Final Impressions/Good-bye

As you know, this semester I embarked on a journalistic quest to get to know this district.

I have learned a lot this semester, about this neighborhood, about reporting and most importantly I learned how to be a journalist in modern times in this city.

The Marina district is an interesting place. My first impression led me to believe that this district was filled with a lot of active individuals who loved night life, businesses that never had bad days, and a micro-climate almost like that of San Diego (which was actually the opposite), but I found so much more than that.

Business is tough. Throughout this semester I have personally seen over 7 different businesses in this district close their doors for good. But capitalism thrives and other businesses take place of the fallen.

This semester I talked and made friends with a lot of business owners, merchants and employees who work in the district. From my experience talking with these individuals, I personally believe that they are the key-holders to the most valuable information and perspectives that this district has to offer.

Okay, Sure, there are a lot, and I mean A LOT, of people in this neighborhood who take exercise and physical activity very seriously, but there are also different people who don’t necessarily like waking up at 5:30 am to go to Soul Cycle.

The individuals that I met helped me so incredibly much and made reporting on this district fun, exciting, and pretty easy.

I became really close with two people in particular who encouraged me and took time out of their days to help me on this short, but promising journey.

Lindsey Blackburn, the manager of Be Good Clothing on Union Street, is the easiest person to talk to in the world. She works in retail, so she knows how to make good conversation as well as give me the best tips about the neighborhood, businesses, the people and so on. She provided me with more information than I could ask for. She has lived in the Marina for her entire life, so she knows the streets better than her own thoughts. She was able to help me get in touch with whoever I needed to, like real estate agents, other business owners, and even let me sit in on Union Street Association meetings on her behalf. (But in all honesty, she never really liked going to them anyway.) She has also managed other businesses in the neighborhood and had a lot of contacts in places that were really helpful. I couldn’t of completed this semester without her insight and clever tongue.

Paolo Miranda, the one and the only. Paolo is indescribable. He is the manager at Sean on Union Street. He loves to gossip, he loves to eat, and he also loves to tell stories that one wouldn’t even know if they were real or not. (There is this one story he told me that one day when he was working a man pulled a kidney out of his backpack and tried to sell it to him. I still don’t believe it, but he swears on his life.) Paolo was able to give me perspective. From just reporting on him and all the crazy stories he tells, I learned that I really love writing about people. He was able to narrow my ideas into concepts and he even helped guide me in ways that I could execute stories. His insight was wonderful and I will always remember how energetic he would get when he would talk about his escapades and past experiences when we would talk  over lunch at La Boulange.

By meeting Lindsey and Paolo this semester, I learned a lot about myself and how much I like reporting on this neighborhood and the people who live and work here.

One of the insights that Paolo gave me was that wherever you go there will always be people around, but you will never understand that environment until you talk to those people and hear their stories.

I heard a lot of stories this semester. Some good, some great and others that were absolutely dreadful. I realized that some people are completely open to talking and sharing their experiences while others don’t want anything to do with a journalism student. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t get a story out of those people.

Anyways, this district is something else. You can find almost every type of person just by walking down the street. There are: the work-out buffs who wear Lu Lu Lemon 24/7, the only organic-eating vegans (who give it up when they get drunk), the frat dude that graduated ten years ago but still thinks his frat is the most important thing in the world, the materialist “Marina Mom”, the nannies that get paid thousands of dollars to run around with other people’s children while they sip mimosas, the wanna-be Marina girl that talks like she’s from the Valley and the only designer she knows is Steve Madden, the couple that broke up years ago but still own a dog together, and of course the progressive small business owner who is able to convince any one who comes in their store how amazing their product is.

You might be thinking to yourself “I don’t know any of those kinds of people?” but trust me… Spend a week in the Marina and you will come across every single one.

Well then, thanks for the fun, the learning experience and the skills to be able to talk to all those different kinds of people that I listed above.

Good-bye!

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The Death of Black Friday in the Marina (Kinda)

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Black Friday, the Friday that is after Thanksgiving is classically designed for large sales and mark-downs in boutiques, large departments stores and so on. But this year, Black Friday seemed to have died in the Marina.

