By Tom Temprano
Behemoth businesses masquerading as mom-and-pops are nothing new in San Francisco. Last year, Jack Spade tried to skirt the city’s formula-retail restrictions by claiming it fell below the 11-location threshold (despite being owned by Liz Clairborne) that we define as chains — before being shot down by angry neighbors.
Now the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, an LA-based non-profit, which in 2012 bought the chain of Mom’s Pharmacies, is accused of trying to skirt formula retail regulations and set up shop at 518 Castro Street, according to a recent filing at the Board of Appeals.
Before you question how anyone could lump an HIV/AIDS non-profit in with Miss Clairborne, note that there are 30 pharmacy locations listed on the company’s website. AHF has also gotten some recent flack for its profit-driven agenda — its own doctors attempted to unionize last year primarily because they felt the organization spent too much time on politics, and securing lucrative government contracts, and not enough time or resources on the patients that depended on its support. That coupled with recent uproars over the group’s avid support for mandatory condom use in porn films and the president’s decision to call PrEP ‘A Party Drug’, makes it safe to say that AHF’s attempts to plop a pharmacy in the heart of the Castro might meet with some resistance.
And resistance there is! The appeal claims that AHF is trying to operate the pharmacy under a different name than its chain of pharmacies to skirt formula-retail regulations and that AHF is saying that its 4,000 sq. foot space is actually two adjacent 1,999 sq. foot spaces.
I spoke with Dale Gluth, AHF’s Bay Area Regional Director, who said that the organization’s staff actually worked closely with planning and zoning officials to make sure they had the proper permits. According to Gluth, the proposed location would feature a pharmacy in the front and medical offices in the back, hence the zoning square footage discrepancy, and he blamed strange rules governing medical uses and formula retail for the confusion.
The Board of Appeals hearing is set for June 11th at 5pm and members of the public can come, air their grievances and try to put a kibosh on AHF’s plans. As much as I hate to call into question the witchy wisdoms of Miss Stevie Nicks, in San Francisco, you can in fact break the chain, or at least file an appeal against it.
Now lets move on from small business drama and celebrate the small business in earnest – Happy San Francisco Small Business Week everyone! May 11-15th marked SF’s 10th annual celebration of all things small (business) and it gave yours truly the chance to learn about a ton of new small folks doing big things in our communities.
Full disclosure, I did much of the social media for Small Business Week (it was awesome), but would have been at all of these events and supported the celebration itself — work aside.
For the third year in a row I stuffed myself like a piñata with samples from nearly 40 restaurants at Flavors of SF, the foodie kickoff to Small Business Week. Highlights included my first dance with the legendary pork purveyors at Bacon Bacon, the finest pralines in town from Bayview’s Yvonne’s Southern Sweets, cinnamon sugar donuts from the always incredible Cheryl Burr of Pinkie’s Bakery and about five trips too many to the Ike’s Place sandwich table.
I spent Tuesday in a catatonic food coma and Wednesday morning finally felt well enough to venture out to more Small Business Week happenings. The Small Business Conference at the Holiday Inn on Van Ness hosted some interesting panels and awesome TED-style talks from local entrepreneurs. Of all the presenters, I was most moved by Teresa Goines, the founder of Old Skool Café in the Bayview.
We routinely talk about the many ways that small businesses give back to our communities but I’ve admittedly never run into a business whose model and mission are so wholly dedicated to a community that needs them so badly. Goines, inspired by her experience as a corrections officer where she said she would have to bark orders all day and cry all the way home from work, launched Old Skool Café to give formerly incarcerated and at-risk youth a chance to develop the job skills and resumes to help them break out of the cycle of incarceration that entraps so many of our cities young people.
She showed a video during her talk that featured the experiences of the youth in their own words. There I sat in the middle of a hotel conference room on a Monday morning crying like a baby as these young people spoke about the transformative experience they had at Old Skool Café. The moving story coupled with the shots of what looked like exceptional food has made this business my number one must-visit dining destination.
MOVIE TIME: Between Small Business Week and our ridiculously gorgeous weather, I didn’t find any time to sit around inside and take in a movie. All that will certainly change in the coming week with the release of not one, but two special effects laden blockbuster movies. Look forward to reviews of Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past in next week’s column.