April Spears is hoping to Kickstarter her way to opening a new cafe in San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood.
Should you be looking for the old San Francisco—a San Francisco that's increasingly hard to find in the wake of those flash floods of new money, which left relatively few neighborhoods unscathed—you have always had a reliable source of classic charm in the city's Bayview neighborhood. Famous for snagging more sunny weather than most city neighborhoods, well-known for things that are no longer there—a decommissioned naval station, the now-leveled Candlestick Park—Bayview is also home to a significant portion of San Francisco's African-American population.
For years, the area's less than stellar reputation—in no small part due to problems with industrial pollution, poverty, crime—left Bayview feeling like a different planet from the San Francisco being reshaped by tech boom billions, even if the neighborhood (really a conglomerate of unique sub-neighborhoods) is just a mile or so away from the city-within-a-city that's taking shape at Mission Bay. Today's visitor to Bayview may not always be able to tell at first glance, but the neighborhood's status as Next Big Deal is now nearly entirely assured. The median house price inches ever closer to the seven-digit mark. A light rail line, inaugurated in 2007, whisks residents to jobs downtown. Some of the West Coast's most notorious public housing is being reimagined, urban farms are the new vacant lot, artists and entrepreneurs continue to find their way here, as they have for some time now, seeking room to breathe, and affordable space in which to do so.
Longtime residents are not finding themselves feeling quite so at home in the new, improved Bayview; the African-American population of the neighborhood has been cut in half, or more, since 1990; one-time institutions like the Monte Carlo, a Cajun restaurant-cum-social club operated out of a historic, converted coach house by a Louisiana couple, are now gone. Today, you have craft breweries, a distillery, even a winery. You can get Neapolitan-style pizzas from a truck, there's a stunning garden center that people come from all over to visit, complete with its own coffee bar.
You also, however, have Chef April Spears. Around the time the light rail came into the neighborhood, and right smack at the start of the recession, Spears, born and raised in Bayview, opened Auntie April's Chicken, Waflles and Soul Food, right along the main drag. Defying the economic odds and the shifting demographics of the neighborhood, Auntie April's has lasted roughly a decade, serving up the likes of red velvet waffles, smothered wings, and shrimp and grits.
Not only has the restaurant done well, Spears is now doubling down, preparing to launch her second concept in the neighborhood, early next year. It will be called Cafe Envy, pairing a healthy, fresh, organic-leaning menu with local wine, beer and spirits. This time, she's asking San Francisco—or anyone else interested in supporting her efforts—for help, launching a Kickstarter campaign to bring in $50,000 by Christmas Day (December 25). The cafe will join a small but growing group of new, daytime cafes in the neighborhood, including The DEN, a smart spot by local A-List bakers Craftsman & Wolves, along with spots like Fox & Lion Bread; Envy will be housed—rather appropriately—in the shuttered Monte Carlo.
To learn more about the campaign and to donate, visit Cafe Envy on Kickstarter.