Last week, my family and I took a trip back up north for my mom's birthday and some businesses she needed to take care of. It was fun in so many ways, but I think one of my favorite moments was exploring San Francisco by myself. I went on a Thursday because I was going to meet up with my friend Sonya, who works downtown, for dinner and drinks. I decided that I'd BART there earlier so I can spend my day taking in the city and getting some shots.
Growing up in the Bay, you're always told about the places to avoid because they're "rough," which translates to some of the more hood areas. These places include Oakland, Vallejo, Daly City, Richmond and the Tenderloin of SF. Truthfully, these areas are "rough," but not necessarily always dangerous. Then again, I've grown up around all these areas so I don't always feel uncomfortable when I think about them. But I digress:
Getting off on Civic Center, I made my trek towards Mr. Holmes Bakeshouse, which I've wanted to try forever. If I'm being quite honest, I never necessarily knew what areas constituted as the TL in SF, but I discovered quickly that's where I was going.
As I've grown up, I've begun to realize that in many cases when people call areas "ghetto," they're usually referring to the homeless population around that. I find that dehumanizing in so many ways, especially because, in most cases, the homeless aren't "ghetto," or crazy, or thugs - they're literally just homeless, Yes, some of the people sitting looked at me funny, said uncomfortable things, etc., but I wasn't bothered by it.
As I made my way up the street, I found out that Mr. Holmes was closed because they sold out of their pastries early. In dire need of coffee and a snack, I yelped another shop nearby, which led me to The Family Room off Hyde St.
The shop was a literal hole-in-the-wall, a room no more than 200 sq. feet. Yet, it was one of the brightest little spaces that I've seen. It's filled with books, magazines, accessories, menswear and it serves coffee, tea, and pandesal over a little counter. The owner, Andy, was not present, but I was able to talk with one of this employees, Austin, about the shop while I had a cup of the smoothest cold brew ever. (Be warned, they didn't have creamer so I had to drink the cold brew black, but it was soooo good)
Austin told me about the Tenderloin and some of its history, how it's been such a focal point of activism and change for immigrants, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. I was able to sit a moment and read a book about the queer history of the TL. He made a comment about the gentrification of the area, but noted that it's still maintaining its grit and inclusivity, which he really appreciates and hopes it stays as such. I asked him what some of his favorite places were in the TL and he sent me to the Tilted Brim.
There, I met Justin, the owner of the hat and apparel shop off of Larkin. We chit-chatted briefly before we introduced ourselves and I told him that Austin sent me to check them out. It was nice seeing the shop that was aesthetically-pleasing by design, but didn't give into the gentrification custom. The shop is a pride of the TL and I appreciated that so much.
Much of the apparel was stuff that didn't fit me, but I would wear if it did. It repped SF entirely, and had such great pieces of clothing, from jackets to graphic tees, sweatshirts, etc., I knew that I'd come back next time i visit. Justin also sold flags, pins and athletic magazines that focused on visual storytelling, which I was in love with.
In addition to running the shop, Justin is also involved in the community and wants to see it become a more popular place for people to visit because of the food, the shops, the culture and the history. It was easy to tell he was popular because several people off the street were shouting his name, and the store's, when they walked by. I left the Tilted Brim with a smile and a full-heart because I got to know a little bit of Justin's story, as well as the TL's.
While the neighborhood is being gentrified in some capacity, I really appreciate how its people of color leading the charge. We're at a point where "gentrification" and "white" are almost mutually exclusive and I'm so glad to see that wasn't the case here. The TL is immensely diverse and it's amazing to see its own community keeping it such and doing so with just a little bit of style.
Hats off to you, Justin, and thanks for the cold sip, Family Room! I will definitely be back to see y'all again!
PS: Want to see some more pictures of my adventure in the TL? Check out the gallery below!