RIP Robert Nygard, a Familiar Character on Cortland Avenue

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We’re sad to report that Robert Nygard has passed away. Neighbor Robert was a familiar face on Cortland Avenue, but he died last weekend after he was struck by a car near Mission and 29th streets, a few days short of his 61st birthday.

Valerie Reichert, manager at the Bernal Heights Library, recalls:

Robert was part of the neighborhood’s old guard, and those of us working on Cortland chatted with him daily. When I came to work, Robert was always sitting with his coffee on the Neighborhood Center bench. He would shout across the street “Hey Lady! “and then give me the weather report.

Robert used the library pretty much every day and was a favorite with the staff. He was a teller of tall tales (which I fell for lock stock and barrel), convincing me last year it was his 80th birthday, when in fact he had added 20 years in order to ice the cake. Mr. Robert Nygard was definitely part of our Bernal landscape.

Neighbor Stacie from Little Bee Baking adds:

Robert was one of the older guys who hung out most every day at the Neighborhood Center or the library, and he came in to my shop regularly for ice cream. He also used to play the blues on his guitar outside the Neighborhood Center while I was getting my shop ready to open. (He was always really proud that he taught himself to play the guitar!) It’s just weird not seeing him after having seen him almost everyday for the past two-plus years.

PHOTO: Robert Nygard at the opening day for Little Bee Baking. Photo courtesy of Stacie Pierce.

Coming Soonish: The San Francisco Cafe and Creamery on Cortland

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Among the many questions brought to us by Bernalwood readers, one of the most frequent we hear these days is: “What’s going on with the creamery that’s supposed to go in to the former Bernal Heights Market at 800 Cortland, on the corner of Ellsworth?”

Indeed. As previously reported, the creamery on Cortland is a new project from by the family that created the [transformative] Harvest Hills Market on the Folsom end of Precita Park. It will be called the San Francisco Organic Cafe & Creamery.

Bernalwood has learned about an additional component to the plan: In parallel with the  San Francisco Organic Cafe & Creamery, the team also plans to launch a fleet of vintage trucks that have been painstakingly restored and converted into mobile ice cream stands. The Creamery will be a restaurant, but it will also function as a supply depot for the ice cream trucks. Here’s what the first truck looks like:

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So when will the Creamery open? What’s the hold up? The wait for opening day has been long.  Your Bernalwood editor has been asking the Creamery team about this for quite some time. Yet whenever we ask, we’re greeted with a fatalistic shrug and a cryptic grin that we’ve also seen on the face of just about every would-be entrepreneur who has tried to open a new food business in Bernal Heights. Over time, Bernalwood has come to understand the meaning of this gesture. It signifies: “I’m basically ready, but I am powerless in the face of a vast and indifferent bureaucracy, so I have no idea when my business will open.”

In the case of the Creamery on Cortland, that challenge is magnified, because there are lots of special statewide regulations that apply to dairy-based businesses. As Michael from Harvest Hills sarcastically explained,  “We’ve learned that getting a milk plant license in California is almost as hard as opening a nuclear power plant.”

Despite all that, opening day is getting closer, hopefully, and there are new signs in the windows of the creamery that explain what’s to come:

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Bernalwood also received some additional detail from Hannah and Gina on the Creamery team:

We are expecting late February or March for partial opening of the cafe and creamery. They’ll put up the awning next week and then the big yellow truck will start to be up there more often for a little retail time in the afternoons. The yellow truck has won the bid to be in the city parks, along with five other trucks like her that will have organic items from the cafe. We are not sure how soon the final legal leases will be finished and of course El Nino has to run his course. None of our trucks are box trucks; all of them are open-platform diner trucks – you can see more at dinertrucks.com

Seating and some decoration will hold us up another few weeks from opening the cafe to the public. We still have to get the big 80 quart mixer in and its really heavy. The pizza oven and baking oven fired up this week along with other new ovens. We’ve been making ice cream there and hope to start the bread for the store soon, along with organic cookies, cupcakes and pies .. These items will also make it to our stores and others in the Bay area in 2016.

We’ve tried to focus on organic items that we don’t see made in San Francisco. So it’s simple San Francisco Organic… The retail side of the company is the Cafe and Creamery. We hope you get a chance to come up once we are fully operational.

So there you have it. Pretty soon, hopefully, the San Francisco Organic Cafe and Creamery will open for business, serving homemade ice cream and food in a diner-style atmosphere. And if for any reason that doesn’t happen, we can take comfort in the knowledge that 800 Cortland may prove to be a more promising site for a nuclear reactor instead.

PHOTOS: Storefont by Telstar Logistics. Truck courtesy of San Francisco Organic Cafe and Creamery

UPDATED: Toddler Injured During Despicable Daytime Robbery and Assault

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A little after 3 pm last Friday, Jan. 8, a 2 year-old child in a stroller was injured during an armed robbery on Cortland Avenue near Prospect. KCBS reports:

San Francisco police said the assault took place at around 3:18 p.m. on Friday near the intersection of Cortland and Prospect avenues in the city.

