Foodie-Hating Vandal Damages Small Businesses on Cortland



Daybreak this morning reveals that a vandal damaged the Epicurean Trader on Cortand overnight by spray-painting political slogans on the store’s facade.

The graffiti says: “Banal Heights” and “Traitor for the 1%.”

A hot-take analysis by the Bernalwood Office of Propaganda Research concluded that the vandal apparently suffers from a narcissistic righteousness disorder, exacerbated by feelings of contempt. Further semiotic inquiry also reveals conspicuously tidy handwriting, rote sloganeering, and an unfortunate weakness for bad puns.

Bernalwood will provide further updates as they become available.

UPDATE: Bernalwood has confirmed that Pinhole Coffee was tagged as well.

PHOTOS: @rallyp

146 thoughts on “Foodie-Hating Vandal Damages Small Businesses on Cortland

  1. That must’ve happen in broad daylight – I walked by 8AM this morning on my way to Good Life and didn’t see that. Hopefully someone caught the jerk on camera.

  2. OMG! I interviewed the very kind and sweet owners for my blog
    the first week this amazing store opened.

    I am so sorry that this happened. WHY?

    The couple who owns this store has two young children and all they are trying to do is make a living and provide people with some of the best food and drink money can buy.

    Shame on you who did this!

  3. Todd – Much as I dislike graffiti, I think the slogans are quite clever and make a good point. Particularly for anyone who remembers the glass shop and the various book stores that used to occupy that corner. – Michael

    • The shops that couldn’t pull in enough customers to stay in business? Do you think those businesses were murdered, or died a natural death? How does your mind work?

    • We tried to rent the space after the owner closed the bookstore. She wanted way too much for it. Maybe the taggers could focus on the person who owns the building instead of the people who try to make enough money to afford renting the space themselves? Otherwise, these slogans are making the opposite point they intended–something more along the lines of, “I know I have no idea how the rent for this space works, but I want to be famous on townie blogs.”

      • They “wanted way too much for it”? In your opinion it was more than you wanted to spend. Obviously it was not too much for someone else’s business plan. Do I detect a hint of sour grapes that somebidy has a successful business where you could not afford the rent?

      • So, blame the landlord instead of the people who agreed to lease the space at an outrageously high rent? It’s the people who will PAY that kind of money who are causing the landlords to keep upping the ante.

      • David: ” It’s the people who will PAY that kind of money who are causing the landlords to keep upping the ante.”

        By that logic, David, wouldn’t the rent increase forever?

      • @Watenot, the rents do increase forever. Have you ever heard of a rental unit being rented for LESS than it was rented for previously?

    • I don’t think its a good point at all. They are small business owners in san francisco which is tough to survive in (book store was pushed out because there are more efficient\cheaper ways at getting books unfortunately, love the book store BTW)

  4. Haven’t bought anything there, to be honest; I found their merchandise a bit twee for my taste. But I suddenly feel a little inclined to pick something up there simply out of spite for the tagger.

  5. I also saw red spray paint on the windows of Pinhole Coffee this morning. Thats a shame. I understand people have concerns about gentrification but these are small business owners, not large corporations. Both of which are selling locally made goods.

    • Damn right
      Couldn’t agree more
      Pulling hard long shifts everyday
      These are no corporations or big box stores

      What are we doing to people just trying to make a clean and honest living in America these days?


    • You guys realize that us ‘local’ to bernal heights are part of the gentrification process, right? It’s our incomes that are supporting the gentrification. So the owners being local doesn’t indemnify the businesses of the charge. If the tagger wanted to make a more nuanced point they could have singled out the businesses that have changed over a certain period of time. Or tagged new homeowners who have pushed rates and prices up. This is not a well crafted message by any means, but it’s not misleading either.

      • Hi everyone, I’m from San Francisco and change is bad.

        So at what period of time is ok and what period of time is a 1%’er business? Could someone please get a petition on the ballot so we can decide who is OK and who isn’t. It’s very confusing for me and my family to decide which businesses are acceptable to spend our money at. I want someone else to tell me. Please!

