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Posts Tagged 'store'

Alkhemy Khandy The Pop Up That Never Was…

I’ve had an interest in food trucks and pop up food businesses and got a silly idea in my head that maybe I could do this. San Francisco is a big place for foodies and since we don’t have two million people the big chefs won’t come here [a quote from Anthony Bourdain], but that gives the little guys a chance or so I thought.

Well the first thing I noticed was that if you’re going to start a pop up selling food products you have to have everything prepared like you’ve been in business for 20 years. You need to develop the logo, make t-shirts, print business cards, etc all before you actually figure out what you’re going to be selling so you can get money from people in a crowd funding start up site like Kickstarter.

I’m still kind of old school and I knew I had a thing for making candy and I was quite good at it, but the idea of making t-shirts and stickers before I even knew if I had a market was a bit much. I tend to be a bit of a mad scientist in the kitchen while at the same time there was always a certain art to what I did. I wanted something that I could turn over easily and that would transport easily and so I decided that out of my candy recipes I’d start with caramels. So I came up with a cool logo and phrase for the business. I could have done fudge or toffee, but those seemed kind of one dimensional to me. Fudge and Toffee are always just that they aren’t a base you can build on which caramels that are a basis of sugar, corn syrup and milk work very well with. I started with the fleur de sel caramels because they were the easiest to make then my mind started thinking outside the box and I came up with the following caramels:

1. Fleur de sel
2. Chocolate/Coconut caramels [vegan]
3. Bourbon & Black Pepper
4. Jolly Rogers [coconut and rum, but I needed a new name to avoid trademark issues]
5. Bacon & Maple syrup [yes, you read that right]

I made them all and they were great. The few people who sampled them loved them and wanted more and there is where the problem started. I did my homework while testing my recipes and found the best price to purchase the ingredients. I could even use agave nectar instead of sugar and corn syrup because it’s a natural invert sugar and would stay smooth and not grainy, but the key factor was in the kitchen and time.

I could crank out a batch in about an hour, but the problem was I could only crank out about 3lbs at a time and then I’d have to clean the pots while the caramels were setting so I could realistically only crank out about 12lbs a week given that I was making them at home and had to find time in between my daughter being at school, keeping the house clean and other things let alone going somewhere to sell them.

While I was thinking this I was looking at what other people were selling homemade caramels for and it was anywhere from $10-$25/pound. At this amount that would mean I would be able to earn between $120-$300/week if I sold them all. I also happened to run across an article about struggling pop up food businesses and one in particular caught me by surprise. It was a couple of women who where making homemade pies and selling them for $35 each. I don’t know about you, but that better be one really good pie for $35. I can get a decent pie for $6 and a pie for $10 that will have people asking for seconds, but what is going to make a $35 pie that special? Likewise, the only thing about my caramels that could justify say a $20/lb price would be what I was putting into them.

Then there was the fact that I’d have to sell that much every week to earn a below minimum wage income from it. In the end I’ve lived too long to earn that little, so I’ve had to put the idea of a candy pop up business on the side for now. That doesn’t mean I won’t be making my caramels anymore. I’ll still make some and have them around most of the time because you never know when someone is going to come by. They’ll also make nice end of the year gifts for the people who help us out because they’ll remember a pound of bourbon and black pepper caramels longer than a Starbucks gift card.

Shhhh…A Shopping Secret

La Playa SafewayI was tempted not to share this one because I do like to shop here even though it’s a drive from my house [3 miles isn’t much of a drive for most people outside SF], but I figured that young hipsters who don’t usually have cars and live in the Mission or Haight won’t bother going all the way out to this place. What place am I talking about? The Safeway at the beach. I honestly hate shopping on weekends and the closest Safeway to me is on Noriega and 30th which I hate because it’s always crowded even during the week and in the evening it’s not crowded, but understaffed. The Safeway at the beach isn’t anything like that.

