Mime Troupe Meadow in the renovated Lafayette Park honors the historic occasion.
By GARY KAMIYA
San Francisco Chronicle
Fifty years ago this weekend, police prevented the San Francisco Mime Troupe from performing a play in Lafayette Park, arresting the company’s founder as 1,000 people jeered. The dramatic encounter expanded the frontiers of artistic freedom in San Francisco and indirectly launched the career of legendary rock promoter Bill Graham.
Photograph of Corinne Nagata, owner of Nagata Dance in Japantown, by Erik Anderson
By JULIA IRWIN
“I taught my very first dance class half a block away, at the Japanese Community Center, when I was still in college,” says Corinne Nagata, owner of Nagata Dance, a second-floor studio in Japantown with a bird’s eye view of the Peace Plaza pagoda. “And my grandfather had a frame shop about five blocks away on Fillmore Street. He’s 103 now — incredibly witty and somebody who’s influenced me a lot. He was actually my landlord’s Boy Scout leader.”
Nagata, a San Francisco native, says she “went away to New York and did all the dance stuff there,” including stints at Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theatre, the National Dance Institute and the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
“But I came back here because it’s my hometown and my family is here. It’s nice to be back in this neighborhood again,” she says. “I also came back to make my home a better place and I think the way I can do that is by teaching dance — and not just teaching it, but sharing it with more people.”
The showplace club and restaurant that once housed Yoshi’s now sits empty.
IT HAS NOW cost more than $18 million in city funds to build the Fillmore Heritage Center and keep it afloat.
There is no new tenant in sight for the huge empty spaces formerly occupied by Yoshi’s jazz club and restaurant. The garage is losing $10,000 a month now that the building has few visitors. The Lush Life gallery also sits empty and has no potential new tenants. The restaurant 1300 on Fillmore continues to operate, but its future is in doubt.
These are some of the details that have finally begun to emerge about exactly what is happening with the project opened in 2007 to revitalize the stretch of Fillmore Street south of Geary once known as the Harlem of the West. Public hearings on July 13 and July 27 brought out scores of restive neighbors, and a thick “informational memorandum” laid out the sad financial facts, complete with spreadsheets, term sheets, notices of default and lease terminations attached.
Margie Conard (left) and Dana Tommasino are opening Gardenias at 1963 Sutter Street.
FIRST PERSON | DANA TOMMASINO
A new restaurant. In San Francisco. Which should give fat pause.
The first day we’re officially in the place, I’m out on the street assessing our storefront. A smiling kid I don’t know, maybe 15, from Winfred’s, the longstanding hair salon next door, walks up quickly and asks: “You the new owners?” and, without losing stride, wide-arm hugs me congratulations.
* * *
My girlfriend Margie Conard and I had been looking for a space for years, then finally lost the lease to our restaurant, Woodward’s Garden, which was a funky diner under a freeway in the Mission when we bought it. There was no changing it for kids like us, just starting out and planning at the time to conjure a French-inspired dinner bistro. We rolled paint on and made do for 22 years.
The new space is by far the best thing we’ve ever come across. We name it Gardenias, swooping a little bit of our past Garden into our future.
Inevitably, every friend who first walks into the new space begins to beam and says hushed, reverently, how perfect it all seems: location, size, back patio, kitchen, feel. I glow with it all, too; know what they mean. Know in my bones this is right. And part of me hopes to hell it’s all true.
Construction began on the space that was to house Brenda’s Original Po’ Boys, then stalled.
AFTER THREE YEARS of waiting, Cajun food restaurateur Brenda Buenviaje has lost her appetite to open a Southern style Original Po’ Boys sandwich shop on lower Fillmore.
The chef-owner of the widely praised Brenda’s French Soul Food on Polk Street — and the newer Brenda’s Meat & Three on Divisidero — says she has tossed in the towel on a Fillmore outpost after delays dragged on and on. She declined to discuss the specifics of the deal, but acknowledged it was dead.
She was negotiating to combine the two storefronts at 1406 and 1408 Fillmore two blocks south of Geary that were previously occupied by Domino’s Pizza and the Espress Yourself coffee shop.
New Orleans-born Buenviaje envisioned a counter-service shop with a menu offering 20 different versions of her own po’ boy recipes. The menu she was planning included traditional fried catfish, oyster, shrimp and calamari po’ boys.