  6. Hello Michael,

    The various book stores, as lovely and as long serving as they were, weren’t able to pay the rent (maybe we should’ve all bought more books?) and so now the building is being leased to a business owner who is supporting the community with employment and quality goods and you have the gall to say this particular graffiti makes “a good point”?

    Perhaps you own a graffiti removal service? Why else would you even remotely support this type of vandalism?


    • Miles – I thought Todd overreached in his opening commentary and it required some response. I am a frequent patron of Pinhole and recently installed an historic exhibit there. I will happily contribute funds to the graffiti removal from the Epicurean Trader and Pinhole. – Michael

      • hello michael,

        I have no doubt the owners are absorbing the costs and fixing their storefronts. Perhaps the best we can do is continue, as we are very best able, to support local by stopping in, even occasionally. Regardless of whatever used to be somewhere, and especially if what is there now is done genuinely and with conviction.

        And thank you for the work you installed at Pinhole. I enjoyed that.


    • Michael was only acknowledging that the graffiti was an articulate message communicated in an inappropriate manner. Kind of like trying to express subtlety in a comments section.

  7. If you see that a business has been vandalized, please patronize that business. Cortland shops by and large are not owned by big corporations, but rather individuals and families, many of which are struggling to pay the rents on their storefronts. They don’t have the capital of the big chains to withstand vandalism, so this kind of vandalism promotes big corporations over small business owners.

  8. Don’t worry, Todd, your fave epicurean market will shortly be cleansed of these unbecoming remarks and Bernal can continue its ascent uninterrupted.

    • Here’s why I (and others) think you’re nuts: You’re trying to pit people against one another, and you don’t accurately perceive the existence of a shop as a non-political, neutral entity that some person (A neighbor, even) is trying to make a living from.

      This shop sells fancy snacks and luxury foods, typically used as gifts or rare treats. It shouldn’t be a controversial point that even non “1%ers” occasionally spend money on gifts, sweets, and other non-essentials.

      If E.T. were to close up in cooperation with your political wishes, what kind of shop would you like to open up and operate in its place? I assume you’ve got an idea that has staying power… ?

  9. Lynda Beth, perhaps the person who painted the graffiti also has two young children? Perhaps they are also struggling to make ends meet? Who is right, wrong, good, bad, hero, villain? Oh lordy, save us from these shades of gray!

    • Well, if so, then it’s certainly a good thing that they’ve been saved from that predicament by crapping all over their neighbor’s hard work.

    • Extremely unlikely. The painter is between the ages of 18-30 and has no children, and dim prospects.

    • When I struggle to make ends meet, the first thing I think to do is buy spray paint and tag a small business. Problem solved!

      • Lynda Beth, if you’re trying make Haiku posts, you’re syllables are off. Close though! I’d suggest…

        They made a choice
        To do more harm than do good
        My mind disagrees

    • Should you be on some sort of medication? Vandalizing a business doesn’t achieve any of the results you probably seek.

    • What person with two young children (e.g. “has bigger and better things to do”) is wasting time tagging a neighbor’s business? Your reply is bizarre political wishful thinking, and quite far-fetched.

      You’re a bore.

    • There’s no shade of grey, queenofwands. The sloganeering tagging was illegal, ugly and was coming from an undeserved space of self-righteous judgment. Your points about kids and struggling to make ends meet aren’t remotely applicable.

    • I think it’s quite clear that vandalism is bad. There’s no shades of gray here. I hope whoever painted does indeed have two young children should set better example by NOT vandalizing other people’s property..

      • What’s cowardly is this “artist” didn’t sign their work. If you’re really righteous about this, you’d take the night in 850 as badge of honor.

        Instead it’s self-discrediting enough I’m surprised the loser brigades haven’t cried “false flag!”

        Occupy artisan panini.

      • Peter – of course I do, I’ve been doing it all my life. Am I missing something?

        I was just pointing out that your comments about graffiti and Occupy show that you really don’t know much about how either of those work.

