Lasting Impressions

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In the past four months of reporting in the Castro, I have fallen deeper in love with this neighborhood. For the past two and half years, I have been working in the area but it was not until this class that I realized what a strong and amazing community this small part of the city has.

Many tourists and visitors stroll through the Castro corridor to visit Hot Cookie or the famous Castro Theater, but the neighborhood has much more to offer if you just stop and have a conversation with someone. The more I immersed myself, the more I learned how important and passionate these residents are about their community. Interviews came easy in this neighborhood. I remember walking into Orphan Andy’s and talking to a server for half an hour about the minimum wage increase and how it would affect him. I met an LGBT senior for an interview at Eureka coffee and we met two other seniors that were interested and eager to discuss the issue within the LGBT senior community. Another time, I hung out after getting off work at Super Duper burgers and struck up a conversation with a regular that led to two other people joining and an hour talking about issues in the neighborhood and city.

Throughout my time reporting in the neighborhood, I have seen countless businesses close due to high rent prices and lost revenue due to the Castro Street Improvement Project. I have talked to managers about the struggle to keep benefit packages after the minimum wage increase goes into effect and I have mourned with the community over the murder of one of its residents.

This neighborhood looks out for one another and cares for each other. I have made countless friends through interviews and immersing myself in the area. These interactions and conversations have taught me the true meaning and value of community, which is a lesson that cannot be learned from sitting in a classroom.

Meet the Merchants

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Streeetlight Records.

Meet Frank!

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He has been working at Streelight Records for a little over a year. Frank is originally from Chicago and has also worked for Tower Records and the Virgin Megastore. If you want to talk music, his favorite bands are the Beatles and Cheap Trick.

Frank also works for the giants, sorting and stocking merchandise. He’s a Castro resident and loves the neighborhood for its diversity of residents and clientele.

Streetlight has used and new vinyl, cd’s, and dvd’s. They are located on Market St. between Castro and 16th streets. They are now open seven days a week (previously closed on Mondays)! So stop in and don’t be afraid to ask about recommendations, they will gladly help!

Castro Construction Update

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Orange vests and construction hats have been an all too common sight on Castro Street since March and Castro merchants are anxiously awaiting the October construction deadline because business has been abnormally slow during the summer months.

Patrick Batt, owner of Eureka Café, and Cem Buluteglu, owner of Gyro Xpress, say small and new businesses have been affected the most during the Castro improvement project. Gyro Xpress, on the corner of Castro and 18th street, opened in February 2014. The first few months of business are crucial for building clientele and establishing a presence in the neighborhood said Buluteglu.

During the first month of construction Buluteglu saw a 60 percent drop in revenue and shortly after contemplated closing the restaurant during lunch hours.

“We got close to closing at lunch time in May that’s when they were digging in front of the restaurant but we decided to just go for it and take the risk,” Buluteglu said.

He estimates a profit loss of $100,000 since the start of construction. The summer months draw many tourists to the area but the construction noise and debris have deterred visitors and residents from visiting the Castro strip.

Eureka Café, located next to the Castro Theater between 17th and 18th street, also has been highly affected by the improvement project. It opened in October 2013, and had just started building clientele when the construction started.

“We had regulars that were very clear that with the street messed up, they weren’t going to walk up and deal with the fences, dust, and noise,” said Patrick Batt, owner of Eureka Café.

Merchants expressed their frustration with construction happening during the summer instead of the winter months.

“Commercial corridors allow no construction between Thanksgiving and New Years, one of the busiest times for merchants,” said Rachel Gordon, spokesperson for the Department of Public Works. “We also needed to avoid the rainy season; although we are in a drought, we hope for rain and a heavy shower can shut down a project.”

The Castro Street improvement project is headed by the S.F. Planning Department in conjunction with the Municipal Transportation Agency and the Department of Public Works. The project includes widening the sidewalks along Castro Street, between 17th and 18th streets, along with adding street trees, LED streetlamps, rainbow crosswalks, and bike racks. In addition, Jane Warner Plaza, at Market and Castro Street in front of Twin Peaks, will receive improvements according to the SF Planning Department website.

For some residents, the construction has made it easier to run errands. Sean Ketchem, a Castro resident, said the construction has not affected him as much as he thought it would.

“I can walk in and get a mani and pedi with no line,” said Ketchem as he pointed to the Castro Nail Salon. “Life got a little easier for me at least.”

The original construction deadline was set for Oct. 15, but the streetlights and Jane Warner Plaza will be finished after the deadline. The project is partially funded by federal money, which requires the streetlights to be manufactured with American-made steel said Gordon of the Department of Public Works. Steel is currently at a high demand and low supply, which has delayed the delivery of the streetlamps till the end of September or early October according to Gordon.

Construction will be cleaned up for the Castro Street fair on Oct. 5th as it was for Gay Pride in June.

Farmer’s Market

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The Castro has its own Farmer’s Market every Wednesday between 4pm and 8pm during March and December at the intersection of Market and Noe street. Only about a block long, the farmer’s market receives many residents and visitors every week. I walked around the market to talk to vendors and residents about what attracts them to the market.

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Ten to fifteen vendors line the block offering a variety of different foods including produce, artisan bread, honey, and even a booth dedicated to raw olives. I talked to a group of men sitting by Cafe Flore on Noe street who informed me they are “The Bitter Wives Club.” Brian Busta, a Castro resident of 25 years, “President” of the club, and given the nickname ‘Chickpea,’ said the group has been meeting weekly at the Famer’s Market for the past 3 to 4 years and has up to a 15 person “membership.”

“We all come to do our weekly shopping, and judge people and complain,” laughed Busta. “We’re all residents in the neighborhood.”

Farmer’s Markets provide nutritional as well as community benefits.

“I really like knowing the people that produce the food that I eat,” said Dan Freeman, member of “The Bitter Wives Club” and 25 year Castro resident. “Since we’ve meeting at the market, we’ve been eating better to,” Freeman added.

“And we’re not as bitter,” said one of the members off handily, setting off laughter throughout the group.

The Farmer’s Market also accepts WIC-FMNP coupons and CalFresh/EBT (food stamps). For more information to visit or sell in the market, visit the Pacific Coast Farmer’s Market website at PCFMA.com

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