Investigators said the man drove up in a black sedan, exited the vehicle with a gun and approached the woman. He knocked over a stroller, injuring the 2-year-old who hit her head on the sidewalk.

He then ripped the woman’s purse from her neck, demanded money and then struck her on the arm with his handgun.

The suspect then grabbed a tablet from the child and fled from the scene in the sedan, police said.

Both the mother and daughter were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Bernalwood is relieved that mother and daughter are doing okay, and we will update this story as additional details become available.

UPDATE, 10:30 am: Neighbor Sarah provides additional detail from Captain McFadden of SFPD’s Ingleside Station:

This happened near the community garden walkway at Cortland and Prospect. A woman was walking with her 2-year-old in a stroller. A car pulled up, and a juvenile (approx 13/14 years old) jumped out to grab the woman’s bag. In the struggle, the stroller got knocked over. The juvenile also took the kid’s tablet, then jumped back in the car, which sped off eastward.

The police believe they have an idea of where the juvenile may live – they think it may be one of the nearby public housing developments. The 2-year-old is OK, though I’m sure the whole experience was very frightening.  As reported, this was in the daytime, too – so rather surprising.

Thursday: Come All Ye Bernal, for the 2015 Holiday Stroll!

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Many many moons ago, in the time of the Bernal ancestors, a festive tribe of elves and druids lived in the lands we now call Bernal Heights. Each year, in anticipation of the winter solstice, these proto-Bernalese would gather on the pathway we now call Cortland Avenue to celebrate the arrival of the rains and the season of lights.

Today, tens of thousands of years later, the Bernal Business Association continues this ancient tradition, in the beloved form of the Cortland Holiday Stroll. The 2015 Stroll happens this Thursday, December 10, from 6 to 9 pm, and here are all the tasty details:

The Bernal Business Alliance and merchants will usher in the sixth annual Holiday Stroll all along Cortland Avenue in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood. Businesses will stay open later than usual, from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, December 10, 2015. Each participant will have one-­night specials for unique holiday gifts, and sometimes, giveaways or musical guests for the evening. Admission is free.

As in prior strolls, the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center will be accepting cash donations and new, unwrapped toys suitable for ages 0-­10 years old for their annual holiday Toy Drive at their office on 515 Cortland Avenue. Many of the Holiday Stroll participants will also have silver buckets at the registers for monetary donations. (Checks should be made payable to “Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.” )Toys and donations will be accepted at the Center until December 15.

To date, about 30 brick­-and­-mortar and home­-based businesses will be participating, including:

  • Heartfelt, who will have grog, cookies made by owner Darcy Lee, music by one man band Brian Belknap and hidden gift certificates around the store
  • The Epicurean Trader, customers will receive free gift wrapping with purchase; in­store wine tasting and in­store discounts
  • Just in time for the season, Bernal Homeopathy will have for sale ready­to­go homeopathic remedy kits for trauma recovery plus cold & flu, for sale
  • Inclusions Gallery, celebrating its eighth year, will have live music and light refreshments to commemorate their anniversary
  • The Good Life Grocery will serve hot apple cider and other treats
  • Restaurants Vinorosso, Vega and Bernal Star will offer mulled wine
  • Anda’s Piroshki, of the 331 Marketplace on Cortland, will sample their Adjarian cheese bread
  • Bernal Library will be giving away free books on the deck facing Cortland
  • Lama’s Ken Po students will demonstrate karate and will off $30 off a two­month introductory special
  • Kingmond Young Photography will have snacks, drinks and a guest artist
  • The Lucky Horseshoe will have complimentary snacks and drink specials
  • Succulence will have snacks and drink as well
  • Pinhole Coffee will have vendors selling Cork Maps, Jewelry, Knitwear, Greeting Cards. The coffee bar will be open for coffee, peppermint hot chocolates, and Red Blossom Teas. 

Several other businesses will have one­-night only discounts to kick off your holiday shopping, including:

  • Bernal Beast
  • Arts of Balance, 20% off seasonal packages
  • The Cutting Edge Salon and Sandy Owens Massage and Healing will hold a raffle for a complimentary massage session or energy reading, as well as $15 off coupons for a future session or gift certificate for the holidays.
  •  fitBERNALfit
  •  Little Bee Baking

For more information about the event, visit bernalbusiness.org

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PHOTOS: Top, Holiday Strolls of Years Past, by Telstar Logistics

Today: Grand Opening Party for Neighbor Darcy’s “Heartfelt Ampersand” Boutique

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It’s been a few weeks since Neighbor Darcy Lee of Heartfelt fame opened “Heartfelt Ampersand,” her new boutique a few doors up the street at 409 Cortland.

Now that she’s settled in, Neighbor Darcy is finally ready to have a proper opening party, and word on the street is you’re invited. She says:

We’re having an opening party!

Please stop by for a bit of bubbly, some tasty treats, and live tunes, Tuesday December 1st, from 4 to 8pm.

