It’s Saturday night, warm for San Francisco, and the line at Bi-Rite Creamery stretches around the corner onto Dolores Street. Just a few doors down at the Creamery’s soft-serve window, the swirl of the day is balsamic strawberry and vanilla. Under a neon glow, flowers and pumpkins, melons and apples are piled up in front of the brightly lit windows of Bi-Rite Market across the street, where savvily curated, compulsively purchasable groceries lure dinner-party goers and dinner-party throwers alike.
And tonight, another Bi-Rite business is in full swing: the bigger, newer, cooler home of 18 Reasons, where a long communal table is packed with friends and neighbors listening to a twangy banjo band, sharing $5 bowls of cannellini-bean soup and $3 bottles of Trumer Pils as part of its monthly Soup for Supper program, this time in conjunction with Slow Food's $5 Challenge. Behind the public room, splashy with bright murals by local artist Zoltron, is the company's new stainless steel commissary kitchen, where Bi-Rite workers prep salads for tomorrow's deli case.
Face it: on this block, it's Bi-Rite's world. Which, it seems, given the company's success, and its lively involvement in the local community (and economy), is just how we like it. Think about it: here are a lot more jobs on this block than there used to be, back when it had a single bad hippie restaurant, a tiny barber shop and a couple of junky secondhand stores. A lot more small farmers, cheesemakers, winemakers, jam-makers, and tiny sea-salt caramel businesses are getting paid, thanks to getting their products on these shelves. Now, with the opening of its bigger space, 18 Reasons can reach out to more people with its mandate of community food education and engagement.