True diversity, golden survivors, chain alternatives, and pure grit: Our annual salute to small business
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Why can't City Hall shop local? 
EMPLOYEE-OWNED BUSINESS AWARD
Photo by Pat Mazzera
CHURCH STREET FLOWERS
"It was really all about trust," says Stephanie Foster of Church Street Flowers, when asked about the benefits and perils of transferring ownership of the delightful bouquet boutique and perennial Guardian Best of the Bay winner near the Castro to the employees. Foster, along with Rachel Shinfeld and Brianna Foehr, took over in December 2008 from previous owners Michael Ritz and Thomas Teel, who'd run the shop for a decade. "The three of us had worked here for a while and we knew our stuff, so Michael and Tom knew they could rely on us to preserve the legacy. And the outpouring of support from our neighbors and regular customers has been overwhelming."
The ownership change of the cozy shop, bursting with vibrant blooms and friendly energy, went off without a hitch. "We were part of the lucky few who received a small business loan before the economic collapse," Shinfeld says. "But our business plan was smart, and the bank saw that we knew what we were doing." And, even in the current climate, business is thriving. "Our arrangements aren't your standard cookie-cutter stuff," Foster says. "People nowadays want personalized, reasonably priced, green-minded, and locally sourced. We fit into all that most of our flowers are from the downtown flower market and we keep an eye out for organic. Plus we strive to create a real connection with our customers, so we can give them exactly what they want."
"Sure, there have been some adjustments," Shinfeld adds. "There's a lot of paperwork and the first thing we needed to tackle was a Web site redesign. But our experience working here helped us through, and I think we're just beginning to blossom in our new roles." (Marke B.)
CHURCH STREET FLOWERS
212 Church, SF
GOLDEN SURVIVOR AWARD
Photo by Charles Russo
GREEN APPLE BOOKS
What is the special ingredient that transforms a business from just another store into a place that makes people feel inspired and connected? After 42 years as a San Francisco independent bookseller, Green Apple Books and Music seems to have found it. Located on Clement Street in a building that predates the 1906 quake, it's a "big, sprawling, dusty and funky new and used bookstore," as co-owner Pete Mulvihill describes it, creating an atmosphere for interactions that might seem impossible in a big-box store. Several weeks ago, for instance, a customer approached the store clerks, presented a CD, and requested that they play it. He also asked them to clear out the philosophy room. "I want it to myself for just a minute," he explained. The staff complied, the music started, and the man whisked his girlfriend into the philosophy room and proposed to her.
"To me, that's an honor that somebody loves the place so much that they would propose to their girlfriend here," says Mulvihill, one of three owners and an employee for more than 15 years. A founding member of the San Francisco Locally Owned Merchants Alliance, he has been at the forefront of a push to identify and promote the city's small, independent businesses. "Locally-owned businesses recirculate more money in the local economy than national chains," the SFLOMA Web site points out.
"Frankly, we're invested in the community," Mulvihill explains. "[We] love San Francisco, and we don't want to go anywhere." (Rebecca Bowe)
GREEN APPLE BOOKS
506 Clement, SF
CHAIN ALTERNATIVE AWARD
Photo by Charles Russo
Hut Landon is responsible the past few years for helping direct millions of dollars into small business in San Francisco and beyond, and millions more into the local economy.
He does it through his energetic and creative leadership of two key organizations that promote the interests of locally-owned small business. Landon has been the executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA), which promotes the interests of 200 independent bookstores in the region. He is also executive director of the San Francisco Locally Owned Merchants Alliance (SFLOMA).
Under Landon's stewardship, the two groups commissioned a pioneering 2007 study that quantified the value of locally-owned businesses in the city. Their stunning finding: if consumers redirected l0 percent of their retail purchases from chains to locally-owned merchants, the result would generate about $200 million for the economy, l,295 jobs, and $72 million new income for workers.
Landon's timing could not have been better. As the economy tanked, local merchants and neighborhood business organizations used the l0 percent consumer shift as a mantra. The study also pointed out that the local economy could get another big boost if the city would shop locally with the tens of millions it now spends outside the city for goods and services.
Landon likes to use the example of two brothers who live together. One works on Potrero Hill and eats lunch at one of the many locally-owned restaurants. The other works at Stonestown shopping center and eats at a chain restaurant because that's all there is out there. The Potrero Hill money, he points out, stays in the community. The chain store money is sent back to headquarters. (Bruce Brugmann)
Northern California Independent Booksellers Association
1007 General Kennedy, SF
SMALL BUSINESS ADVOCATE
Photo by Abi Kelly
Small business owners often feel as if they don't have many advocates at City Hall. But they do have Regina Dick-Endrizzi.
Dick-Endrizzi, acting director of the Small Business Commission, has been moving rapidly on ways to help small businesses feel more comfortable dealing with the city and to help them thrive in a tough economic environment. She helped establish the Small Business Assistance Center, which guides local merchants and prospective entrepreneurs through the thicket of city regulations. "It's a tremendous asset," she told us. "When people walk through the door, we can take the time to help them develop a roadmap to doing business here." And she's a driving force behind the Shop Local campaign, which will launch this month with bus shelter and bus-side ads designed to encourage San Franciscans to keep their money in town (co-sponsored by the Guardian).
