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chronicles of starting an art bar / cafe in san francisco

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November here and I have one thing on my mind: DRUGS. “Why?” You may ask. Well, because on November 2nd Californians failed to legalize marijuana. I’m not going to go into the politics of any of this, but I will tell you that it lead to me spending all week bidding on back issues of High Times magazine on ebay. And no, I wasn’t stoned.

'Sup Cheech & Chong

Certain things come to mind when people think of San Francisco and the Bay Area – the amazing food (the whole local and organic thing is sort of our trademark), the abundance of iPhones (techies for days), the gays, the liberals, the activists, and certainly, the hippies. In certain parts of the the US, people think that we are all homosexual vegan potheads wearing organic hemp tie dye outfits and sipping kombucha. That might not be quite accurate, but if you put the staff of The Summit in a blender…

some of us at The Summit are working the steps.

The point is – our little city has a reputation, a reputation that involves liberalism, free love, and red eyes, goofy grins, and the munchies. And we kind of deserve it, in the 60s San Francisco was the city of free love, hippies, and a whole lot of smoking pot. Not to mention dropping acid, eating mushrooms, smoking salvia, and let’s not forget peyote or mescaline, alcohol and quaaludes and hash. You throw all that into the mix and things are bound to get interesting.

These hippie babes look dazed and confused. Also, those are boobs. Almost. You're welcome.

Thankfully, all that drug experimentation was accompanied by a whole lot of amazing art, music, and literature. Some of my favorite writing is the beat literature that came out of our city in the 60s, and authors like Jack Keroac and Allen Ginsberg are some of the first that come to mind when you think about literature in San Francisco.

Jack Kerouac. Babe Alert.

But this city isn’t just happy hippies in a cloud of pot smoke writing novels, it’s also junkies on 6th Street and the corner of Turk & Taylor. It’s dealers hustling heroin on Mission Street and gutterpunks selling hits of acid on Haight Street. It’s club kids tweaked out on e and coke and meth. It’s AA, and NA, and MA, 12-step programs, and sober homes, and rehabs. Drug culture is as much about addiction as it is about experimentation, and the literature that is born from dependancy can be compelling. Think William S. Burroughs’ “Junkie” or more recently, Nic Sheff’s “Tweak” and James Frey’s (semi-fictional, but compelling none-the-less) “A Million Little Pieces.”

So, for November, with Prop 19 and marijuana on everyone’s minds, I decided to put together a collection of literature pertaining to drug culture. I’m titling the collection “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out,”  a phrase coined by Timothy Leary in the 60s to promote the benefits of LSD. Obviously the collection isn’t just about marijuana, and you should expect to see quite a bit of anti-drug propaganda (back issues of TIME magazine discussing the “menace of cocaine”, and guides for parents who suspect their children of drug use). I hope that it will peak the interest the people who wander over from a 420 session at Dolores to satisfy their munchies, and to the people whose drug of choice is the caffeine in their Blue Bottle Coffee.

Just scored this on ebay - pretty stoked.

There will be an opening reception for the collection on November 9th… more details to come!

You guys can use the front door, I promise.

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we’ve got our new website up and in the next few weeks, we’ll be retiring this blog and moving all the content over to our new site. visit http://thesummit-sf.com and let us know what you think.

For most of the last month my whole apartment has been carpeted in zines, magazines, and books (see also: candy wrappers and clothes). There is a regiment to the madness, I swear. There are piles grouped next to other piles, and…. well, it’s all going to come together in the Library at The Summit. Probably a hell of a lot better than it’s come together on my apartment floor.

Even though I live alone, I still find myself looking at my messy apartment like it's someone else's fault.

I say “Library” but right now I’m working within the confines of a 10′ high by 3′ wide really, really nice magazine rack. I’ll have more space to work with in November, but it’s probably best that I start small.

A mock-up of the initial "Magazine Rack" placed between the coffee station & the ATM - can't miss it.

There’s a whole lot that I want to fit onto those 6 little shelves, and even more that I want to fit into the completed Library, but I have narrowed down the first collection of work to (mostly) fit within a theme.

