Fillmore jazz era project being updated



In 2006, internationally acclaimed photographer and professor Lewis Watts and Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and writer Elizabeth Pepin Silva published Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era.

From cover to cover, Harlem of the West is filled with vintage photos documenting San Francisco’s historic jazz era during the 1940s and ’50s. The book also features anecdotes from those who lived and performed in the Fillmore during this period. Currently out of print, it continues to be in high demand.

Now the pair has teamed up again to create a unique, multi-platform history project that tells the story of San Francisco’s Fillmore District in its musical heyday. The goal of the Harlem of the West Project is to bring San Francisco’s Fillmore District history back to life in a book filled with rarely seen photographs and stories from those who lived through the period.

Read more: “Gone but not forgotten

Coming soon on Sutter: Gardenias

LONGTIME CULINARY TRAILBLAZERS Margie Conard and Dana Tommasino will continue their gardening theme when they open Gardenias a few doors from Fillmore at 1963 Sutter Street, the former home of Roostertail and Cafe Kati. They previously owned and operated Woodward’s Garden in the Mission for 22 years before losing their lease last October.

Margie Conard and Dana Tommasino

Margie Conard and Dana Tommasino

“We have always bowed to the breadth and beauty of California produce in our food,” says Tommasino. “We have also just inherited one very serious commercial rotisserie that we plan to have lots of fun with. We’re imagining whole herb-stuffed goat or lamb on the spit, with leafy meze sides, along with rotisserie birds, pork, fish, etc.”

They plan to offer small plates for casual dining, as well as full dinners.

“We also have the capacity for doing wines on tap in the new place, which is something we’ve wanted to do for years,” says Tommasino. “We love how green and forward-thinking it is, and many beautiful wineries offer their wines this way now.” They also plan to work with wineries to make their own Gardenias blends.

“We are more than thrilled to have found such a sweet neighborhood and location for our new place,” says Tommasino, and hope to be open for dinner six nights a week by mid-July. “We want to create a space that serves the neighborhood” and also “suits both casual dining and more fancy crowds.”

Tommasino curated various art, reading and dinner events at Woodward’s Garden and plans to continue to host events at Gardenias.

A pastry queen’s second act

Belinda Leong of B. on the Go

Belinda Leong of B. on the Go at 2794 California Street


Only a few days after it opened on the corner of the busy intersection of California and Divisadero, B. on the Go already has the feeling of a neighborhood institution.

As you approach the refurbished building’s tasteful pewter-toned subway tiles and mysterious tinted windows and enter the sparsely decorated space, your eye immediately shifts behind the counter to the centerpiece: an enormous canary yellow French La Rotisserie wafting aromas of the daily fare.

Rotisserie will be the focus here for star pastry chef Belinda Leong and her partner, master baker Michel Suas, who also own the wildly popular B. Patisserie just across the way at 2821 California Street.

Photographs of B. on the Go by Rose Hodges

Photographs of B. on the Go by Rose Hodges

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Shell gets go-ahead, garage gets the boot


THE CALL CAME shortly after noon on July 1. Time’s up, Douglas Fredell was told. Do no more work in the garage of the Shell station at 2501 California, and have your tools and machinery out by the end of the month.

It had appeared the neighbors were gaining ground in their battle against a big chain convenience store with additional gas pumps the owners of the gas station want to build as a replacement for the garage, which has operated there for decades.

Yet another crowd of locals showed up to protest on June 4 when the Planning Commission took up the issue again, a month after sending the owners back to the drawing board and directing them to redraw their plans to keep the garage.

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The sweet spot: $5 to $7 million

3003 Jackson (left) and 3007 Jackson (right)

Both 3003 Jackson (left) and 3007 Jackson (right) sold over the asking price in 12 days.


A pair of recent single-family home sales in Pacific Heights illustrate that properly pricing a home for sale can pay off on multiple levels.

