Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association Means Business
By Sarah Lekach
The Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association (PDMA) represents roughly 150 of those neighborhoods’ commercial enterprises. The association dates to the 1970s, when a new generation of non-industrial services started to emerge in the City’s Southside. Philip De Andrade, owner of Goat Hill Pizza, at 18th and Connecticut streets, credited a group of Hill businesspeople for the creation of what was then called Potrero Hill Association of Merchants and Businesses, which splintered from the Potrero Boosters Association. The Hill’s socially active business landscape more than 30 years ago consisted of mainly Goat Hill Pizza, The Good Life Grocery and the Daily Scoop ice cream parlor, which was located where Chez Papa now stands. According to De Andrade, Kayren Hudiburgh and Lester Zeidman of Good Life were key pioneers of the Hill’s business community. Hudiburgh serves on PDMA’s board.
De Andrade was the association’s president for its first dozen years. During his tenure he led the organization to its 501(c)(3) status, and helped establish it as a thriving voice of neighborhood businesses. “The dynamic of this group is fabulous,” said the now president emeritus, who attends the group’s monthly meetings as an executive committee member. He lauded president Keith Goldstein, founder of Everest Waterproofing and Restoration, on Missouri Street, for much of the group’s success. “[Goldstein] brought new energy.” According to De Andrade, under Goldstein – who has served as PDMA president for more than seven years – the association has focused on networking, and developed marketing tools for members.
“Our goal is improving the merchant corridor and serving the community of merchants,” along with marketing Potrero Hill to its residents and the rest of the City, De Andrade stated. Goldstein added that PDMA wants to improve the climate for small businesses in Potrero Hill and Dogpatch. Demonstrating his dry sense of humor, Goldstein claimed that eight years ago he stumbled into an association meeting, where he asked a question that landed him as president, succeeding De Andrade. “I’m his favorite person on the Hill,” Goldstein joked.
Association meetings are marked by workmanship camaraderie. Goldstein recalled a merchant association president from another neighborhood who visited a monthly gathering, and was surprised by how much fun members had while conducting serious business. “We are the model” of a merchant association, said De Andrade.
Six months ago Goldstein led the name change to “Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association,” which he felt better represented the group geographically, and brought with it a better acronym. Along with the name tweak the organization has grown substantially over the years. “The word is out, membership is growing and is going to continue,” Goldstein said.
Although the group knows how to laugh and enjoy the Hill’s business spirit, Goldstein noted that it’s “very vocal” and deeply involved in local issues. This past year the merchants have been dealing with proposed parking changes to the neighborhood. He said the merchants support the development of a parking management plan, but the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s initial proposal wasn’t appropriate. Additionally, PDMA is tackling changes to the 22-Fillmore Muni bus line that will affect merchants along 16th Street.
At the May meeting Mark Dwight, a mayoral appointee to the Small Business Commission, spoke as that month’s guest presenter. After he explained his connection to Dogpatch – he owns the 22nd Street shop Rickshaw Bagworks, and founded SFMade, an organization and website which promotes products crafted in San Francisco – he encouraged merchants to stop by the Office of Small Business (OSB) in City Hall, where a help desk is available to assist small enterprises. Dwight told meeting attendees that Mayor Ed Lee is pro-business, “We have an administration who is more interested in what small business has to say.” He said a $25 fee businesses pay to OSB is “pathetically low,” although he acknowledged the many City taxes and regulatory fees small businesses are burdened with. He spoke about a proposal to raise the fee to $150 annually, which would provide OSB, which has a $1 million budget, with more resources. Dwight explained that OSB is tasked with following issues on behalf of small businesses, such as disabled access and how to prevent lawsuits.
Dwight discussed a possible change from the City’s payroll tax – a tax on worker compensation – to a gross receipts tax, which taxes a company’s total gross revenues. The issue has been discussed for several years, but action may soon be taken by the City supervisors. “The last thing we want is businesses moving out of San Francisco because they go public,” Dwight said. Some PDMA members expressed their frustration with the tax deal the City provided Twitter, in which that company was given a payroll tax break in exchange for keeping their headquarters in San Francisco. According to Goldstein, PDMA members have discussed taxation issues, and believe that Mayor Lee has demonstrated more support for big technology companies than small businesses. However, Goldstein said he supported the shift to a gross receipt tax.
Goldstein, who moved to the Hill in 1974 when the community wasn’t considered a business destination, said the association stays on top of key issues with three committees: marketing, membership, and government affairs. Goldstein also co-chairs the annual Potrero Hill Festival, and the merchants co-sponsor the annual Potrero Hill History night, both held in October. The group donates to the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House and to Daniel Webster Elementary School, which is located near a main business artery, on Missouri and 20th streets. “The merchants have always been supportive of the neighborhood,” Goldstein said.
At the May meeting the dining room of Goat Hill Pizza was filled with at least 40 businesses people, including Boosters president Tony Kelly. According to Goldstein, PDMA works closely with that community group and others, including the Potrero Hill Democratic Club.
PDMA charges annual dues of $125, collected each May, which ensures a spot in the Potrero Dogpatch business directory, which is updated yearly. According to De Andrade, the directory is one of the merchants’ most effective tools. He believes they are coveted items, quickly snatched-up when he places a pile at the front of his pizza parlor. Fee revenues are invested in printing materials, and to compensate Kieron Sinnette, the group’s part-time operations manager.
The Hill’s business landscape has changed over the years – especially recently – with an influx of small businesses ranging from insurance companies, restaurants, and photography studios. The Hill and, increasingly, Dogpatch host a bounty of local shops and services, all of which need guidance and support to keep up with the countless regulations and controls enforced by the City.
Brad Vaccaro, PDMA vice president and founder of Allpointe Insurance Services, mentioned at the May meeting that association benefits include tools and resources to market a businesses’ brand. De Andrade acknowledged that for many self-starting businesspeople “it’s very alone to be a small business person…” and with PDMA “you get support, encouragement and ideas from each other.”
PDMA’s monthly meetings foster business relationships. The majority of May’s meeting was spent on introductions while sipping complimentary coffee and pastries from Chat’s, located on Arkansas Street. Those introductions serve as status updates on the wide varieties of shops, stores and companies scattered on the Hill and surrounding areas. Members seized the moment to advertise upcoming promotions, concerns or needs. The San Francisco Bay Guardian’s Bruce Brugmann used his introduction to notify the group about the newspaper’s move to Stevenson Street, and its sale to the San Francisco Examiner. Potential member Andrea Basile, from Slate Skin Detail and Tao Barber Salon, said she’d recently opened shop on Potrero Avenue and 18th Street.
San Francisco Police Department Bayview police Captain Paul Chignell, along with Officer Susan Lavin, stopped by at the beginning of the meeting to update the merchants on area crime, and remind members that the police are a resource if any property, criminal or violence issues arise.
To give a sense of the spectrum of businesses represented, Goldstein noted that within the food category PDMA’s members include a cake portrait business by Joni Eisen and Whole Foods. According to De Andrade, the group’s business diversity doesn’t go unnoticed; it’s what makes PDMA “one of the most vibrant and active merchant associations in the City. PDMA has added to the attractiveness of Potrero Hill.”
PDMA meets the first Tuesday of every month at Goat Hill Pizza from 9:45 to 11 a.m. For more information: 341.8949; www.pdma-sf.org.
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