Generally, stores in the Bay Area experience great sales on Black Friday, but according to Elizabeth, the manager at Lush Cosmetics on Union Street, sales this year and the past year have almost diminished due to Cyber Monday.

“Cyber Monday has been slaying Black Friday sales, especially for smaller stores,” said Elizabeth.

Cyber Monday is the Monday after Thanksgiving where online stores do Black Friday discounts, but online, where the customer can sit comfortably in their own home on the computer rather than standing in a long line attempting to score big.

Another business owner, Brea of Shaw Shoes, said that she hasn’t been marking items down on Black Friday for quite some time now.

“I see it this way,” Brea said, “the customers who are going to go out on Black Friday to buy TVs and video games are not going to come into my store, so why mark anything down? The customers just going out on any Friday are still going to purchase, Black Friday or not.”

Some stores in the Marina, like Shaw Shoes, haven’t been participating in Black Friday sales, while others like Gap, Sephora, Lu Lu Lemon and Nike decided to.

Michael, a manager at Nike said, “Black Friday is always a huge sale day for us. Customers are looking for sales, and if you don’t have ’em you get missed out on.”

While walking down the block on Black Friday, I noticed that some of the larger stores like Nike, Sephora and Gap were having large black Friday sales, with discounts up to 70 percent off. Urban Outfitters fell somewhere in the middle with discounts at 50 percent off.

Smaller boutiques and businesses were scattered on Black Friday. BeGood Clothing had a 15 percent off store wide sale, Brandy Melville had a 10 percent off every purchase sale and My Roommate’s Closet had a buy one item for 15 percent off, buy two for 20 percent off, but most were not interested in participating.

The stores that did not participate said that sales were low, but not surprising, especially because of the rainy weather as well.

“The streets have been empty almost all day. It’s obvious that all the shoppers are downtown,” said Brea.

“This time of the year is essentially go time. Sales are always great around holidays, but Black Friday is just that day where it’s hit or miss. Nothing that we can do about our prices. That’s retail for you,” said Elizabeth.

If you are interested in Black Friday sales, my suggestion would be to head down to Union Square and tough it out, because Black Friday sales are hard to find in the Marina on that day.

Residents Continue to Pay for Parking on Sundays

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Walking down Union St. last week I spotted something strange… Residents, tourists and all people who park on Union St., are still paying for parking on Sundays.

Why is this something strange? Because starting July 1 2014, parking became free on Sundays on participating streets in San Francisco. A few of those participating streets in the Marina are: Union St., Chestnut St. and Fillmore St.

So why do people on the block continue to pay the meter on Sunday?

Mckenzie Welsh, a local Marina resident, said, “I guess it’s just a force of habit.”

Matt and Emily Herring, a couple from Noe Valley come to the Marina occasionally, and I caught them paying the meter at 4:30 in the afternoon on a Sunday. When I asked them why, Matt said, “You can never be too careful about parking in this city.”

So will residents continue to pay for parking on Sundays just to be safe? Charlotte Singer, a resident of the Marina for over two decades said, “When I found out that parking was free, I said, ‘Finally!'” Singer said that some residents have been pushing for free parking on weekends for quite some time, but Sundays will suffice.

Stickers on parking meters on Union St. that read the hours of operation still say to pay on Sundays, so that could possibly have added to the confusion.

However, parking is indeed FREE on Sundays now. If you become hesitant with doubts, make sure to always look at the hours of operation, or ask a local resident or business owner.

Happy parking!

Pssst- There’s a new wine bar in the neighborhood!

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West Coast Wine & Cheese is the new kid on the block on Union St.

West Coast Wine and Cheese, located at 2165 Union St., is where La Belle Crepe used to be. This new wine bar offers various bottles of wine, cheese and even some small plate options.

According to their website, West Coast Wine and Cheese offers “premium regional wines and cheeses in
a relaxed, unpretentious environment.”

Glasses of wine range from $11-$39 and small plates range from $3-$14.

With their vast selection of wines and cheeses, this cute hole in the wall will sure be one of the next neighborhood hot-spots!

Fresh From the Farm- Marina’s Weekly Farmer’s Market

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As the early morning Sunday fog begins to burn off, the Marina’s weekly farmer’s market begins. From 9:30 am till 1:30 pm at the Fort Mason Center, farmers, bakers, florists and even local musicians showcase their goods.

