In May, Mark Dwight, founder and chief executive officer of Rickshaw Bagworks, a messenger and laptop bag, sack and sleeve manufacturer on 22nd Street, launched the Dogpatch Business Association (DBA), a nonprofit collection of enterprises located in Dogpatch and Pier 70. DBA will serve as a networking platform for companies, promote neighborhood businesses, and represent the collective interests of the commercial sector in interactions with City government, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and other neighborhood business and merchant associations.
Dwight is recruiting businesses within the boundaries of Mariposa Street to the north, Cesar Chavez Street to the south, Pennsylvania Street to the west, and Pier 70 to the east. Dogpatch companies have historically been able to join the Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association (PDMA), an alliance of establishments located in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill.
According to Dwight, Dogpatch has gained enough businesses with unique concerns to merit a separate organization. “Dogpatch has been sort of underrepresented in PDMA. I saw an opportunity that we had achieved critical mass. I really feel the time is right to have our own business association down in the flats,” he said.
Keith Goldstein, PDMA president, said he thought the split was a natural progression for Dogpatch. “There’s so many businesses opening up there. For years, PDMA was just the Potrero Hill Merchants Association. About eight or nine years ago, we changed our name to include Dogpatch. Now they have their own designation and rightfully so,” said Goldstein.
Dwight serves on the San Francisco Chamber’s board of directors. He’s president of the San Francisco Small Business Commission, which consists of seven people, four appointed by the Mayor and three by the Board of Supervisors, which oversees the City’s Office of Small Business (OSB), an information and referral source for companies. Dwight said Dogpatch isn’t a standard neighborhood to represent, lacking a main retail corridor or substantial street parking to accommodate customers.
DBA membership is open to all businesses, not only retailers, including firms that don’t have a storefront, such as biotech companies. “Traditionally, small businesses are locally-owned and independent,” said Dwight. “They are deeply rooted in the community in which they exist. Companies like biotech firms are often less deeply rooted and need to be flexible and nimble. We have totally different modes of operation and very different interests. To the extent that a venture-backed company wants to be part of the community for as long as they’re here, that’s great. We want to make membership easy.”
Dwight said whether or not a fee will be charged to join the association hasn’t been decided, but is likely. DBA is currently establishing a board of directors.
Michelle Pusateri, owner and manager of Nana Joes Granola, located on Third Street, said she feels DBA is needed because Dogpatch has grown a great deal. “I want to volunteer and be a part of this association,” said Pusateri. She wants DBA to address parking and public transportation concerns. “Dogpatch is a hard neighborhood to get to via public transportation. I have an employee who comes in from Daly City and it takes her one and a half hours, as much time as it takes another one of my employees from Vacaville,” she said.
Carl Sutton, founder of Sutton Cellars, located on 22nd Street, also wants to join DBA. “The validity of this neighborhood association is we’ll all be people trying to promote each other,” he said. “We have a lot of people that make stuff but don’t have a retail face. With places like the biotech incubator, it brings 100 people to the neighborhood, and maybe 100 more will visit. Right now it’s word of mouth. I’d like to see a map of businesses and an app that keeps up with changes and businesses’ hours,” said Sutton. One of his concerns is that mixed use spaces on the ground floors of residential buildings will be leased or purchased by chain stores. “These are businesses that will change the feel of the neighborhood. One of the things that’s unique about Dogpatch is the amount of owner-operated businesses. It adds to the flavor and appeal of the neighborhood,” he said.
Eddie Gobbo, cofounder and brewmaster of Harmonic Brewing, located on 26th Street, is also interested in joining DBA. “We, along with a lot of other neighbors, want to maintain the feel of this neighborhood, which is industrial. I think everyone wants to see this neighborhood develop. The effort regarding Dogpatch comes out of a lot of thought and concern,” said Gobbo.
According to Dwight, interested parties can register for membership at dbasf.com. He intends to invite retailers to join the association by going door to door and introducing himself, particularly in large buildings, such as the American Industrial Center on Third Street. “At this point, it’s all volunteer. Many of the people that will probably be in the DBA will be in the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association as well. We’re all in the neighborhood and we all know each other,” he said.