  10. Absolutely awful way to treat any small business and neighbor. Much of their stuff is more than I want to spend for food & drink on a regular basis, but it’s a great place to shop for a splurge here and there for gifts or myself. I’m feeling it’s splurge time.

  11. So, wait, I make under $45K a year and love getting beer here. Am I not supposed to? Do I need to check with this tagger for approval before I shop where I want to?

    Sorry to see this mess, but don’t worry, I’m pretty sure I’ll manage to overcome the shame of being banal and once again go inside to buy suckers for my niece (holy cow, have you tried those yummy suckers that are like 50 cents?) and paprika that costs less than at Safeway (they have the good stuff and it’s maybe $4 for a huge tin!).

  12. Of course the age of the vandal was likely young adult… Most likely someone who grew up in SF and can not afford to live here anymore. Misplaced frustration taken out on someone who is not the cause but likely symbolizes the change in affordability of SF and Bernal Heights.

      • It’s true in every country…except if you’re the Queen of England and live in Buckingham Palace. Then you probably have a right to live where you grew up

      • I grew up in a very different place from San Francisco, but I also can’t right now buy the house next to my parents house. Whom should I vandalize?

  13. More likely the vandal is a recent graduate of Bennington College, or some such privileged place, after attending wealthy white suburban schools, where he learned to print neatly. Fortunately his parents paid for college, so he can afford to move to SF to live the edgy life of an anti-gentrification organizer, at least until he decides where he wants to go to grad school.

    • I don’t know that the odds of this person being directly affected or just being sympathetic are really important to this discussion. Being a well-off appropriator of a less-abled community’s cause smacks of colonialism, but without a generous helping of sympathy a lot of causes we all generally champion now wouldn’t have gotten very far (civil rights, etc). It cuts both ways.

  14. I don’t actually think this is a cut and dry situation. I shop there on the regular (good product, decent prices for said products) and I like the couple that run the place, but I shop there out of convenience really. It’s not like there aren’t shops like this elsewhere. Gentrification’s a slow moving train and the owner raising rents on the space is symptomatic of what the market will allow because of the rise in incomes flooding the city. Shops like this are a physical and easily visible symbol of this gentrification. Gentrification is not inherently bad, but people are getting pushed out and they are right to be angry. What recourse do they have? The tension is there and visible reminders to us benefiting from gentrification should act as a reminder that it’s happening. If this was some chain market it wouldn’t make the graffiti more acceptable- the issue is people being pushed out by economic disparity. Realize that someday you could be on the same end of being in a neighborhood being pulled out from under you by the change of some coming tide. It’s really sad and maddening to be in that position, especially when money talks and you have none.

      • Here’s how stupid the tagger and supporters are:

        The 1% are people like Mark Z in Noe Valley (stupid place for him to buy with so much wealth, but that’s another issue). I sincerely doubt any 1%s live in Bernal Heights (MAYBE that house that just sold for >$2mil was bought by 1%s). Most of us BH residents are in the top 10 or 20% of society.

        Sorry if my posts were too brief and seemed like tagging. I’m tired of being accused by know-nothings of being in the 1%.

      • Bryd, this person is using the 1% mark symbolically, I doubt they think the store owners are rolling in it (or that everyone not being evicted are also 1%’ers). The Occupy movement often used it literally and symbollically though. Interestingly enough, to be in the 1% of society you only need a double income of something like $175k and I imagine there are definitely households in bernal pulling that. But that’s beside the point; the bottom 50% of the population probably can’t afford the rent around here and that’s how people get pushed out. Folks with a 100k+ incomes show up and the rents goes up and the neighborhood changes. It sucks for some people. (I’m using the NYT calculator for incomes, btw).

      • Byrd, you made an interesting statement below and I hope you “mis-spoke”.

        “Most of us BH residents are in the top 10 or 20% of society.” Maybe most Bernalwooders are in the top 20% of income bracket, but stating that this is the top of SOCIETY? Maybe I am picking nits but this does go to a mindset of entitlement.