This local event has been taking place every Sunday, year-round, at the Fort Mason Center for quite some time. Happy Boy Farms has been coming to this farmer’s market for over 14 years.

Steve, a Happy Boy employee, said, “We’ve been participating in local Bay Area farmer’s markets since the business began 20 years ago.”

The question that most people ask at this market is, “Is this organic?” Well, yes indeed! Most of the retailers who participate in this local market grow and sell all organic produce. “Customers appreciate and come back more often when they know where the food is grown and how it’s treated,” Steve said.

So what does ‘organic’ really mean to a grower? “Organic food is planted, farmed and produced without the use of any pesticides, chemicals or added food dyes. It’s natural,” said Steve.

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The farmer’s market isn’t just all vegetables. There are various vendors who sell all kinds of fruits and exotic juices. Pomegranate seeds and juices are this seasons’ “hot item” according to the employees at Swank Farms, since this is the pomegranate’s time of the year. But, the farmers who sell fruit always have one item on hand at all times: Strawberries.

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Lauren, a employee for Swank Farms, said, “Strawberries grow great in the summer. But now since it’s fall, they are smaller, but that just makes them sweeter.”

Fruits and vegetables are a no-brainer when it comes a farmer’s market; so what else is there?

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Santa Cruz Pasta Factory has been pitching their tent at the Fort Mason Center for over 4 years. Their signature pastas are made in a small factory in Scotts Valley and most of them are egg-free. They have over 48 different kinds of pastas and raviolis along with 12 different types of sauces and spreads. Santa Cruz Pasta Factory’s goal is simple: to give back to the community that helped them succeed.

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Succulents! Kaprielian Growers specialize in made to order container gardens and also showcases their beauties every Sunday at the market.

The cherry on top for this local farmer’s market is the live music. Wafting through the air at this market is the smell of crisp veggies, sweet fruits, but also the sound of songs and strings. A different local band plays every week. This week, a three-some including an acoustic guitar, a violin and an accordion play up-beat folk music.

Most passerby’s glance at the tent where the musicians play and then continue on with their shopping, but a handful of others enjoy the Sunday sun by taking a seat and enjoying the music.

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This long running event is a staple in the community and locals take advantage of it. Carrie, a local Marina resident, said, “I come here almost every week to get my produce. It’s fun and easy. Most of the merchants know me by name and they are always extremely nice and helpful.”

A list of all the vendors as well as seasonal recipes and crop updates can be found on the California Farmer’s Market website.

Four Businesses Bid “Adieu” to the Marina

Four local businesses located in San Francisco’s lively Marina district have closed their doors to the public permanently since the beginning of summer.

Paparazzi, a fashion boutique located on Union Street was the first local business to close this summer. “This women’s boutique offered high-quality fashion all in one place; it was definitely one of my favorite places to go on Union,” said Monica Dunst, a local resident.

Paolo Miranda, the manager of Sean, located right next to Paparazzi, said, “Before they closed, they were losing a lot of money. It’s really a struggle to maintain a business in this neighborhood.” Miranda said that Paparazzi has two more locations, one in North Beach and another in Tiburon.

“If you had a bad month here or there occasionally, it can really affect if you stay open or not,” said Miranda, “They just weren’t generating enough business in this neighborhood.” As of Sept. 14, the storefront Paparazzi once occupied was still vacant.

American Cupcake closed its doors on June 29. This neighborhood hotspot carried unique food and cocktails, from red velvet fried chicken to their famous cup cakes. Posted on the front door of the now closed restaurant, is a letter to the customers. In this letter, the owner, Devin Alper, explains that she is preparing for her “little cupcake.”

Eva Dunn, a former employee at American Cupcake said, “When Devin got pregnant she decided she couldn’t run the business anymore if she was going to try and be healthy.” Dunn said that Alper may consider re-opening the restaurant in December, but that is still uncertain.

Dunn says that another possibility that American Cupcake closed may be due to a number of employees quitting within a short period of time. “Many employees were quitting, making it difficult to train new employees as well as keep the business running,” Dunn says. American Cupcake was featured on various Food Channel networks, including the Cooking Channel, and was a part of a Cupcake tour that took place in the Marina.

