2011 Small Business Awards - Page 6

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

It's not often that San Franciscans take to the streets to protest the closing of a grocery story. But when the Good Life Grocery on Potrero Hill faced a 1,000 percent rent increase in 1985, neighborhood activists marched, shouted, hung banners, and dragged then California Assemblymember Art Agnos into the fray. The uproar allowed the owners, Kayren Hudiburg and Lester Zeidman, to find a new location nearby.

The Good Life has been part of the hill's DNA since the early 1970s, when it started as one of a handful of community food stores. "We live down the block," Hudibergh said. "Customers come in day in and day out. We're a part of the neighborhood."

Hudiberg, who also has a store on Cortland Avenue in Bernal Heights, makes a point of hiring local residents first. "We pay good wages, have a good health plan, and after two-and-a-half years, employees become part-owners," she explained.

It's not easy running an independent food store, particularly when you're under attack by the giant Whole Foods chain. "When they moved in eight blocks away, people said we'd never survive," Hudibergh said. "Whole Foods has more money than God, they can buy up a whole farmer's crop." But after taking a "big hit," the Good Life is doing fine. "It takes a lot of hard work — I'm the owner, the produce buyer, the accounts payable clerk, the payroll clerk — it never ends," Hudiberg said. "But we have a great, dedicated staff and we offer exceptional customer service."

She's also an exceptional San Franciscan. When the Board of Supervisors was moving to offer Twitter a big tax break, she took time off to trek down to City Hall and give the supes a bit of perspective. "I was just outraged," she recalled. "Here a multibillion-dollar company is asking for a tax cut. I have 65 employees; I pay my taxes and I'm proud to do it — the city needs the money."

"If my small business can pay, why can't Twitter?"

We quite agree.

Good Life Grocery's small business award pick: Goat Hill Pizza. Hudiberg says not only are its pies "wonderful," but the restaurant donates food to neighborhood events and political affairs, and meeting space to community groups. "They support everything worthwhile and are a true neighborhood institution." (Redmond)

448 Cortland, SF. (415) 648-3221



For the first time, we asked Guardian winners to weigh in with their own small business awards. Who was the shining local business star in their neighborhood? Here are the winners of the most online votes.




Design team: Estrella Tadeo and Jessica Bovert. Photo by Ben Hopfer

"I have always worked better when I work as part of a team," says Estrella Tadeo, owner of the Mission Statement, who runs the Mission clothing boutique with the help of six other designers. "Working as a collective helps me stay sane." All seven sell their work and work shifts on the retail floor every week, making it highly likely that if you have a question on the jungle-toned, one-shouldered flowing top you're fingering, the person that created it is only a few feet away.

"Our goal with our customers is that they identify with our work and with us. It's so much more interesting when we know the history behind something," Tadeo says.