By the end of this month, I will have closed two businesses on Divisadero in four years for lack of funds – Still Life (my vintage shop) and now my studio, Workspace. Before I close up Workspace and focus on Workshop, I wanted to say my piece, because the talk has gotten really negative out there concerning Divis and new businesses.
It takes a lot of guts to open a business, and often the sacrifices are insane (I don’t wanna admit that I’ve had to live in all of my businesses at some point). Divisadero is loaded with rad entrepreneurs, ideas, and shop owners who care about the hood and contribute to it. But then stuff happens like the other day, when I heard someone bitching about The Mill moving in, and I had to point out that they were far from "bad guys." They’ve hired four of my friends, have two friends building their space, and Josey Baker, a total self starter, is now getting to open his dream bakery after years of hustling. How can that be bad? Opening something new and trying to make it work – well, that will always have more clout than shit talk because those people are actually doing something.
I have never felt like a bigger part of a community then I do on Divisadero – I know most of the business owners and call some friends. I’ve drank at the bars, made friends with every type of resident, and spent Tuesdays at Popeyes more than I care to admit. I’ve been held up, mugged, and my businesses have all been robbed. I’ve been through good and bad, stuck it out, and I’ve given a lot of my money, time, and energy to the street – rarely, if ever, profiting from it.
This is the first time I've started to fall out of love with my hood, solely because of the negativity, the complaining without offering up solutions, and the business bashing that has been going on lately. I see it happening even more so in The Mission, where several independent businesses have been under fire from bloggers and random online comments.
I totally understand the good and bad chatter about changes, but in the end this is still a great neighborhood. There are a lot of awesome characters here who aren’t going anywhere, even with new folks coming in, from my friend Cullen, who I met at Minibar and who now makes lamps at Workshop, to James, my 80-year -old neighbor who rolls my joints, to the BBQ guy who tells me how pretty I look every day, even though I look like shit and am covered in sawdust. Though I’m not stoked to see an influx of people with hella money moving in and the rents going up (as I’m still a broke ass), I do love it here.
SF can be an awesome place, but we can also be really stuck up and superficial sometimes. We have some pretty epic battles over who owns this city more, battles of the natives vs. transients, along with the hipster hating, yuppie bashing, and on and on. We tear people up left and right online when they seem a bit too fancy or new. In the end, there is plenty of room for healthy debate and all, but why do people have to lump everyone into categories so fast? Why do we tear up businesses so quickly? What if someone came after you and trashed your ideas on blast?
I moved to SF seven years ago and I fell in love. This city changed me. It made me want to put everything into a business, to be part of something and make a mark for myself. I moved to Western Addy five years ago and fell even more in love. I’ve been feeling a little heartbroken over it all the negative talk lately – both about my neighborhood and about new businesses in SF – especially after I’ve felt such positivity living here. I’m not trying to live in a fairy tale land. I just wish there was less judgment about new ideas and people wanting to create something here. We need to give people and their businesses ideas more of a chance.
Photo of Kelly Malone in Workspace by Katie Gong. Parklet photo by Jeremy Shaw.