It’s kind of a hidden mystery for many because it’s a large Safeway, one of the largest in the city and they put it out at ocean on top of what used to be Playland at the Beach. Because of the exposure to all the salt air and fog from the ocean the outside looks a little dumpy, but when you go inside it’s a different story. The typical crowd is a bit on the rough side. I don’t mean fights will break out, just that to most people tossing on a t-shirt over your pajamas and grabbing your flip-flops is considered well dressed to shop here. I suppose a small part of this is due to the few homeless people who hang out in front and the large number that live in Golden Gate Park who go there to buy their food and cheap booze. They’re pretty harmless, but to the uninformed they can look a little scary.

The best part is the aisles are large, very large and it tends to be a very well stocked Safeway, but like many others the staff is a little short in the evenings. There is a Wells Fargo branch at this location where you can get all your banking done even on Sundays [side note, if you’re a real San Franciscan you bank at Wells Fargo]. The deli and bakery are sufficient and a little better stocked than many others around town, but for the general groceries you can find stuff here that is hard to find in other places just because they have lots of room and need to fill it. The butchers are one of the few at Safeway’s that you can pull over and have them cut some meat up for you.

When you finish your shopping and go to check out the wait can be stupidly fast on weekends and it’s not unusual to find a few checkers just standing there talking to another checker waiting for someone to show up. When I used to live a bit closer we used to go here all the time, but now on weekends it’s just kind of refreshing to get some morning air and walk around a store where there aren’t thousands of people pushing you all over the place. It’s even better when it’s a sunny morning which contrary to popular belief we do get more frequently than people think.

I Took One For The Team: $1 Rib-Eye Steak from Dollar Tree

OK, OK, I know this is supposed to be about life in and around San Francisco and Dollar Tree is a national chain, but there’s also a Dollar Tree in Colma, home of the dead people where we sometimes shop because, well, everything is a dollar. About a month ago I saw a $1 3.5oz rib-eye steak and bought one. It took be a while letting it sit in its frozen state, but last night I actually threw it on the grill and here’s what I found out about it.

First, it’s salty. It’s what foodies would call wet aged since it’s packed in a hermetically sealed plastic with a meat tenderizer mix of salt, ficin [meat tenderizer derived from figs] and bromelin [meat tenderizer derived from papaya that’s different than papin which also comes from papaya]. It was actually very tender after the five minutes it sat on the grill and only had a small area of gristly fat that had to be cut out.

3.5 oz is about the amount of protein that a person should have with each meal according to the medical community even though they also suggest 2 grams per kg of body weight so at 28.35 gms per oz I was a little under my daily intake per day. On first taste there was an obviously processed taste to it. I thought of what an army issued MRE steak would taste like. I’ve never had one, but this would probably come close to it. It was tender, very tender and compared to the top round steak I cooked with it, I actually like it better.

If you’re a person short on money, but love your meat I’d recommend you try it. It’s not anywhere near steak house quality and definitely not something you’d expect from the House of Prime Rib, but for people on a budget for a buck you could do a lot worse. Due to the high sodium content I’d suggest you have a baked potato with it or a salad with avocado so that you get more potassium to flush the excess sodium out. I think we’ll be picking up a few more of those steaks next time we travel down to the land of the dead just because they’re cheap and we can’t at the moment afford Snake River Kobe-styled beef. The $1 rib-eye’s don’t look pretty, but when you toss them on a grill for a couple minutes they’re pretty tasty.

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Nickel and Dimed to Death

I read an article about a measure that now Sheriff Ross Mikarimi wants to pass that would charge people 10¢ per paper bag at grocery stores and would go up to 25¢ per bag in 2013. While I’m all about being green and a progressive I think Ross needs to think about this measure a bit more.

San Francisco has outlawed plastic bags a couple of years ago and had in affect an ordinance for a short time whereby people who brought their own bags would be paid 10¢ per bag for being green. They’ve since dropped that and being green and bringing your own bags while helping the environment, doesn’t get you any payback. Now Ross wants to force grocery stores to sell you the bags or be fined and the stores get to keep the money.