Last fall, when she opened Brenda’s Meat & Three at 919 Divisadero, she said the Fillmore project was still on, but described it as moving at a “snail’s pace.” Some of her po’ boys are now on the menu of her Divisidero Street restaurant.
I tell anyone who will listen that the best cocktails in the city can be narrowed down to a list of five: the Kona cocktail at Smugglers Cove, the Dolores Park Swizzle at Beretta, Bar Agricole’s Singapore Sling (not on the menu, so you have to ask for it), the authentic Mai Tai at the Kona Club near the actual tombstone of Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron — and, sitting at the very top of the list, the inimitable Peony cocktail at our very own Dosa at Fillmore and Post.
Dosa’s signature Spice Route cocktail list is the most innovative in the city. South Indian cuisine historically must have been innocent of cocktails, which makes creating a list of this caliber much more challenging. Dosa carefully and consciously chose to focus on India’s colonial ties with gin, while so many bartenders and mixologists turn from this otherwise sleepy spirit and look the other way.
I remember one afternoon expressing to the bartender my then-genuine ignorance of gin. He gave me a crash course on its history, lining up thimble-like tastes of gin through the ages — starting with examples of Holland’s “jenever” (sometimes “genever,” both a reference to the dominant flavor of juniper) prevalent in 16th century Holland; followed by Old Tom gin, popular in the 18th century; on to Plymouth and London Dry gins, which many of us have had without quite knowing it. It was a valuable yet dizzying education.
E.G. Bolles designed 2360 Pacific Avenue, one of the more interesting apartment facades.
LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY
The apartment building at 2360 Pacific Avenue, near Fillmore Street, was built just prior to the 1929 stock market crash as an intense period of apartment development in Pacific Heights was ending.
The building, with both Art Deco and Spanish Colonial Revival influences, is a somewhat schizophrenic remnant of the Roaring ’20s. It oozes the glamour of an earlier era. Yet its multi-light, industrial sash windows, which dominate the front facade, were almost never used in residential buildings. Here these windows resulted in one of the more interesting apartment facades in the neighborhood — and a brilliant design decision by a not-so-well-known architect, Edward Grosvener Bolles.
Toward the end of Plastic Man: The Artful Life of Jerry Ross Barrish, we see Barrish, San Francisco’s most famous bail bondsman, at his 50th high school reunion. He is shocked to find most of his Lincoln High classmates retired — “playing golf or something” — while he is still in mid-career.
Even Angels Get the Blues | Jerry Ross Barrish
That’s a phrase you hear more often in an art museum, when an artist is given a “mid-career retrospective” of his work. And, in fact, Barrish is an artist himself. Now in his 70s, he has shut down his bail bond office across from the Hall of Justice. But he is only a little past mid-career in creating his detritus-based sculpture — what the Fresno Art Museum called “Art Drecko” in its exhibition of his found-art assemblages in 2008-2009.
Barrish creates figures of people and animals from castoff plastic and other junk he scavenges, and all of a sudden it seems he’s the man of the moment.
Two dozen of his plastic sculptures are on view in a new exhibition, Sculptures from the Plastic Man, at Studio Gallery on Pacific. And William Farley’s 75-minute Plastic Man documentary is part of this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, with screenings in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Berkeley.
The club formerly known as Yoshi’s closed only 75 days after it was rebranded The Addition.
By CHRIS BARNETT
As a gaggle of City Hall lawyers and bureaucrats scramble to sort out a massive financial debacle of their own making, the cavernous jazz club, restaurant and bar complex at 1330 Fillmore formerly known as Yoshi’s San Francisco, dark for the last six months, isn’t likely to come alive again anytime soon.
The city of San Francisco has now seized control of the venue from developer Michael Johnson, who built the Jazz Heritage Center complex housing Yoshi’s, 1300 on Fillmore restaurant, an exhibition space and a theater, plus 80 condominiums above.
Johnson had taken charge on July 1 of last year when he forced out Yoshi’s owner Kaz Kajimura.
In the months that followed, Johnson eventually renamed the club The Addition and added more eclectic musical acts to the marquee, but never came up with a new concept for the restaurant. Then 75 days after the new venture was officially launched on November 1, it was abruptly shut down and its staff all sacked. Since then, it’s been a ghost building.
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.
Pascal Rigo will reopen his original Pine Street bakery on October 5. The return comes barely two weeks after the boulangerie was shuttered by Starbucks, which bought the maison mere and 22 La Boulange cafes from Rigo in 2012.