The “theme” concept for the Library was Desi Daganan’s idea. Instead of jamming together a bunch of magazines randomly, wouldn’t it be neat to think of the collection as sort of an art show at a gallery? As someone who enjoys going to art shows and museums, I’ve had a lot of fun trying to translate the way an art curator puts together a show to a process that I can use when putting together written work for the Summit Library.

An art show at 111 Minna Gallery in SOMA.

...doesn't look so terribly different from this Library. Only those are books on the wall instead of paintings. And those are little kids instead of drunk hipsters.

This month, the theme for the Library is “Don’t Call it a Comeback” (taken from LL Cool J’s smash hit “Mama Said Knock You Out”, because all themes for Libraries should have ties to rap songs) I didn’t choose this theme because I love rap and Cool J’s sexy abs (I love both a lot though), I chose it it because I wanted the first installment of the Library to remind people of where The Summit came from.

That’s right “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.” Most everybody knows by now that The Summit has risen from the proverbial ashes of Poleng Lounge, a restaurant and nightclub, with strong ties to the Hip Hop community (The RZA once drank tea and played chess at Poleng until 3 in the morning). And with the doors finally opening to the public, Desi and many ex-Polengers (myself included) have made a comeback of sorts.

Poleng's last night was more fun and positive than it was sad.

So how exactly does this influence what’s featured in the Library? Well, I came up with a long list of people, companies, countries, etc who exemplify the tenacity it takes to climb from defamation back to success: Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, Ford Motor Company, David Needleman of Jet Blue, Jack Bogle of Vanguard Funds, The Lakers, The Red Sox, Martha Stewart, China, etc. Then I began hunting down magazine covers detailing each of these subjects at their worst, and then back up on their feet. I learned pretty quickly that back issues of magazines can be expensive and difficult to obtain. Ultimately I determined that, within my budget, Ford Motor Company, Steve Jobs, and China were the best subjects for which I could find the two magazine covers I needed to demonstrate the Press’s conception of a downfall and then a comeback.

1993 issue of French Vogue featuring Nelson Mandela for $118? Can I use the company card?

So, like an art show centered around a few key pieces, this month’s Library will be centered around 6 really awesome magazines.

The Steve Jobs cover story from last post ties with this 1967 issue of TIME for my favorite pieces in this month's collection.

In the future, I want themes to be less restrictive (i.e. a whole bunch of drug related stuff for the November Marijuana ballot?). And there will always be a selection of reading material that doesn’t relate to the theme. In an effort to please the very eclectic group of people who work and spend time at The Summit, the Library will be pretty eclectic itself.

It looks like the doors to The Summit will finally be open this Thursday, and I encourage you to come by and check out The Summit mini-Library and give me some feedback on what you’d like to see included next month!

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1 year ago i got a call from my buddy Steve Jang about a space in the mission i needed to see. in a span of less than 48hrs i found myself staring at a beautiful off market space for a restaurant and then staring at my laptop for 14hrs straight to get a proposal submitted to i/o ventures.

those that know me well know that my b-day is a sacred holiday filled with debauchery, drunken shenanigans, and seances that leave little time for work. so the prospect of having to write a business plan for a space unbuilt is kinda of a stretch, but there was something about this opportunity that made me take a step back on focus on the future.

making it to my 35th is a sign of victory

my future restaurant circa 9/27/09 was then called “casa poleng.” a full service restaurant that was an iteration of the poleng concept revolving around the culinary fusion of the spanish and portuguese in asia.

spanish + portuguese food = filipino food?

nix that. i/o ventures turns me down.

but it was meant to be. any business plan written on my b-day has to be.

3 months later, i/o was still open for proposals and a scaled down version of the “casa poleng” concept was finally accepted. then poleng collapsed on 1/23/10 leaving casa poleng in jeopardy.

after some soul searching and a suggestion from Marcozy about reviving a long forgotten party i produced years ago the summit is born again.

back track 8 years ago

i’m knee-deep in the hiphop scene, but my taste in music and scenes is boundless. a late-night 420 session along with and close encounters of the 3rd kind blows my mind. the idea of communicating thru basic tones and flashes inspires me to create an event that blends the world of hiphop, hose, d&b, 2-step, dancehall, and beyond called the summit.

the true origins of the summit

fast forward to 9/27/10

1 year +1 day = my 35th birthday + the birth of the summit. we’re open for business on thursday, 9/30/10.

