From Jack Quach
As you walk down Sunset Boulevard, you can spot tents starting on 37th Avenue every Sunday morning. In front of St. Ignatius High School and the east end of AP Giannini, the vendor stalls selling baked goods and organic fruit to clothing are coming to life.
In the rolling fog of one morning in San Francisco, steady streams of adults and children follow the sidewalk until they step into a three-block-wide shop window filled with music, food, and art. The Outer Sunset Farmers Market and Mercantile attract shoppers of all ages, backgrounds, and tastes, and each Sunday sets the stage for neighbors and community members to safely explore their neighborhood.
The market that emerges at the start of a pandemic summer is already having an impact on the outer sunset community.
Locals browse the streets of the Outer Sunset Farmer’s Market next to St. Ignatius College Prepartory High School. (Courtesy Jack Quach)
“I think this is one of the best things that happened to the outside sunset,” said Herb Mintz, a patron who discovered the market shortly after it opened. A former radio host and journalist for the California School Employees Association, Mintz began exploring the market with his wife, Jamilah Din and friends. He found it the right place to “come together and … support the small businesses we rely on”.
Rita Goldberger, Mintz’s friend and regular buyer, brought Mintz and Din onto the market. In the rows of pop-up tents, she finds “a real sense of community … where people from all over the country and around the world are”. She added, “I feel like there is a sense of oneness.” Her wife, Nancy Lewis, noted that her favorite part of the market was Rodriguez strawberries, handpicked and grown on site.
“They are wonderful farmers in South Bay. I think this is an amazing group of artists and farmers, ”she said.
The five-piece San Franpsycho band ensures acoustic harmony for the enjoyment of market visitors. (Courtesy Jack Quach)
The street market that thrives in the Outer Sunset district offers a piece of life: guitars and hand drums by the five-piece SanFranpsycho band create an active, yet relaxed atmosphere. Beyond the first glance, the stories of the people who run the stands reveal true diversity beyond the first glance.
Quanisha Johnson, owner of Yes’Pudding bakery, relies on the market to connect with her community. She wakes up at 5:45 a.m. on Sundays to bake pudding for her stand. The time she spends at her booth also helps her cook meals seven days a week for senior centers in and near San Francisco. The ability to speak to people in her community “was a lifesaver,” said Johnson.
Yes, Quanisha Johnson, owner of the pudding bakery, and her booth assistant say their mornings start at 5:45 am so they get to the weekend market on time. (CourJack Quach)
She shared the loss of personal connection with her elderly mother during the pandemic and smiled knowing that it could have a direct impact on the lives of seniors as more people learned about the market.
At Bear Flag Bakery, Greg Harmon shows off his handcrafted classic San Francisco sourdough breads, many with designs and symbols on them, from sunsets to sand dollars. Looking at customers, he says the market is “just very San Francisco, with Asians, European Americans, and everyone else. It is really a nice cross section of San Francisco. “
Greg Harmon brings his Irish heritage to his elaborately valued sourdough bread from San Francisco at Bear Flag Bakery. (Courtesy Jack Quach)
The hummus guy, who sold local hummus and baklava, expanded his business as soon as he hit 37th Avenue, even over COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the owners of Baby & Boy bring their Filipino heritage to their sweet treats. The owner Bettina Yap said that she loves to “inject [her] her own creativity and… homemade recipes ”in the food she prepares for the market.
Carts of fresh falafel and roast chicken are instantly drawn to the noses of children and parents who stop by the steps of St. Ignatius and have lunch or take home their next dinner.
When the pandemic started, many had few options to see friends and other community members in a safe environment. Working with COVID-19 guidelines, the street market has revitalized the community, and today masked shoppers are browsing nearly 70 unique small businesses every week.
The Outer Sunset Market is initially just over one block and is set to continue in the neighborhood. Angie Pettit-Taylor, who runs the Sunset Mercantile, takes a community-centric approach to the outdoor hangout.
“We started with just a small handful of farmers and a few makers and traders,” she said. “And then … as more community members came out, it just grew organically.”
Realizing the need to expand, Pettit-Taylor and her organizational team led to the Sunset Wellness Mercantile, a program where small businesses, schools, and community groups use a block on 37th Avenue for outdoor activities like dance and martial arts classes, an outdoor senior center, all week.
“The need for communal space in urban environments is always needed. We’re trying not just to create a place for commerce, but also a place for community, ”shared Pettit-Taylor.
Like many others, Mintz values the opportunity to shop for organic strawberries and fruit with family and friends. And Lewis has his eyes open for the freshly grown mushrooms for the next Sunday.
Jack Quach is a student at St. Ignatius College Preparatory and an editor for the school newspaper Inside SI. This piece was originally published in Inside SI.
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