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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.

(L) Marco gets down to business (R) say Hello. the selection process was tough, but two rounds of interviews later, we’ve got a complete team of Summiteers

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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We’re less than three weeks away from the Summit’s projected Grand Opening. That means I have less than two weeks to find a pair of black, non-slip chef shoes if I want clearance into Eddie’s kitchen. It’s hard to choose comfort over fashion when I just want to rock a pair of these.

Alas, my fashion woes aren’t the focus of this post but the transformation of the Summit over the course of a week. Folks might be interested in knowing that we’re no longer just at the corner of 19th and Valencia. Our main entrance has been tramp stamped with SEVEN EIGHTY. As in 780 Valencia St.

claim your third space at 780 Valencia St.

After a few rounds of inspections, it looks like we’re making headway. The naked beams in the kitchen and bar areas have been stuffed with insulation and are starting to sport drywall.

i just want to hop onto this portable lift and finish the job myself. that way when friends come by i can point to the ceiling and brag, “hell yea, i did that”

We recently submitted our application for an outdoor-seating permit. I hyperventilate at the thought of having to buy Adobe Illustrator; instead, I used Microsoft Paint to create the site plan. While fiddling with the graphics, my status as an outlier grew exponentially, as I pumped out JPEGs on my Toshiba notebook in a cafe full of Mac users. Perhaps Microsoft Paint isn’t an outdated tool after all; as long as the City of San Francisco accepts this submission (and it did), MS Paint and I are best friends.

future of the summit's front space

There are days when the toughest decisions we make might involve determining the type of glasses beers will be served in or the bowls soup will be slurped from. We were scratching our heads at one point deciding between espresso cups in sky-blue porcelain or stainless steel. Wondering which was the victor? Come to our opening in a few weeks to find out.

a hybrid of these two would be pretty awesome

Mid-week, we took a small break from decisions for barbecuing and beer-sipping on the rooftop of the Summit space.  The ice breaker served to introduce newly hired members of the Summit staff to the fellows who regularly come to the incubation space for mentorship from the I/O Ventures team.

rooftop mingling + burger broiling = summer lovin’

grill us some knackwurst, and we will follow

Now that our address is official and the incubation space is quickly evolving into the envisioned Third Space, I’d suggest that curious readers drop by to check out the spot. But if in a few weeks there’s not a single thing you recall from this post, at least remember that if you’re looking for a place to find knock-out grub tastefully-paired with a glass of wine or a cold beer, look no further than our space at the corner of 19th St and Valencia.

—Miss U

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These days everyone needs a third space. It’s the perfect outlet, because telecommuting from home is ideal but often hones distractions that inhibit productivity, much like the 15-watt energy-efficient light bulb that is saving the earth but not so much your eyesight.

So you hit up your third space, a café down the street. You’re equipped with a laptop and every intention to do work. But what’s that I see? You are facebook-stalking the girl you met last week. Although sometimes, when the wifi connection is too slow to successfully cyber stalk and the hot girl sitting at the adjacent table (who, by the way, is also a regular) always fails to notice your excessive glances, you’re relegated to staring at blank walls while working on your fourth free refill.

the Summit walls. ready for some action.

Come September 2010 the Summit’s walls will be dressed to whet your imagination, so that a muse isn’t the only reason you come in for a macchiato. I’ve got fresh details on the Summit’s Peek Gallery that may pique your interest. Gallery director, Marky Enriquez, has named the first show “33 1/3: Album Art in the 3rd Space”. The opening will showcase the Bay Area’s renowned record collectors, shop owners, designers, DJ’s and album covers that best represent the “third space” concept. It will be the first of a series of album art shows at the Peek, which will feature futurist and space-age themes.

Marky Enriquez, gallery director of Peek Gallery

Among the shows slated to rotate after the first opening are “The Nightlife is the Right Life” and “History of the Mixer”, each focusing on applied arts and emphasizing exceptional graphic, industrial and fashion/textile design work. Ultimately, Marky would like the Peek to emphasize the Summit as the third space in the “third place” and to embody the concept that public gathering spaces are essential parts of the community.

your third space

On another high note, we have artwork in the name of coffee. We’ve finished up a week of formal Blue Bottle training at BB’s Oakland headquarters. Lessons included learning to consistently brew the ideal cup of espresso and getting milk to steam and foam just right so that the first drink we pour you might look this delicious:

who says you can't enjoy your latté with Bruce Lee?

Four days into training, and I’m candidly admitting that it’s not an easy task (is this callous formation on these palms from espresso tamping?). Tip your baristas well; it takes a latté work to produce the perfect latté.

—Miss U

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I’m ashamed to admit this, but about two weeks ago I was on a mission to find out What the hell is Blue Bottle coffee? I was embarrassed, because people talk about it as if Gandhi were the barista behind every cup. And as we know, The Summit’s menu will exclusively feature Blue Bottle coffee.

Every time Blue and Bottle are uttered together, the loyalist fans fight to have the last word about how much they love this stuff. Initially, I secretly poked fun at this Blue Bottle following. Two weeks post-first sip, and, yes, now I find myself on the Blue Bottle bandwagon.

it’s okay. you can laugh at me about my love for Blue Bottle coffee

Blue Bottle receives recognition for starting with single-origin beans from artisanal producers who sustainably grow and harvest to enhance flavor. The beans are then roasted in small batches and brewed on a drip bar. The Summit will prepare its Blue Bottle coffee in the same manner.

I‘m not a coffee connoisseur, so I’m bashful about ordering lattes and cappuccinos. I’m a drip coffee kinda’ girl, preferably black and absent of cream and sugar. Really, that’s all you need, because every Blue Bottle blend produces a drink rich in aroma, full in flavor, and absent of any bitterness.

There is much pleasure in knowing that soon enough I’ll be able to order a cup of Blue Bottle coffee from the Mission’s own Summit location. For now, I usually pick up a cup from the Blue Bottle venue located at Mint Plaza.  I like to admire the $20,000 piece of equipment that sits towards the back of the cafe:

this bad boy, imported from Japan, is the only halogen-powered model in the US

a scientist at heart, i sometimes feel inclined to don a lab coat and safety goggles and work this equipment

With a crash course of Blue Bottle 101 under my belt, I now find myself scratching my head over our next project, as Eddie and I work on putting a custom-built drip bar together. Once The Summit doors are open, please fight the urge to punch me if I happen to cut to the front of the line in an effort to grab the first cup of Blue Bottle coffee.

Miss U

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