2011 Small Business Awards - Page 5

The Guardian's annual small business awards celebrate the entrepreneurs who keep this city lively

The La Cocina crew: Daniella Sawaya, Natalie Conneely, Caleb Zigas, Margarita Rojas, and Matt Skov

Arizmendi's small business award pick: "Underdog on Irving street. It's a family-run hotdog and sausage place that has some great vegan options. They are very conscious of the food they prepare and where they are getting it from — and they are really nice." (Tepper)

Various Bay Area locations. www.arizmendibakery.org, valencia.arizmendi.coop, lakeshore.arizmendi.coop




Shannon Brundiek of Discount Builders Supply. Photo by Ben Hopfer

Going up against big businesses like Lowe's and Home Depot doesn't mean Discount Builders Supply needs to pull any fancy gimmicks to get customers. Indeed, some clients have been returning to the 50-year-old SoMa spot since manager Shannon Brundiek started working there two decades ago.

"A lot of big-box stores have popped up in that time," Brundiek says. "We don't handle business in the same way, or stock the same products, but they're definitely our competition. They spend a lot of money competing for the same market share."

Money national chains spend on advertising, owner Charles Goodman channels into things like employee benefit programs. The result? A business you can go to even if you're not quite sure what it is that you need. Discount Builders Supply banks on the fact that its employees know how to help whoever walks in the door.

"What stands out most to our customers is the service," says Brundiek. "Because we pay benefits, our employees work full time, and we strive to keep our employees long-term. It's a career for them — it's what they do and they love it."

All that added experience makes a difference to devoted customers who count on DBS employees to know the difference between cinder blocks and coffin locks, cable clamps and sodium lamps.

Brundiek is adamant that the store he works at is simply a good old-fashioned hardware shop — "We don't sell TVs or dog toys," he says. But the business does offer free design services for kitchen and bath and specializes in SF-specific fixtures, plumbing, and moldings common in Victorians. Plus, it caters to a huge Burning Man rush every summer. Now that's giving customers what they want.

Discount Builders Supply's small business award pick: Brundiek acknowledges that San Francisco is home to a "great group of small hardware stores that all work together." How's that for lending a helping hand? (Emily Appelbaum)

1695 Mission St., SF. (415) 621-8511, www.discountbuilderssupplysf.com




Kayren Hudibergh of Good Life Grocery. Photo by Ben Hopfer