      • To clarify – homeowners in Bernal are most likely in that bracket based on the value of our homes.

      • @Gary, Byrd is actually right. They call it ‘real estate rich.’ It doesn’t mean Bernal home owners are walking around with wads of hundred dollar bills in their pocket (although some probably do). On paper, however, they are worth million/s. Maybe not the 1%, but probably in the top 10%. To be in the top 10% you need to make $113,000 and have $3.8 million on paper. Homes alone (not including savings) go up to that amount.

  15. I make $39, 600 annually as a case manager/social worker for mentally ill and indigent people at Community Action Marin.

    I am no stranger to making ends meet in this economy!

    On 7-9-2015 I had major brain surgery to remove one of two benign tumors.

    I am currently on leave from my job and receiving state disability while I rehab in this neighborhood where I live with my best friend .

    Even so the paltry funds I do receive I will use to buy some good beers and food there because I believe in Holly and Matt and want them to succeed!

    They have told me that they have everything on the line doing this store and I believe they can do it!

  16. Having raised a child in Bernal Heights over the last 20 years I will say, yes it’s great my propert value has increased, but it is sad when my 20year old daughter can’t afford to live onher own and her friends have to move out of SF as they can’t afford rent here. It does remind me of the changes Bernal Heights went through when we moved here 20 years ago. There was a lot of resentment as it became less diverse and less affordable for those who grew up here then. There was a lot of angry graffiti at that time and young people saying angry things to kids and adults like this is my neighborhood and get the hell out but in graphic angry words. I hate graffiti and I don’t like defacement of people’s property. Do I understand it? Yes.

    • I really appreciate your comments. I’m not really sure what the best thing to do is when faced with gentrification. It is what it is. I suppose you just swallow it and mourn the death of what you knew?

      • That’s what adults do. They know where they can afford to live and they live there. There are many wonderful places in this world. Go fid one and make it your own. SF is out of your price range.

      • b)

        The wealth disparity in this country is so atrocious, people have no idea how much wealth the 1% have, and they blame Bernalese for being part of the 1%. Yes that pisses me off, no I’m not an angry old man. I’m very fortunate, and I worked for everything I have.

  17. @BP you are spot on. “But I suddenly feel a little inclined to pick something up there simply out of spite for the tagger.”

    i’m going to go by there tonite and buy something from them just to show my support for the store. tagging/graffiti of this sort is super lame, troll type behavior.

  18. As a “loser” who is in the process of being pushed out and trying to figure out where the hell to go, I can say that this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. My husband and I have lived in Bernal for 18 years, and I have loved it until recently. I have many friends who are small business owners and I know how hard they work, and I certainly don’t condone graffiti. But this incident is a symptom of something larger, else there would not be this discussion. There is something very precious being lost here, the fabric of the neighborhood is changing (again), and in five years the people who moved here will wake up and realize that the reason they moved here is nowhere to be found. And we have also decided that the expression “It is what it is” is just another way of saying “Fuck you”.

    • Sorry about the ‘it is what it is’ comment, but I was honestly asking what an appropriate action would be in this/your case. Apparently tagging a new tenant is not acceptable by what most people on here say.

      • I was not dissing you, Christian, just saying that “it is what it is” is what people say when they don’t know what else to say. And in the end, it always means something or someone is completely fucked.

      • How exactly are you getting fucked, MovingOn? You own your house, but you have to move from some reason? Please clarify your situation. If you own your home but HAVE to move, you’re pretty goddamned lucky compared to most people.

      • I’m certain that MovingOn will be selling their home at significantly below market value – ideally to someone who promises to keep Bernal precious.

    • I hear you, Moving On, and I’m sorry you’re being forced out. The people who say one doesn’t have a right to live in the city she grew up in seem to have lost their souls. At the very least it’s fucking arrogant. We are your neighbors, folks, and some of us have lived and worked and volunteered and been really good neighbors in this ‘hood since before some of the rest of us were even born. Okay, it may not be our “right” to get to stay in our home city, but it still seems pretty tragic, what’s happening here and all around us in SF. Is tagging a small business a good tactic in the struggle against obscene income inequality? No. How about those postcards that load up our mailboxes every day, boasting about recent homes that went for half a million over asking? I’d call that a form of harrassment. Certainly an assault on sanity. What planet is this, anyway?