I can think of few things more excruciating than bus rides, waiting rooms, or lunching solo without something to read. I spend a lot of time in transit, and between destinations I find myself stuck in the Mission with 20 minutes to spare, or at the 33 MUNI stop watching the estimated arrival time waver from 18 minutes to 63 minutes. 99% of the time I have a book in my purse, but I have collected hours upon hours reading and then rereading The Guardian and The SF Weekly. Most weeks I can relate to you in great detail what Paul Reidinger thought of the udon at Izakaya Sozei or Dan Savage has to say about maple syrup fetishes.

I love to read. Growing up I probably spent more time with books than I did with other children. My mom would take me to the library once a week and I would bring home as many books as I could carry. I was partial to fantasy and sci-fi (Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury, Philip Pulman…), and I spent most of my childhood waiting for a doorway to appear in my closet.

I'm borderline obsessed with Ray Bradbury. The Illustrated Man remains one of my favorite books.

When I would run through my library books I moved on to my parent’s – a mix of non-fiction and classic literature. As a teenager I became obsessed with Twee Pop, Riot Grrl, and DIY culture. I was rabidly addicted to Livejournal, wrote terrible poetry, and pieced together equally terrible zines. More than anything in the entire world I wanted to move to San Francisco, work in a cafe, and date a boy in a band.

The term "zine" (from "fanzine") covers a wide range of self-printed, small circulation publications featuring text & images.

Slumberland, Sarah, & K Records were probably the biggest influences on the person I am today. All these labels have strong ties to the zine culture that emerged in the 80s.

Kathleen Hanna - Poster girl for the Riot Grrrl movement, which was ignited by the publication of several feminist zines.

Fast-forward to today and I live in San Francisco, work in a cafe… and have pretty much given up on dating boys in bands. It’s been a wild ride getting here. I went from couch surfing in Oakland to traveling the country by Greyhound, finally ending up here in San Francisco about four years ago. I started off as a hostess at a now defunct Top 100 restaurant (any guesses?), moved on to become a party promoter, fell into a social media consulting position for a clothing boutique, and have ended up at The Summit, where my job title is “Literary Curator.”

In '09 The Guardian named me of one of San Francisco's "Scene Makers" in the Nightlife Industry. I think the scene at The Summit will involve more reading & less dancing.

In the last couple of years that I spent falling into jobs and scenes and hangovers, I’d sometimes forget that for most of my life, books were my best friends. For me, running the literary program at The Summit is like peeling away all sorts of strange identities that I’ve adopted in the last few years and finally getting to do what I love to do best, nerd out over books.

Me in '06 - platinum & probably plastered. These days I'm usually holding a cup of Blue Bottle.

I’ve spent the last few months watching The Summit come together. The space keeps filling up with tables, espresso machines, and couches, and more importantly, with people and ideas. My job went from stocking a simple magazine rack, to outlining a literary program that will focus on zines, graphic novels, and other independently published work. Along with compiling a library of zines, I’ve been hunting down magazine back issues and vintage design manuals, and playing with the idea that a collection of literature can be curated much the same way one curates a collection of visual art in a gallery.

I left Zine Fest last weekend with lots of awesome readables that will soon be featured in The Summit Library.

Just scored this back issue of Fortune Magazine. Who knew Steve Jobs was such a babe?

As excited as I am about my position at The Summit, I’m also a little scared. I read constantly, but the volume of books, magazines, zines, and comic books out there is astounding. I cannot and will not claim to be the authority on any literary scene, but I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with people who know more than myself. I hope that I can make The Summit a welcoming place for readers and writers, and I feel incredibly fortunate to work someplace where I’ll always have something interesting to read.

!!!

KKW

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It’s been three weeks since the last post, and all I have to report to you is that we’ve still got building inspectors to impress, a Grand Opening to prepare for (pending inspections), a soft launch to recuperate from, and some kombucha brewing in our kitchen.