Dunn said, “I think that American Cupcake was unique enough of a place that it was missed after it closed. It had a lot of loyal customers and the employees worked hard to create a fun and friendly environment.”

La Belle Crepe, a small French infusion crepe restaurant located on Union Street, closed at the beginning of August.

Lindsey Blackburn, manager of Be Good Clothing, a clothing store a few doors down from La Belle Crepe said, “I think that they closed because the owner was losing money on the store.”

According to Blackburn, the restaurant was there for over 25 years. “I remember going there when I was in high school,” said Blackburn, “that was about eight years ago.” Currently the building’s front windows are boarded up with cardboard and there is a for sale sign on the front.

Fawn, a women’s clothing boutique and jewelry store, is the fourth and final store to close in the Marina this summer. According to Amy Chung, an employee at Fawn, owner Nina Tang recently had a baby and decided that it was too difficult to deal with a newborn and a business and chose to close store permanently. Although the boutique is closing, the Fawn online store will still remain.

Tang said, “We are still working with our jewelers and plan on having pop-up shops and trunk shows throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area.”

The next pop-up shop will be happening in Hayes Valley and is to be determined. Fawn had a final blowout sale and going away party on Sept. 13. The store’s final day in the Marina is on Sept. 15.

Other local business owners in the district are not too worried about the recent closures. Blackburn said, “It’s been a rough summer for most businesses on the block. If these business closures say anything it’s that business owners in this neighborhood need to kick it up a notch.”

The Community’s “Third Place”

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Whether you live in the suburbs, a large city or a rural town, residents, homeowners and locals alike rely on a location in their neighborhood that connects them with the rest of the community. In San Francisco’s Marina district, Moscone Park is the community gathering spot. Any kind of person from this neighborhood can be spotted at any point in the day: the couple that always does their morning run around the perimeter of the park, the family that goes on an afternoon stroll, the lady that plays catch with her golden retriever, the two college buddies that play tennis on the weekends and even the old man who sits on the bench everyday feeding pigeons. Moscone Recreational Park is the face of the Marina community. This gathering spot brings the whole neighborhood together in a way that no other place can.

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Moscone Park stretches over a few blocks from Laguna to Fillmore St. and from Bay to Chestnut St. Moscone Park has two playgrounds, one for 2-year-olds and younger and another for 12-year-olds and younger, as well as various tennis courts, putting greens and baseball diamonds. There is also a recreational center that holds weekly activities like crafts, yoga, senior recreation and can be rented out on the weekends for events. Scattered throughout the park are benches and grassy areas where dogs are allowed.

Susan Orenstein, a local resident, has been coming to this park ever since she was a kid. “I was born in this neighborhood, grew up here and even raised my children here,” said Orenstein. Orenstein sits on a bench watching her granddaughter play on the jungle gym every Sunday afternoon while her daughter runs errands, a Sunday “tradition” she said.

It’s Sunday afternoon and the park is filled with ambient noise. There’s shouting coming from the baseball field as a little league game plays, laughing coming from a child’s birthday party on the grassy area and chatter from the mothers sitting on benches watching their children swing on the playground.This area is active with kids dashing around, dogs jumping in the air catching a flying ball and couples swinging their tennis racquets elegantly. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into someone I haven’t seen in forever at this park,” said Emily Sterling, a mother of two and local resident. “I would definitely say it’s a huge part of the neighborhood because, honestly, me and my kids are here almost four times a week.”

Moscone Park is an obvious hot spot for families with children, but not just families can be found here. Jonathan Webb and his one-year-old Chocolate Labrador come to Moscone Park often since Webb moved to the neighborhood in January. Webb said, “My dog gets nervous when he’s around a lot of people so I bring him here because there’s spots where we can just hang out and play.” His dog, Mac, hides behind Webber and shyly pokes his head out every now and again. “Crissy Field and the Marina Green are nice places but there’s always too many people, too many tourists and that’s annoying,” said Webb, “the residents around here are friendly which makes it a nice area to relax.” DSC_1341

Moscone Park is located right next to the Marina Public Library. Many residents who enjoy the park also frequent the library. Walter Anderson, a long-time resident and retired police officer for SFPD’s Northern Station, frequents the park and the library often. “I’ve watched this area develop into what it is now and it has come a long way,” said Anderson. “For someone who has lived here for two-thousand years, you can trust me when I say that this neighborhood loves this park.”

