Noe Valley Voice December-January 1999-2000

Buy from the Little Guy

By J. P. Gillen
"Owner/Slave," Little Italy Ristorante

I own a small neighborhood restau-rant-- Little Italy on 24th Street, 20 years young. In addition, I was president of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association for six years.

I've learned over the years that our neighborhood's small business owners are truly fascinating individuals. They work extremely hard, trying to balance work and family. They almost always focus on the betterment of the community, and are generous to a fault.

Most important, they carry with them the local history and flavor of our ever-changing neighborhood. They create a rich hardy soup that is shared by the community and whose recipe is handed down through the ages. Losing them is like losing the trunk of photos in the attic. Wouldn't it be sad if you had no family history?

Another reason I shop at the corner store is because it is a rewarding personal experience. In this ever so hectic world, isn't it nice to be greeted by name? Isn't it nice to have a conversation with someone who expresses a genuine concern for you as an individual?

I also feel good knowing that any profit my purchases generate will go, for example, to Bill Shukri, the owner of 1001 Castro at the corner of Alva-rado. His prices are reasonable. Sometimes they even beat the supermarket's.

If you obtain a San Francisco visitor's guide from the downtown convention bureau, you will see that one of the primary selling points of San Francisco is the diversity of its neighborhoods and the unique character they each maintain.

Now all the city neighborhoods are starting to look alike. Yuck.

While I do not possess the answer, I do possess the power to spend my money where I choose. I only wish the majority of my fellow consumers would support the independents. People's purchasing power would be reflected in the marketplace, and the problem of the big chain stores pushing out the little guy would solve itself.

It shouldn't be all dollars and cents. There must be some sense, too.