Did my move to Austin set me back a few years? I had no idea that—along with coconut water and Blue Bottle coffee—kombucha might be the first words San Franciscans teach their infants. Some folks claim that kombucha helps promote weight loss or is capable of curing cancer.

i literally need to get my ass on the kombucha diet. there's a linear relationship with my expanding waistline that correlates with the time i spend cooking in the kitchen.

Kombucha is a fermented tea produced through a symbiotic relationship between a kombucha culture/mother (or SCOBY – symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and bacteria. The culture itself feels like a thick, leathery pancake. The kombucha mother culture is placed in a tea highly concentrated with sugar and then feeds off the sugar for at least 10 days. The process turns the tea into a drink concentrated in acids and nutrients.

after 10-14 days of fermentation the tea is bottled and an anaerobic process gives the final beverage its effervescence

After some in-house training with a local kombuchaseur the Summit’s got its own kombucha house-brew on the way that will possibly be a regular feature on the menu. I can’t promise we’re serving any cancer blasters or that you’ll have Halle Berry’s abs drinking our house formulation, but kombucha is a step up from the ordinary iced tea or coffee. The initial sip shocks the palate with prominent acidic flavors layered with subtle sweet tones. Someone described kombucha as an exotic, effervescent rose water. If I can’t convince you to give our kombucha a try, would it matter if I told you Lindsay Lohan drinks the stuff?

Kombucha news might not be exciting, but the news I do have to offer is the soft opening we just wrapped up this past weekend. Two months have passed since I started my internship with the Summit, and three days ago I had my a shot at working in a professional kitchen for the very first time. If you ask me to describe the work that goes into launching a restaurant I have three words: f*****g hard work. And that’s coming from the girl who’s just the intern. I don’t recall a weekend the Summit managers weren’t  here to clean or build out the space, which now looks like this:

The Summit. check out your new Third Space

We haven’t had a Grand Opening to prove that the hard work’s paid off, but we did have a full attendance that had food orders coming faster than the kitchen could prepare them, more plates to push out than our runners could keep track of, and a shortage of food even before closing (we still find ourselves apologizing to the friends and family whose orders weren’t fulfilled). We hope that the feedback and positive support we received from this weekend’s soft opening resonates with the response we’ll get once the Summit opens to the public. Pictures of the soft launch are on their way. In the meantime, I’m on my way to chant to the Grand Opening Gods to pray we pass the next building inspection and that the Opening I sniffed out four weeks ago takes place soon…

- MISS U

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I intended to commit the cliché of posting an update on Friday the 13th. Well, we all know what happens when the clock strikes five on a Friday afternoon. And thus this post comes to you nearly a week later.

We had an official orientation to welcome the Summit staff, after sending them off to the East Bay for a week of Blue Bottle boot camp and later immersing them in a day of Red Blossom tea training. You read that right; we’re featuring Red Blossom tea on our menu. I’ll spill more details on our specialty drinks during the next few weeks.

Front of the House manager, Marco Jastillana, got serious summarizing the communal goals of the café and the standards our staff are expected to meet. He also unveiled the signature blue scarves Summit crew members will sport while on-site.

I witnessed some surprised expressions. We even got questions from the skeptics. I’m going to assume that the folks who remained quiet were stifling their enthusiasm to avoid any ostracism that resulted from their proclamations of love for the versatile piece of flair. It’s a handkerchief. What can’t you do with it?

keeping it simple with grey and blue. i hate to toot our own horns, but you'll soon welcome some of the best-looking cafe staff in the City

I’m probably the only person who gets this involved discussing the possibilities that come with coordinating grey tops and blue handkerchiefs.

Most everyone else has turned their focus to our café front. The interior has undergone a major face-lift, clad in a few fresh coats of paint and an almost finished coffee bar.

evolution of the Summit cafe front

Our window front recently got dressed up with smartly designed posters displaying our brand identity.

window shopping in the mission? stop by to check out the new eye candy, designed by Freddy Anzures

Beyond our store front, it looks like our posters are making their way to the streets. Don’t be surprised if while grabbing your daily dose of the Guardian, that you also catch a glimpse of those four familiar peaks.

Miss U

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