      • Unwelcome change is not tragic, it is the nature of our existence. Instead of blaming people who can afford to pay top dollar for their homes, why not blame the sellers?

        Perhaps it’s because the sellers see more value in taking the money and running, that in preserving YOUR notion of exactly what the neighborhood should be like and how change should occur.

        This is planet earth, with bliss and tragedy, oftentimes side by side. You either accept this fact, or you’re left kicking against the pricks, which does you no good. You’re ALWAYS going to have people unaffected by change, through careful planning or good luck. I define luck as opportunity combined with preparedness for that opportunity. “Bad luck” can be defined as simply being unprepared for the change which is eventually bound to occur.

        I think what really gets people down is the speed at which change is occurring, and before they’ve even had a chance to acknowledge change is happening, it effects them.

        I would suggest embracing the change as new opportunity. It’s all you can do. Love SF and hate to move elsewhere? You might be better off accepting that there are many opportunities for happiness outside of San Francisco, opportunities you never imagined because of an unrealistic notion of SF as the ideal.

        The ideal is where you make, and that can be just about anywhere.

      • Byrd! We agree! I agree with 99% of what you said- that last 1% being the ‘tragic’ comment. That which is tragic is subjective to the person experiencing it.

      • Thanks Christian. Agree with your comment about tragedy, but will add that it is what you make of it.

      • Then how are you being forced out? It can’t be higher property taxes due to the 2% cap. And if it’s due to the 2% annual increase in property tax, you actually should be thankful you can cash out now in 2015. I assume the capital gains versus when you bought 18 years ago is significant….

      • Re: MovingOn having bought a house but is being pushed out, I can see the possibility of saving enough money renting in SF due to rent control, and using that savings to buy outside of SF, and thus the comment of being “pushed out”. Just a guess.

  19. their place is a bit affected and using “artisan/al” without irony is not something i can abide, but they’re very nice people and have a good whisk[e]y selection. And the “traitor” line, while almost clever as a play on “trader,” doesn’t really make sense so that’s a lose…particularly since the owners are Kiwi and Aussie. so… huh? But when you’re a righteous tagger on the go, sometimes you don’t have time to contemplate.

  20. So they hit Pinhole too? Awesome. Because they’re “gentrifiers”, no doubt. How dare they, uh … serve coffee … at roughly the same price as the other, older coffee shop up the street that the tagger likes better. That’ll show ’em!

  21. We used to be known as Maternal Heights, a tag that did fit, and now Banal Heights! So much indignation. Perhaps holding up this mirror stings a bit.

    • When my partner used to canvass for the Shanti Project, they called it “Urinal Heights” because so few people were willing to donate.

  22. Ahhhhh 😞, this is why we can’t have nice things.
    Though not a patron of either shop, there is no excuse for defacing someones property, period.
    I’m a SF/Bernal Native. You don’t speak for me and don’t ever make the erroneous assumption that you do. This ugly, graphic statement is for your self-centered, personal gratification only. Enjoy your moment.

  23. Next time I pass by I’ll be sure to stop in and find a way to spend $100. Never set foot in the place before. Tagger just put more $$$ in their pocket.

  24. Why target a tiny market when there’s an entire Safeway that needs to be burnt to the ground?

  25. Very sad.. both places are wonderful additions to Bernal. This will only want me to frequent them more often.

  26. This is actually a simple issue.

    Unsolicited grafitti on private property is always wrong. Without exception.

    • I’d agree with that if you qualified it that it’s wrong to vandalize a specific individual under the goal of protesting a broad concept. But people have contributed to boycotts of businesses to hurt them financially in response to acts by that business. Financial assaults are a tool of activism. This one was just wielded indiscriminately.

