci, “U.S.-made boot machinery and Italian pattern-making and manufacturing techniques. Both are completely different disciplines, but I have managed to merge them into something that works.”

Beneduci shoes have a foot in both lands. The hardy boots may have American workwear leanings but are far more refined, in both design and materials, than anything you’d wear to clean a flooded basement.

Former Neighbor Renee, who just moved to Pacifica after 10 years on Nevada Street, tells us she loves her Beneducis:

I do own a pair of Beneduci boots that Frank made for me before the store opened. I love them. I’ve never owned a pair of handcrafted shoes or boots; these feel amazing. It’s not hyperbole when I say I can walk miles in them all over the city. Frank is so passionate about bringing meticulous craftsmanship to San Francisco, and he delivers it in such a down-to-earth way. The store is beautiful and welcoming—you really can go in and see all the equipment and the shoes being made. It’s a great addition to Bernal.

I’m attaching a photo of me in my boots at the end of the day.

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Beneduci Shoemakers is open Tuesday -Wednesday by appointment, Thursday – Saturday 11-7pm Closed Sunday and Monday. Here’s a video introduction:

PHOTO: Top, Beneduci Shoes via Facebook. Interior photo by Ted Weinstein. Boots by Renee.

Saturday: Heartfelt’s Pop-Up Opening Party at 301 Cortland

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Meanwhile, in other Heartfelt news…

Sad tales of plundered ravens aside, Neighbor Darcy Lee is spreading the word about Heartfelt’s seasonal pop-up store that’s opening up a few blocks north, on the fashionable corner of Cortland and Bocana.

Neighbor Darcy shares the scoop (and extends an opening party invite):

Heartfelt’s Pop Up store in the former Deli Pub space at 301 Cortland is opening up this Saturday, November 8th from 1 to 4 pm.  Bubbly will be served!   This is a chance to express my display mojo without the crowded yet magical confines that is Heartfelt.

If you want a holiday shopping experience with air space, good taste, light, a piano and kindness…. stop by 301 Cortland.

Two questions have come up repeatedly:

1. “Is this a holiday store?”

Nope, it is open for the holidays but will have a variety of stuff.

2.” Is it the same stuff?”

Of course it is not the same stuff… that stuff is down at Heartfelt. This is other stuff.

We are also raising dollars for two charities gift drives this year.  We are helping to buy presents for all the residents of Curran House in the Tenderloin and of course the Infamous BHNC Holiday Toy Drive.  Giving=getting!

Raven Theft Highlights Challenges of Being a Bernal Merchant

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Over the years, your Bernalwood editor has gradually received an eye-opening education in the challenges faced by many of our neighborhood merchants.

Never mind higher-level stuff like marketing, advertising, parking, margins, and worrying about tectonic shifts in the retail environment triggered by ecommerce and Amazon. No, the matters that impress us most are the day-to-day issues that arise from the fact that when you operate a storefront, you are quite literally opening up your front door to anyone who decides to walk through it — for better or for worse.

Neighbor Darcy Lee from Heartfelt on Cortland is normally unflappable in this regard; She is a pro, so she handles most oddball encounters with the general public in stride. But a shoplifting incident last week really got under her skin. Neighbor Darcy writes:

We have/had a beautiful raven piece that sells for $650. We have sold two over the years. They are one-of-a-kind and the artist does not always make the raven, but recently we got it in again!

And then the other day I noticed it was gone. I had just done a display with it, so I knew it had been stolen very recently. It is big (18″ long) and a focal point in the store. Then I started counting the other hand carved birds that are by the same person. We are missing 5 altogether, which adds up to $2,000 in sales.

I filed a police report.

This part of retail is pretty tough – and I have taken it hard. Part of store ownership is being in denial about theft — if not, one would be constantly worried and or paranoid. That said, one must also be prudent. I will have security cameras installed. Blchhh.

On that last note… Darcy tells Bernalwood she seeks recommendations for a good security camera installation and service provider. Not just a camera, she says; she hopes to find someone who will install and support a new security camera system. So if you have any recommendations, you know where to find her…. as always, the front door at Heartfelt is wide open during normal business hours.

Secession Art & Design Staying in Bernal, Moving North on Mission, Seeking Your Support

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We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Secession Art & Design is a Bernalwood treasure. Part creative studio, part art gallery, part fashion boutique, owner Eden Stein’s has carved out a very special place for Secession’s store on Mission just across from our Taoist Safeway.

But Secession is also vulnerable to the winds of change, which now  require a move up the street to 3235 Mission, the former SoCha Cafe/former Dell’uva Wine Bar space, a few blocks north near Valencia. Eden explains:

After 7 wonderful years, we are excited to announce that Secession Art & Design will be relocating to a new location. Our store, gallery and studio is moving two short blocks up the street, from 3361 Mission St to 3235 Mission St. Like many things in life, what began as a pretty daunting experience has turned into an inspiring opportunity.

When we heard in August of this year that our lease would not be renewed, we were somewhat shocked and taken aback, but we were determined that Secession Art & Design should remain in our current neighborhood. After two months of searching—with help from real estate brokers and support from friends and family—we finally found a space that we know is going to be the perfect fit for Secession.

But it’s going to need to be built from the ground up. […]

We are so heartened by your support throughout the years, and we’ve fought long and hard to stay in the Bernal neighborhood so we can continue to be a part of the health and wealth of our collective community.

To help fund the buildout of the new space, Secession Art & Design has created a fundraising page. Take a look, make a contribution if you’re so inclined, and let’s all say hurrah that Team Secession is staying in Bernal Heights.

PHOTO: Eden Stein via Secession Art & Design

Ode to a Basic Donut: Eagle Donuts Will Close on Monday

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The donut days at Eagle Donuts at 3303 Mission (@ 29th Street) are coming to an end.

On Monday, Eagle Donuts will close for good.

The most remarkable thing about Eagle Donuts is that there is nothing remarkable about it. No seasonal ingredients, or delicate toppings, or clever combinations. Nothing involving bacon. Eagle Donuts makes essential donuts: glazed or old-fashioned, with different kinds of frosting-like stuff on top. Yesterday I bought a bag of a half-dozen for $5.50.

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In other words, Eagle Donuts makes the kind of donuts that helped make America.

So when Eagle Donuts disappears, a classic kind of donut shop will disappear with it. After Eagle Donuts, your Bernalwood editor knows of no equivalent in Bernal Heights. (NOTE: The Silver Crest doesn’t count, because they also serve Ouzo.) If current trends continue, it’s a safe prediction that from here on out, Bernal’s donut future will likely be increasingly twee. We are confident it will be delicious, of course, but we also know it just won’t be the same.

It’s no one’s fault; Change is the only constant. Eagle Donuts opened in 1994, and Sherry from behind the counter — that’s Sherry, above — told Bernalwood she’s been here the entire time. She said rising rents weren’t so much of an issue. She said donuts just aren’t a very lucrative product these days, and costs keep going up. Milk prices, sugar prices, the minimum wage… all going up. Basically, Sherry said, after 20 years, it’s time to move on.

So on Monday, Eagle Donuts will close forever.

Stop in this weekend to get a final taste, and wish Sherry all the best.

Finally, for the benefit of future bloggers and culinary historians, Bernalwood also provides these supplementary detail photos of Eagle Donuts, as taken on October 16, 2014, which are here intended to illustrate what a typical late twentieth century donut shop looked like during the second decade of the twenty-first century:

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PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics