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Something’s Cooking in the Bayview

The neighborhood’s latest incarnation: food production haven.

SLIDESHOW

The Craftsman and Wolves commissary kitchen, which is open 24-7, turns out pastries and confectionaries for the bakery’s Mission storefront, catering operation, and growing online business. It also contains an office space and will soon open a retail shop called the Den.

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Craftsman and Wolves' commissary kitchen, 2250 Keith St.

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Craftsman and Wolves owner William Werner is planning to offer a sandwich-sharing program for the neighborhood’s homeless community; paying customers can buy a homeless person a sandwich,to be redeemed by Post-it note.

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The reason that Speakeasy Ales & Lagers owner Forest Gray opened his business in the Bayview in 1997 was simple: “There’s really not a lot of neighborhoods for manufacturing in San Francisco,” he says. “Even back then.”

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Today, says Gray, who lives in the neighborhood, “we’re starting to see what the Mission saw in the late ‘90s: strollers.”

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Speakeasy Brewery, 1195 Evans Ave.

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Speakeasy Brewery.

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Bi-Rite Market (1970 Innes Ave.) opened its commissary kitchen in 2013. The opening of the market’s second location, on Divisadero Street, necessitated the move to the 7,000-square-foot complex, which includes an industrial kitchen, an administrative office, and a warehouse space.

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Soon, says Bi-Rite spokesperson Jessie Rogers, there will also be a recreation area: “We want to encourage folks to feel that it’s not just a place to come to work.”

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New York–based Joyride Coffee opened its Bayview facility when it expanded to San Francisco in 2014.

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The company, which delivers specialty coffees like Blue Bottle, Stumptown, and Sightglass to offices and cafés, uses the space to store bags of coffee and to make its own cold-brew coffee, which is sold in growlers and kegs.

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Joyride Coffee, 1485 Yosemite Ave.

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“Third Street in the Dogpatch is filling up with beer,” says Andrew Casteel, “so we kept going until we found something we could afford.” The co-owner of Laughing Monk Brewing is recounting the journey that led him south from Dogpatch to the Bayview warehouse space that will, if all goes according to plan, open later this year as his brewery and taproom. Casteel has company: Next door is Seven Stills, a craft beer brewery and whiskey distillery also scheduled to open sometime this winter. Like Casteel, Seven Stills co-owner Tim Obert views the neighborhood, with its relatively affordable rents and industrial zoning, as San Francisco’s only remaining option for food and beverage manufacturing. “The Bayview has a ton of potential,” he says. “It’s an unmolded ball of clay that can be sculpted into something really cool.”

The Bayview has been a center of food production since 1868, when a group of butchers purchased an 81-acre plot there for slaughtering animals, earning the area the nickname Butchertown. Though that legacy has long been overshadowed by the neighborhood’s crime, unemployment, and industrial pollution, today there is growing recognition that food and beverage manufacturers can play a crucial role in revitalizing the local economy. 

Last May, a group of students at Berkeley School of Public Health worked with the San Francisco Planning Department to create an action plan for a food innovation district in the Bayview; their report recommended making the neighborhood a “food and beverage destination for both producers and consumers.” In December, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an amendment allowing small-scale beer manufacturing licenses along Bayview’s Third Street corridor, effectively rolling out a welcome mat for craft breweries. Landlords have taken note: UrbanPointSF (which owns the complex that houses Laughing Monk, Seven Stills, and the commissary kitchen for Azalina’s Malaysian) plans to open a second food and beverage production facility nearby next year.

Take a tour of the Bayview, and you’ll encounter recently established businesses as diverse as Feve Artisan Chocolatier, the San Francisco Mead Company, Joyride Coffee, Gratta Wines, Fox and Lion Bread Company, Bi-Rite Market, and Craftsman and Wolves. Both Bi-Rite and Craftsman have their commissary kitchens here; Craftsman owner William Werner opened his four years ago—at a time, he recalls, when the street outside was “filled with abandoned trucks and people living in vans.” He’s planning to augment his kitchen and office with a retail space this fall—called the Den, it will serve espresso, pastries, bread, and confectionaries.

Longer-established neighborhood businesses are also enjoying new growth. Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, which opened in 1997, increased its annual capacity from 15,000 to 90,000 barrels this year. The Wholesale Produce Market, which has been in the Bayview since 1963, recently opened an 82,000-square-foot complex. It’s also in the midst of a 15-year redevelopment that will revitalize its four original buildings, which today hold 30 companies. “For the last three or four years, there’s not a week that goes by that we’re not getting phone calls from people looking for space,” says market general manager Michael Janis. Online grocer Good Eggs and school-lunch provider Revolution Foods are two of the market’s newest tenants. 

Opening an artisan business in a historically disenfranchised neighborhood does create a certain tension—envisioning the Bayview as an unmolded ball of clay begs the question of who gets to do the sculpting. “It’s a dilemma,” says Feve owner Shawn Williams, who opened his kitchen three years ago. “I myself am a white male, and, yes, I’ve come in with a luxury business.”

The Bayview Hill Neighborhood Association, however, takes a less conflicted view of the newcomers. “Frankly, we’re happy that they’re here,” says association head Marsha Maloof, who has lived in the neighborhood for 18 years. “They come to the community meetings and seem to want to be neighbors.” Gentrification is a “misnomer,” she adds. “We can’t be gentrifying if we’re not moving anybody out. There wasn’t anything here.” Besides, she says, she’s tired of Dogpatch stealing the spotlight: “We’d like to get a little credit.”

“The Bayview is really a one-of-a-kind community, and I’ve seen the best of it,” says Xan DeVoss, who opened Fox and Lion Bread Company on Third Street in June. “There’s a couple down the street who have lived here 15 years, and they said, ‘We’ve been waiting for you to open the whole time.’ I think community is one of those things you just talk about, but now I understand what it means. I need them as much as they need me.”

Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco

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