In the 3000 block of Jackson Street, two properties that are practically next door to each other changed hands in early June, with the transactions and homes bearing some similarities. On June 5, 3007 Jackson Street — a six-bedroom home built in 1918 — sold for $6.55 million. Less than a week later, the nearby 3003 Jackson Street — a five-bedroom home built in 1891 — found a buyer for $5.63 million.

Both homes sold in a brisk 12 days — about three times faster than the neighborhood’s pace of single-family sales in May. And both sold for between 6 and 8 percent over the original asking price. The $5 to $7 million range represents a “sweet spot” for home prices in Pacific Heights, and there was no shortage of qualified, motivated buyers interested in both Jackson Street homes. Because these two homes were carefully priced, the owners were able to make speedy sales and pull in some extra money in the process.

Patrick Barber is president of Pacific Union.

Library a treasure in terra cotta

Photographs of the Golden Gate Valley Branch Library © Bruce Damonte

Photographs of the Golden Gate Valley Branch Library © Bruce Damonte


The terra cotta clad treasure that sits at the southwest corner of Green and Octavia Streets is often mistaken for a bank. This exquisitely designed building was built in 1918 as San Francisco’s fifth branch library funded through the Carnegie Corporation’s Library Program. Designed by architect Ernest Coxhead, known primarily for his ecclesiastical and residential works, this neighborhood library incorporates a rounded end resembling a church apse, a semicircular recess often containing the altar.

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Yes, original boulangerie also set to close

Pascal Rigo at Boulangerie Bay Bread on Pine Street in San Francisco.

Pascal Rigo’s original boulangerie at 2325 Pine Street has become a neighborhood institution.

A FRENCHMAN’S American dream — to open his own bakery and live above the shop, build a group of local cafes serving authentic French pastries and eventually sell it all for millions to a mega-corporation — took an abrupt twist June 16 when Starbucks announced it was shuttering its 23 La Boulange eateries in the Bay Area.

Including the original Boulangerie Bay Bread at 2325 Pine Street.

Employees of the Boulangerie and the nearby La Boulange cafe at 2043 Fillmore were told mid-afternoon that day to close early and assemble at 6:30 p.m. at La Boulange on Fillmore. There they received the news: Starbucks is shutting down the La Boulange cafes by the end of September. Founder Pascal Rigo, who joined Starbucks as senior vice president of food when it acquired La Boulange in 2012, would leave the company at the end of the week.

“Starbucks has determined La Boulange stores are not sustainable for the company’s long-term growth,” said an announcement issued in the evening as Bay Area fans were celebrating the triumph of the Golden State Warriors in the basketball finals. By early the next morning, longtime fans were streaming into the boulangerie on Pine Street, hopeful the original location would be spared.

It was not to be.

Starbucks bought La Boulange for $100 million in 2012 and has incorporated its pastries into Starbucks shops nationwide and in Canada. The company said that part of the deal would continue. But the cafes, the original bakery and two industrial bakeries that supply the cafes and a catering operation will close.

“Why’d they buy them then?” asked Jennifer Delaroderie on Facebook. “Just to shut them down?”

“This is so disappointing,” said Joan O’Connor, formerly owner of Timeless Treasures on Sutter Street. “It is a fabulous business — every location where I’ve been is a gem.”

“This is awful,” said Susan Wels. “Sell it back to the owner — don’t close it!”

Even if Rigo and his investors were inclined to give back the $100 million, Starbucks might not take the deal. Real estate professionals said the company is sitting on a gold mine of prime locations in many of the area’s most desirable neighborhoods.

“It’s an A-plus portfolio,” broker Matt Holmes told the SF Business Times. “The best foot-traffic streets, well-designed, well-placed sites. It will be a feeding frenzy.”

Starbucks said it will also close Evolution Fresh, its juice bar and natural foods cafe on the corner of Fillmore and Sacramento.

UPDATE: “For me, it was time to go,” La Boulange founder Pascal Rigo told SFGate. “I didn’t know what value I could bring anymore,” said Rigo, pointing out that Starbucks stock has never been higher.

