The Best Parts of San Francisco: Excelsior District
When looking at the historical and cultural footprint of San Francisco, the focus is usually on places like Fisherman’s Wharf, the Painted Ladies, or the infamous crooked Lombard Street. From postcards to movies, magazines, and blogs, the city is portrayed as a playground for the wealthy.
However, locals know that the best parts of San Francisco are not typically found in tourist destinations. Even before the pandemic hit, local merchants worked tirelessly to encourage people to pivot from spending their dollars at major department stores, chain restaurants, and corporate grocery stores. What local merchants want is for people to take a chance on their businesses. Among the best parts of San Francisco, where you can find around 500 small businesses within 5 miles, is the Excelsior District.
The Excelsior District is known for its authentic ethnic restaurants. It has the most service industry businesses in San Francisco, such as beauty salons and barbershops. Most of the companies are Latinx and Asian owned by locals.
“When you walk into a locally owned store, you are walking into somebody’s dream, somebody’s talent, somebody who took a chance, said Maribel Ramirez, who is the Commercial Corridor Manager for Excelsior Action Group (EAG).” “I think as we move forward with this pandemic and while people are required to stay in their homes, the way to fill the void of feeling a real sense of community is through our small businesses. You’re not going to experience that in some of these larger chain businesses.”
Ramirez has worked at EAG for over a year, but has been involved in community building initiatives in the Excelsior as residents for seven years. As a daughter of an immigrant who owned a business, entrepreneurship runs in her family. Ramirez’s passion is in development as she is known for helping launch the Westfield Shopping Center in downtown San Francisco. Her ability to translate major corporation goals into a local business strategy makes her an asset to the EAG. “I’ve always loved San Francisco, but for some reason, the Excelsior neighborhood really spoke to me, added Ramirez.” The stories, struggles, and successes are what reality speaks to me, and I feel a strong connection here.”
EAG has partnered with Livable City for a program called What’s Open San Francisco, which markets businesses along the Excelsior Commercial Corridor that have safely reopened. There is a language barrier as many of the businesses are owned by immigrants. There is also a digital divide as some of the businesses do not have websites or an updated Yelp or Google Review page. Livable City has provided businesses assistance with everything from language translation to developing an online presence for dozens of Excelsior District businesses that are currently taking advantage of What’s Open SF.
“I love this SF program, Ramirez noted.” A Lot of our businesses are not so tech-savvy, especially the immigrants that have been here for decades, she said.’ “It challenges them to think about online resources and is an excellent way for businesses to tell their stories and highlight the neighborhood. “
While it may be difficult to predict the fate of many locally-owned San Francisco businesses in these pandemic times, one certain thing is that EAG and Livable City will continue to work to make sure that there is an abundance of resources available. It starts with What’s Open SF.