Hmmm…Let’s think about this for a second. You’re told you have to charge people for something you were giving away or else you have pay the city money and the money you collect you get to keep. I don’t see any stores arguing with Ross Mirkarimi’s proposal. If anything it will win him brownie points from all the big box grocery stores. I do think that Ross is missing a bit of the tit for tat on this. If you’re going to charge me for a grocery bag then it only would be fair that I should be able to charge you for bringing my bags. I would also like to insist that  if I bring my own bags that the store double bag everything paying me 20¢-50¢ per package because I don’t want to have to keep going out and purchasing new bags all the time.  After all Ross, it’s only the fair way of doing business, am I correct?

I have lots of bags that I would bring to the store and I’ve got good strong arms so that I would insist that ever item I purchase would be packaged individually and that I be paid back in equal kind. If I have to pay 25¢ per bag I should be paid back 25¢ for each bag I bring in and use, therefore if I purchase 20 items and bring 20 bags I should get a $5 discount on my grand total.$10 if I insist on double bagging.

This is how we as San Franciscans should look at this. If you want to take from the people, you should be willing to give back. This measure doesn’t benefit the city in anyway, but helps the stores out by dimes and quarters [I would say nickels and dimes, but that’s irrelevant today]. I don’t mind progressive thinking as long as it’s well thought out. This measure isn’t very well thought out and Ross needs to sit back and think about what he wants to achieve because last time I checked brownie points don’t buy you much anymore.

 

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The General Store

I like living in the Westside. We’re starting to change the Sunset district and Richmond over to the Westside because we both have Ocean Beach in common. Once you pass Sunset Boulevard the vibe changes and you just get a laid-back beach vibe from the things you encounter. You see it most down on Judah street with Noriega and Taraval starting to get into the game and Judah street was where I ended up yesterday.

There’s a little parklet across from the 7-11 that made me stop and take a look and I noticed a new store that I hadn’t seen before. It’s called the General Store, yes I agree it could have a better name, but it’s a well, general store. It carries thing you would need like clothes and flashlights and books, etc. They tend to be a bit more on the upscale side of things, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They’ve been in business for a year and a half which is good by business standards in the Westside because businesses don’t usually last too long as you get near the beach. At least in the past.

The beach area used to be a no man’s land that the only thing that lasted more than a year was the corner liquor store. Restaurants out there were pretty beat up looking and you would want to choose them unless you had to. I’m glad it’s changing. Judah street from 44th Avenue down to Great Highway is becoming a vibrant place to visit. The General Store just adds to this.

When I walked in I was surprised at the artistic quality of many of the items for sale. There was a calendar that  had each month printed in a spiral showing the phase of the moon each day and was printed using an old method called letterpress wherein metallic versions of the letters are actually pressed into the paper after being coated with ink. It gives a debossed look even though the printers tried to avoid this when they first started doing it.

There were wooden handmade implements that upon further inspection turned out to to be flashlights. They were pretty impressively made and if you had one sitting on a table you wouldn’t even know what it was. There were also a collection of handmade soaps and jewelry for those so inclined. The books and notecards available while few had a distinct Westside vibe.

All in all it was a nice place to visit and with the parklet outside the two blended in together quite nicely. It’s a warm and inviting place that makes you feel welcome when you step inside. You should stop by and take a look. It’s a nice place to visit.

Failing Easy Market

This morning there was a big hoopla in the papers and online about the opening of the new Fresh & Easy market in the Richmond District. Now I like to go to openings of things around the city, but don’t like the lines and crush of people. I figured, this is a grocery store. There shouldn’t be any problems right? WRONG!

As it turns out the people at Fresh & Easy decided not to give the newspapers or online journalists the time that they were opening up. My wife and I drove by and saw people going in and out of the store so we found a parking place not in their lot that was already filled with cars and their upstairs lot that was cordoned off and walked the couple of blocks to check out the new store.