“When you have 12,000 stores, and La Boulange is doing so well inside the stores, why do you want to have 23 stores in San Francisco where you don’t want to spend the time or the money?”

He added: “We achieved what we wanted to achieve, which was to have La Boulange in 12,000 stores.”

Rigo hinted he may not be done yet. Of the 23 La Boulange storefronts in prime locations being shut down by Starbucks, he said: “They have a plan for most of them. I have a plan for some of them, also.”

EARLIER:I just have this thing about bread

Wells Fargo bank heist takes ATMs

Three outside Wells Fargo ATM machines under red awnings were removed

Three outside Wells Fargo ATM machines under red awnings were removed.


The biggest neighborhood bank heist in decades has left many customers feeling shortchanged.

Three automatic teller machines outside the Wells Fargo Bank at Fillmore and California recently vanished, depriving customers of the convenience of withdrawing cash and doing limited banking when the branch was closed. Now Wells Fargo customers or anyone with a debit card must observe banker’s hours — 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday — to use the two ATM machines in the bank’s lobby.

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Credo gets its first store — on Fillmore

Credo's first store is located at 2136 Fillmore — and not by accident.

Credo’s first store is located at 2136 Fillmore, near many other beauty brands.

SHASHI BATRA, founder of the new natural beauty emporium Credo, was up a ladder taking a hands-on approach a couple of days before his first store finally opened on June 4. But he seemed happy to climb down for a few minutes to explain why he decided to locate his first shop at 2136 Fillmore.

“Look around,” he said. “In recent years five or six other beauty stores came to Fillmore — and none of those are natural. The whole category is unregulated, and much of it is harmful.”

Batra and his team helped build Sephora into an international juggernaut of traditional cosmetic brands and beauty supplies. Now, “with a much more conscientious attitude,” they hope to do the same for natural products.

“There’s a lot of natural out there,” he said, “but it’s not beautiful. We decided to create a new concept.”

Some day there may be hundreds of Credo shops.

He created a community

Fillmore Farmers Market manager Tom Nichol was remembered at a tribute on May 23.

HE WAS THERE from the beginning.

When the Fillmore Farmers Market was created in 2003 in the parking lot that later became home to Yoshi’s and the Fillmore Jazz Heritage Center, Tom Nichol was there, helping the farmers set up their stands and encouraging the neighbors to get to know the people who grew their food.

In 2005, when the market moved to O’Farrell Street, he was there, by then with a sense he was helping make something important happen.

“It may not be the biggest or busiest market,” he said, “but it’s the best.”

Nearly every Saturday morning for a dozen years, usually in a yellow cap or shirt, Tom Nichol was at the Fillmore market, which he managed for the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association.

“I’m employed by PCFMA, but I really work for the farmers,” he said. “My purpose at the market is to educate consumers about buying fresh and local — and to create community.”

He established a Saturday morning institution in the neighborhood.

“There is such an incredible sense of community there, with both the farmers and the shoppers,” Nichol said. “The shoppers treat the farmers like good friends or neighbors, making this a fun place for them to shop and for me to work.”

But some of the fun has been missing this year. What’s missing is Tom Nichol. He got the word the day before Christmas Eve. His services were no longer needed. His market would go on, but without him.

It seemed for a while that he might work directly with some of the farmers. But his spirits sagged. His dog died. And then he got sick. He died on May 7 at age 63.

“The Fillmore market is the best thing Tommy Nichol ever did,” said Cecil Patrick, a fellow former farmers market manager who lured his childhood friend from Florida in 1994 to become a part of the urban farmers market movement.

“Tommy always treated everyone with dignity and complete respect,” Patrick said. “He knew the neighborhood. He knew how important this market was to the neighborhood. It was a fit. He orchestrated this incredible gathering spot every Saturday.”

The gathering almost always included jazz. So on Saturday morning, May 23, the regulars in the Larry Douglas Alltet led a musical tribute to Tom Nichol.

He will be missed.