Known in political circles as a former aide to Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, Dick-Endrizzi has a solid background in business. She moved to San Francisco in 1986 to open the Haight Street Buffalo Exchange store, and worked with that company for 13 years. "We bought our inventory from local people, and I had to have a close relationship with local small businesses," she said. "I have an intimate understanding of what it takes to run a business."
After several years in Mirkarimi's office, she learned of the opening at the Small Business Commission, and plans to stay there for a while. "I truly believe in what this department offers to small business," she said. "There's such a tremendous need." (Tim Redmond)
REGINA DICK-ENDRIZZI OFFICE OF SMALL BUSINESS
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett, SF
GOOD NEIGHBOR AWARD
Urban Solutions has its roots in the South of Market Foundation, an economic development corporation formed in 1992 in response to what SoMa merchants, residents, and community-based organizations felt was a lack of accountability in their neighborhood's development.
A decade later, the organization changed its name and Urban Solutions was born. Two years after that, the burgeoning nonprofit opened a second office, this time in the Western Addition, becoming an important source of service in both neighborhoods.
Urban Solution's executive director Jenny McNulty says she is currently excited about her organization's Green Business initiative, which helps educate small business on how to conserve resources and reduce their carbon footprints and save money in the process.
McNulty is also amped about Urban Solution's effort undertaken with the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency to revitalize Sixth Street's commercial corridor.
"We're expanding our Green Business Initiative program, which offers free consulting to help small businesses go green by implementing cost-saving practices to increase the sustainability of their business operations," McNulty said.
Urban Solutions' Sixth Street revitalization effort includes beautifying the area and helping businesses, in conjunction with Redevelopment Agency grants, by improving their facades, installing new awnings, repainting buildings, and replacing windows, storefronts, and entrance ways.
"Our focus is low-income businesses," McNulty said. (Sarah Phelan)
1083 Mission, SF
GOOD NEIGHBOR AWARD
Photo by Abi Kelly
Jens-Peter Jungclaussen had a dream: Buy a gutted, camouflage-painted school bus on eBay, convert it to biodiesel, and put it to use as a mobile classroom by day and a party on wheels by night, a rollicking omnibus of education, culture, and sustainability. With a few flicks of his wrist, Jungclaussen, a former German windsurfing pro and biology and PE teacher, transforms the bus to suit the need at hand pulling down a movie screen from the roof; unpacking a buffet table, wet bar, or set of turntables from beneath the seats; or simply switching on the "party lights." Dubbed das Frachtgut ("the good freight"), the bus has hosted dinner parties on Twin Peaks, ecology classes in Muir Woods, sunrise raves on undisclosed beaches, and screenings of The Big Lebowski (complete with bowling and White Russians). It also serves as a mobile billboard for its various local, eco-friendly sponsors and can be rented for field trips and corporate events.
The ever-enthusiastic and tireless Jungclaussen recently turned his attentions to youth education, this year offering for the first time a "mobile summer camp." Teaming up with fellow teachers Michael Murnane, Gretchen Nelson, Justin Ancheta, and Leah Greenberg, he'll present three, 11-day sessions on wheels that will introduce young people to a variety of Bay Area natural, artistic, and historical treasures. But don't worry, the parties will still keep rolling. As Jungclaussen promises of the bus, "What you want it to be, it will become." (Marke B.)
ARTHUR JACKSON DIVERSITY IN SMALL BUSINESS AWARD
It's easy to assume that the purpose of Chillin', the brainchild of Mexico City native Irene Hernandez-Feiks, is simply to have a good time. But the multimedia parties Hernandez-Feiks has been throwing for 11 years are much more than entertainment. Their actual purpose is to stimulate the economy and support one of the most difficult small businesses to sustain: the business of art.
A former designer herself, Hernandez-Feiks started out organizing weekly happy hours at 111 Minna where she would feature up to five independent Bay Area designers. Her philosophy? Charge the designers nothing for the opportunity and take no commission. The formula worked so well that Chillin' eventually grew from weeknight happy hours to Saturday night events, complete with DJs. Now Chillin' is a full-fledged happening indeed, the June 13 anniversary show at Mezzanine features 180 photographers and artists, 40 filmmakers, 80 fashion designers, and 12 DJs.
But watching Chillin' grow and seeing participating artists transform themselves from local to international names isn't enough for Hernandez-Feiks. She also devotes much of her time to charity work, including involvement with Gen Art, the Mexican Consulate Cultural Affairs division, the United Nations and Natural World Museum, and the Art Seed Apprenticeship Program benefiting Bayview- Hunters Point youth.
"Because of Chillin', I have relationships with so many artists," she says. "I want to use those connections to help everybody out." (Molly Freedenberg)