Once we got up there we saw they had a table where they were handing out little cups of apple juice and a crowd of people standing around NOT going into the store. I walked up to a lady who was blocking the entrance and asked her if they were open. She said, no we’ll be open at 10am. We’re having a kick off breakfast right now for the staff and people from corporate. OK, here’s something Fresh & Easy needs to learn about doing business here. People in San Francisco like something called convenience in their shopping. We don’t like a store that shows off their large parking area by not letting you park in it. We don’t like that you’re posting your opening time at 8am out front only to find that you aren’t letting people in until 10am and we sure as hell don’t like it when you’ve got staff and corporate coming in and out of the store enjoying their private breakfast inside.

We were hoping to try some of their goods, but to no avail since we weren’t going to wait an hour for the store to open. I hope they get their act together since the outer Richmond district needs another grocery store after the Lucky’s closed there some time ago. It would not be a good thing if Fresh and Easy became known as Failing Easy.

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The Chain Gang of San Francisco

San Francisco has a bit of a conundrum on its hands with business. If you have more than three stores you are considered a “chain store” and can’t open any more stores even if there is a demand for your services. Yet, why is there a starbucks every half mile? Why are there so many Chevron, 76 and Shell stations? Why are there so many 7-11’s?

According to the books, San Francisco wants to keep local businesses at the forefront. So the mom and pop who invested money in a 7-11 to open it up in their neighborhood aren’t considered local businesses, yet myspace, google, apple, microsoft can open offices here while they aren’t San Francisco based businesses? Interesting way of thinking. There was a paint store that wanted to open up in the old Hollywood video store [chain!] on Mission street, but because they were a distributor of Glidden paint they were considered a chain and couldn’t move in. Yet we have a paint store in the Sunset that is the exclusive distributor of Kelly-Moore [chain!] paint, so much so that it’s called, “Kelly-Moore Paint” and that isn’t a problem?

I have at one time had a chance to visit the mother of all chain stores Wal-Mart and I was surprised by what I found there. DEALS! That was over 10 years ago and I’m still wearing the socks that I got for $3 for 6 pairs. In this down turned economy that is “coming back” people need a deal.  Mom and Pop who run the small place on the corner can’t give you that. The corner “convenience” [liquor] store that sells a six pack of budweiser for twice as much as your local grocery store [chain!] can’t really compete and you’ll probably notice that there is a lack of corner “convenience” [liquor] stores starting to show up.

There are things that every one of us need. Socks, underwear, gas, food. I don’t really care if it was hand made by underpaid naked virgins in Guatemala [out sourced!]. I just want it to fit and hold up over time. I don’t want to pay $5 for a handmade cupcake made with 70% cacao when I can get 6 for $3 made with Hershey’s [chain!] dark chocolate.

New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg made a trip here recently made a trip to San Francisco and our new interim first Asian American Mayor [we’ll just ignore that Daly City beat us to the punch on that, because Filipinos aren’t the same kind of Asian we’re talking about] Ed Lee gave Mr. Bloomberg a Cable Car bell and locally made, organic hot dogs. Hot dogs? I haven’t seen a cow or a pig in San Francisco since I last went to the zoo. What about our locally made Boudin sourdough bread [chain!]? Or our crab? I have never heard one person say, “Damn I want me a San Francisco Hot Dog!” That’s because we’re San Francisco! We aren’t know for our hot dogs. There is the Treasure Island Frank which I can’t find any info on why a big hot dog is associated with Treasure Island, but they are difficult to find nowadays and I doubt that’s what Ed Lee gave Mr. Bloomberg.

I honestly don’t see a problem with chain stores. They bring affordable wares to the masses, employ people, albeit at usually a low wage, but only people willing to take low wages would work at a similar Mom and Pop local business. Daly City is taking away tons of San Francisco dollars because they’ll allow Target and other chain stores that provide deals that you can’t get here in San Francisco, so why not let them go in here and give back to the city that desperately needs the money? Kudos to the Board of Supervisors for loosening the stick up their collective butts for allowing Lowe’s to move into one of the worse parts of town. I never see any of those San Francisco resident employees with a frown on their face.

OK, rant off for now. Time to go back to talking about the things that make San Francisco the greatest place to be. It’s just getting harder to find.

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