    • That’s pejorative nonsense, David. A “foodie” seeks imaginative dishes prepared with the best ingredients. A “glutton” just likes eating whatever you put in front of them.

      • A “glutton” is defined by the amount of food they eat, not the quality. A foodie can certainly be gluttonous.

      • Wait, are you saying David Kaye doesn’t have an original idea, and is quoting without attribution?

  27. went by there last night and spent $$ to show my support. from what i can gather the vandalism has actually boosted sales.

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  29. When you invite a group of tagging “artists” to the park you get extra paint. I watched one do a bus while the light was red. Only another $10k to fix and repaint it. We could invite explosives experts who creatively blow up things to show us how to disrupt things or we could use our better judgement and stop supporting the disruptive crowd and invite ice carvers to chill to a different less lasting art…

    rents are high, expenses are high, the city just keeps taking forever to approve small changes, the state can’t get basic permits issued in less than 9 months. This is different in other states. What takes weeks in other states takes almost a year here. Those costs are passed on the the local public in what are called overpriced products. Maybe red spray paint on the permit office, the SFMTA, the mayors office and the bloviated CA state offices would go further to strike out against the cause than the person trying to operate a business and survive the system we have here.

  30. I read all these comments when this first happened and I read them again.Because this vandalism hit retail I am chiming in.
    1.Retail takes long hours and many days a week-I have worked 7 days a week for years and am now down to 6 days. There is no whine tone here I love what I do. I have thought long and hard at what the graffiti person was trying to express and it seems that it was at the customer that shops at these posh shops and the storefront or what the business symbolized got caught in the crossfire. Thus I loved the comments that said hey I do not make a ton of money but I appreciate a business that is selling food from the little makers that are concerned with how we farm and manufacture stuff affects the environment and our bodies. Same with Pinhole I think we could not have landed a more kind, contribute to the neighborhood, concerned with the world person.(JoEllen) My mantra here bear with me is that it is important to not assume new is bad.

    2.Random vandalism to prove a point that is misdirected is lame.

    3.Change happens within a city-I know a family that lives in the burbs and rent out their family home. They inherited it from working class parents and grew up in the small Bernal house. They maintain it but have not remodeled and rent it out at less than market rent (not way less but less) Their mildly disabled sister lives in an inlaw in the back.The three kids feel this extra income have allowed them to buy their own homes outside of the city. They have no desire to live here and do not get why it is appealing.But they are respectful of what the changes in the neighborhood have brought them. The son told me that their parents both from Mexico that are now deceased would be very surprised if they knew.

    4. The other day on the radio I heard a short clip on Japan and why they are now in financial trouble. Excuse my summary if I got the facts wrong but as I heard it Japan loved itself too much, thought it was invincible and that it would always be the leader in selling the world shiny, modern stuff. (think walkman) I think we in Bernal love ourselves too much and are trying to hold onto something that is already gone. Thus we stay in this sort of negative rant. And SF, too. This way of thinking lets us hold to an ideal in our minds instead of looking around us. Walk the streets of Bernal we are not just shiny dark grey and black homes, there are lots of different stories within our midst. Volunteer at the local public schools, visit our library, go to the BHNC, visit the farm on Alemany, chat with your neighbor who is elderly and ask if they ever need help. I find this much more productive towards preserving what you miss as opposed to constantly whining what you loved is gone. I found this article Todd posted as fascinating.

    5.Airbnb is bad, takes apartments off the market. Airbnb is good allows folks to get extra income to rent out rooms, stay in the hood. Regulations are good they make it so landlords cannot rip off tenants.Some tenants take advantage of this, landlords do not want to get near the rental market after a bad tenant. As a person who works on the street in Bernal the stories we hear are endless and every point of view is expressed.
    6.If you insist you are right, then someone else has to be wrong. Perhaps it is more important to take a breath and listen. I hear you graffiti guy, I am curious about you and I hate you expressed yourself this way but I hear your frustration. There are so many stories out there.

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