Small Business Awards 2007: A salute to small business

Presenting our third annual Small Business Awards, honoring the local entrepreneurs who invigorate our neighborhoods and drive our economy

The Brugmann family has been continuously in small business for 105 years. My grandfather, the eighth child of German immigrants who homesteaded in the Midwest's high prairie grass, came to Rock Rapids, Iowa, in 1902 to start a drugstore.

He and my father after him spent their entire working lives in that store, known throughout the territory as "Brugmann's Drugs, where drugs and gold are fairly sold, since 1902." I started at 12 selling stamps and peanuts and worked my way up to trimming wallpaper and waiting on trade. I also moonlighted as a writer for the Lyon County Reporter, an excellent hometown weekly under third-generation publisher Paul Smith.

My father would call on every new merchant and pass along his philosophy of how to make it in business in a small town such as Rock Rapids (population: 2,800). His message: play golf, go to church, do all your trading in Rock Rapids, and above all support the town and its community activities.

This philosophy always worked well for the Brugmanns, and ours was the only store on Main Street to make it through the depression.

When Jean Dibble and I founded the Guardian in 1966, we tried to operate with the hometown values of the Brugmanns in Rock Rapids, adding some San Francisco flair and later some Potrero Hill flair. We were delighted to find that San Francisco was a city with lively neighborhoods rich in small, locally owned businesses backed by merchant and residential associations and feisty neighborhood newspapers. From the start, the Guardian was a stand-alone independent newspaper that was of, by, and for small business. We still are.

And so when the Guardian moved to its new offices at the bottom of Potrero Hill, we were happy to join the Potrero Hill Merchants Association, meeting every month at Phil de Andrade's Goat Hill Pizza. We pitched in on projects, from supporting the Neighborhood House and Potrero Hill History Night to instituting a real planning process to save the neighborhood. We also joined the endless battles to protect the hill and the southeastern neighborhoods from the Pacific and Gas Electric Co. and Mirant power plants and the encroaching Mission Bay complex and invasion of high-priced commercial and residential condos.

We like to say that the big downtown and chain businesses look upon San Francisco as a place from which to extract as much money as quickly as possible, much the way the strip miners saw the Sierra, whereas small, locally owned businesses see the city as a place to invest in human capital to build real community.

Jean and I and our staff are happy to salute the quiet heroes of small business with our third annual Small Business Awards. We congratulate the winners and all the small-business people in San Francisco who struggle daily against high taxes and daunting odds to keep their businesses going, their neighborhoods vibrant, and San Francisco an incomparably great city. *

The 2007 Small Business Awards

Die-Hard Independent Award
Clif Bar Co.

Golden Survivor Award
Hoogasian Flowers

Community Institution Award
Modern Times Bookstore

Solar-Powered Business Award

Community Activist Award
Pet Camp

Chain Store Alternative Award
Waldeck's Office Supplies

Cooperative Award
Woodshanti Cooperative

Previous winners