“I had no idea people loved it so much,” Rigo told the Chronicle. Read more »
GAP'S NEW LINE
The influx of fashion retailers to Fillmore Street continues. Among the newest brands with eyes on Fillmore is Intermix, a group of 42 boutiques acquired by Gap Inc. in 2012.
Intermix describes itself as “a multi-brand women’s fashion retailer” that favors locations on neighborhood streets — such as 2223 Fillmore, now the home of Brooks Brothers’ Black Fleece, which Intermix hopes to replace next year.
A few doors north at 2237 Fillmore, the women’s boutique Limu Is closing and will be succeeded by Paige Denim.
Paige is a high-flying brand already available in stores across the country now beginning to open its own shops. Fillmore will be the seventh.
COMING OUR WAY
If it’s not fashion, it’s cosmetics. A new company, Space NK, plans to bring its curated selection of beauty and wellness products from around the world to 2000 Fillmore, currently home of Paolo Shoes.
Space NK is holding a meeting to introduce itself to the neighbors on October 6 at 6 p.m. at Congregation Sherith Israel at 2266 California Street.
PAINT 'N' SIP
The Planning Commission has given the go-ahead to Pinot’s Palette, which bills itself as “America’s fastest-growing franchise,” at 1981 Sutter, formerly a deli and grocery.
At its 130 existing or planned locations around the country, customers come together for an evening to create a painting while they drink wine.
WISE SONS BAGELS
COMING TO FILLMORE
Wise Sons Bagels is turning 1520 Fillmore into a bakery that will produce up to 5,000 bagels daily, plus other Jewish delicacies. There will also be a 12-seat retail shop.
Tablehopper offers a look inside the gutted space and more on the plans.
The offerings inside the shop on the corner of Fillmore and Sacramento have been suddenly downsized and upscaled, the Marc by Marc Jacobs nameplate outside quietly replaced by lettering that says only Marc Jacobs.
The higher-end Marc Jacobs boutique on Maiden Lane, near Union Square, has been closed and incorporated into the Fillmore shop.
SIGNS 10-YEAR LEASE
The father-daughter team who own Fillmore Bakeshop at Fillmore & Bush have signed a new 10-year lease.
Elena and Doug Basegio have developed a loyal local following in the five years since they took over Patisserie Delanghe. At first it looked like a 90 percent rent hike might force them out. They’re still facing a big increase, but hoping to make it work. Those fruit pies are safe.
AT THE AMELIA
In the same block of setback storefronts underneath the Amelia condos, there’s another vacancy. First Barry for Pets closed after 40 years on Fillmore at the end of April. Now the fashion shop A City Obsession has called it quits barely a year after arriving.
At the southern end of the block, Pizza Inferno has finally begun a long-planned renovation.
NOW IT’S THE
What has most recently been the Hotel Tomo at 1800 Sutter in Japantown — sold last year to Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants — has been rechristened the Kimpton Buchanan.
“We’re very excited about the prospect of joining this lovely neighborhood,” said Blue Bottle boss James Freeman.
Permits were issued on August 4 and 8 for a soft story retrofit, which is now underway.
A NEW INCARNATION
AT OCTAVIA & BUSH
An elegant new dining option has arrived in the neighborhood, with Octavia opening at the corner of Octavia and Bush, previously home of Baker & Banker, Quince, Meetinghouse and others.
Under chef-owner Melissa Perello — much lauded for her cooking at Frances in the Castro — the dining room is lighter and more minimal and the menu simplified and seasonal. Initial reviews are glowing. Octavia is open for dinner, except on Monday, and a private dining room is coming in the former downstairs bakery.
Juicy News, the newstand at 2453 Fillmore for the past 23 years, is settling into its new home down the hill at 2181 Union Street, just a few doors east of Fillmore.
"It's an eight minute walk and five blocks away from our old location," says owner Mo Salimi.
Its new digs were once the home of the legendary Minerva's Owl bookstore. "This shop had massive history," says Salimi. "So good vibes and heritage all around."
PAINT STORE MOVES
TO THE FILLMORE
Lower Fillmore has a useful new business: a paint store. G&R Paint Co. — the highly regarded purveyor of Benjamin Moore and other paint at 1238 Sutter — has moved to 1491 Webster, in the Safeway parking lot.
The store is part of the locally owned Creative Paint company, which has four paint stores and two hardware stores, including Brownie’s on Polk Street.