Whether you’re apart of a family in the area, a retiree, or even a single guy with a dog, this neighborhood’s “third place” is the perfect place for connecting with people from all around the community, whether they are long time locals or newbies. Moscone Park is always filled with people, children and active individuals therefore making it a vital part of the Marina.

Fall Fashion Season

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Sunny afternoon on Union Street, one of San Francisco’s premiere shopping areas.

As the summer season draws to a close, shops and boutiques on Union St. in the San Francisco’s Marina District are gearing up unveil their new fall collections. Various boutiques on Union have already placed their new collections on the floor, while others are waiting to unveil them later this month.

Ambiance, a women’s fashion boutique has already placed some fall items on the floor. This store’s season’s looks are a variety of 60’s inspired ensembles from plaid and flannel, to sharp and edgy tailored looks for the workplace. Ambiance also has perfect jackets for the cold San Francisco nights ahead. “You can never go wrong with a green cargo jacket for fall,” says Michelle, a Union St. shopper, “its perfect for layering.”

Other boutiques on Union are still waiting to premiere their fall collections, like BeGood Clothing. BeGood is planning on releasing their new fall looks in the store and online in late September early October. The interesting thing about BeGood’s new line is that it is all eco-friendly and socially responsible. Their new fall collection includes fabrics like bamboo, organic cotton and silk. Their fall line will include sweaters, basic tees and long sleeve tees for women, crew-necks, henley’s and chambray collared shirts for men. Check their blog for updates.

American Apparel is also launching their fall collections, beginning with their “Sweater Session” and new “Uni-Sex Wear”. The new collection contains long cowl-neck knit sweaters and uni-sex baseball tees and hoodies.

The fall fashion season is upon us and Union St. is a great place to start shopping for your new fall needs!

First Impressions

The Muni 28 line towards Fort Mason, right after the stop at the Golden Gate Bridge, is where the Marina begins. The fog gently cuddles this neighborhood, making the sun light the busy streets with an almost ambient white pigment. Lombard Street, one of the most popular tourist attractions in San Francisco, is one of the main roads in this district. I get off the bus at Fillmore and Lombard and decide to walk up towards Union Street. One of the first things I notice is the architecture. The houses and businesses are so distinct in their design. Houses of different colors, mostly light pastels, and delicately intricate designs are what attract my eye, making it hard to keep my eyes on the steep street. Union St. is flushed with unique businesses, from Eco-Friendly clothing company, BeGood Clothing, and popular cosmetics company Sephora, to exquisite restaurants, including local favorite The Brixton. The residents of this neighborhood all seem to be in rush. With their work out gear on and either a water bottle in their hand or a yoga mat strapped to their back, this sight tells me that this neighborhood is very active and quite enthralled with physical activity.

Walking down Union and peering into the window displays, I noticed that these boutiques and shops were very exclusive. On the corner of Union and Laguna, theres a handful of shops with beautiful jewelry and amazing statement pieces along with designer clothes and fabrics. This turns on a light inside my head, telling me that this district is filled with wealth and passionate work.

I talked to a man named Phil, the manager of The Dragon Well down on Chestnut St. and also Rose’s Cafe on the corner of Union and Steiner, as he walks out of the eco-friendly clothing store, BeGood Clothing. “This district obviously has a lot of money, that’s why it’s a good place to work. It’s where all the money is,” Phil said. “One thing I’ve noticed from working down there (on Chestnut St.) and up here (on Union St.) is that people who come to eat up here are much more relaxed in a fine dining environment rather than in a casual dining environment.”

As I walk down the street, I begin to notice that the local employees are more willing to talk to me than the busy locals. I begin talking with a Starbucks employee, Aaron, while he’s on his lunch break. He tells me that he’s only been working in the area for four months, but one thing that he really likes about the district is the buildings and the location. “Sometimes the people can be difficult, with any restaurant job, but some regulars are truly great people with great attitudes,” Aaron said.

After my handful of interactions with various Marina regulars, I begin to pick up just how many characteristics this district has. This district’s beauty, people and culture is definitely something that I am excited to explore this semester.