The infamous Brian Belknap will be playing, and there will be champagne and cookies from Dianda’s.

Bonus: Wear a frock or sundry from Ampersand and get a 25% discount on a new purchase. See you there!

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PHOTO: Courtesy of Heartfelt &

Healthy Spirits Now Open on Cortland, with a Grand Opening Sale on Saturday

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It’s finally open. After weeks of curiosity and voyeuristic speculation, the Healthy Spirits liquor store has opened at 249 Cortland, inside the former Chuck’s Grocery space.

The opening of a liquor store would not typically warrant much attention, but Healthy Spirits is not a typical boozemonger; The new Cortland branch is the third outpost in the Healthy Spirits family, which is regarded as one of the City’s more esteemed purveyors of whiskey and agave spirits.

Store manager Nate Breed brings Bernalwood the 411, and extends an invitation to a special grand opening sale on Saturday, Nov. 28:

We’ve now officially opened Healthy Spirits Cortland.

So we are absolutely thrilled to be a part of the Bernal Heights community, and we look forward to what we can add to the neighborhood. Our first shop was founded in 1998 in the Castro District, so we’ve had about 17 years to perfect and evolve who we are and what we do. Our main areas of expertise are beer, whiskey and agave (tequila and mezcal), but everything we carry is hand-selected and extremely quality-focused.

One of our most important goals is consumer education. We strive to have the most knowledgeable and dedicated staff that can make beer and spirits consumption into an immersive, informative and exciting experience. This notion over the years has helped us provide great customer service, but it also breeds an environment that’s accessible for both the novice and connoisseur alike.

Another chance for education lies in our Beer, Bourbon and Agave Clubs, that feature advanced monthly selections with detailed write-ups and interviews with the distillers and brewers themselves. The clubs come with an awful lot of perks, including discounts, first shot at limited releases and occasional free tickets to beer and spirit events. We also strongly believe in supporting local breweries and distilleries while seeking out the esoteric and saving a special place for the classics. It’s important for us to not only understand how something is made and what it tastes like, but also where it’s made and by who.

Anyway that’s Healthy Spirits in a nut shell. And we’d like to extend a special invitation to all your Bernalwood readers to attend our Grand Opening Celebration on Small Business Saturday November 28th at 11am.

We will be giving away free swag all day and having some unbelievable sales: 10 to 40% off everything in the shop. We’ll also be raffling off the right to buy extremely rare bottles of whiskey like Pappy Van Winkle, Buffalo Trace Antique, Four Rose Limited 2015 and St George Single Malt the first 5 hours, and putting other rare and vintage beer and whiskies on the shelf when the doors open. Come early, as the best deals and rarest selections tend to go fast.

Store hours are:

Monday-Thursday: 11am to 10pm
Friday-Saturday: 11am to 11pm
Sunday: 11am to 9pm

See you at the shop!

Nate

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Sandwich-Making Robot in Andi’s Market Looks Like Terminator, Tastes Like Proust

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Last week, a new worker joined the staff at Andi’s Market on Cortland Avenue: a fully automated, sandwich-making robot. Created by Bistrobot, the newfangled machine makes peanut butter sandwiches on fancy white bread with your choice of honey, blackberry jam, sweet chili, or chocolate sauce.

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Bistrobot CTO Hamid Sani tells Bernalwood:

The machine at the Andi’s market is our first deployed automated sandwich maker. The machine is placed inside the store and the customer can place an order through a tablet kiosk, pay $2 (cash or credit), and watch our robot make them a custom sandwich. Simple as that.

Bistrobot is a startup that recently graduated from Y Combinator. We have a small but dedicated team with the goal of making robotic platforms that can make food, starting with sandwiches.

Neighbor Flo adds that some Bernal Heights DNA flows deep within the Bistrobot’s mechanized heart:

I live on Ellsworth St. My nephew, Steve Littell, is a chef and machinist from Chicago who came to SF with five engineer start-up buddies for the purpose of making this machine and others like it with more sophistication. My nephew now lives on Ellsworth St. too!

Locavore robots! Perhaps this was inevitable.

Neighbor Darcy filmed a video of the sandwichbot in action:

Yesterday, your Bernalwood editor visited Andi’s to conduct my own taste test of our robotic sandwich future. I ordered a peanut butter and honey sandwich, and when it emerged from the Bistrobot’s mechanical maw, it looked like this:

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And the taste? Well, it tasted just like a sandwich mom would have made — if mom was a faceless automaton who looked like a mutant Lionel train set encased in a transparent plastic box. As a culinary experience, it was certainly worthy of any school lunchbox. As an entertainment experience, it was far more tasty than anything you’d get at the Musée Méchanique — and much closer to home too.

But don’t take my word for it. Stop by Andi’s Market, 820 Cortland (between Ellsworth and Gates) and command the Bistrobot to make you a sandwich.  Do it while you still can, because today, the sandwich robot works for you. Someday, however, you may work for it.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics. Video courtesy of Darcy Lee