A typical Rancho afternoon is enough proof that the cafe means a lot to its regulars. Most days you'll find the street artist who goes by the name of Big Face using the space as his personal studio, constructing collages at the café tables or on an easel. Around him other patrons work on their laptops or use the café's public Apple computer, talking, eating, or just sitting quietly. "I don't make a big fuss about anyone buying anything," Harris says. "I want people to hang out, and we are certainly never going to push anyone out as long as they are polite and not disturbing the creative environment."
The community members familiar with Rancho Parnassus vouch that the space makes them feel welcome. "I kind of wandered in by accident," says Adrien, a 20-year resident of the neighborhood who lives two blocks away. Adrien comes in every day for breakfast and to do work in the morning. "There's really no other place around here like this. There is a more relaxed vibe here between the décor, the music, and the people who work here. Other places are similar but they get too crowded and it's more 'get in, get out.' "
Harris says it will be up to the community and the economy to keep Rancho Parnassus open. Although the café has a community agenda, it's still a business, which means it won't be receiving grants or funding from outside organizations. "There's no grant for 'really wonderful café — let's get them to stay open,' " Harris says. When he talks about the struggle to stay afloat, you can tell he thinks the stakes are high. "It's such a great thing for this neighborhood. So many depend on us to be here."
RANCHO PARNASSUS Mon.–Sat. 6 a.m.–7 p.m. 505 Minna, SF (415) 503-0700 www.ranchoparnassus.com