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Legacy Business Spotlight: Anchor Oyster Bar, Babylon Burning, and Veritable Vegetable

As COVID-19 continues to severely impact our local businesses, San Francisco’s historic bars, restaurants, and other longtime institutions are among those finding creative ways to support themselves as well as others in their community. Today we’d like to highlight a handful of legacy businesses who remain open and are adapting to the current crisis, and we encourage you to support their businesses during this difficult time if you can.

Anchor Oyster Bar, June 2020. Heritage Photo. 

Anchor Oyster Bar
579 Castro Street
Date placed on Registry: November 14, 2016.

Founded in 1977, Anchor Oyster Bar, Inc., (AKA Anchor Oyster Bar) is a small, locally-owned seafood restaurant and fish market in the Castro serving sustainably-caught fish, shellfish, crab, oysters, and specially prepared seafood dishes, including its signature cioppino dish. Located on Castro Street between 18th and 19th streets, the restaurant occupies a small storefront with a large plate glass window and trademark blue awning, with an intimate interior characterized by linoleum floors, a long white marble bar, chrome chairs, and a blackboard on the wall listing daily specials (changed little since its early days in 1977). Anchor Oyster Bar has been owned and operated by Roseann Grimm for its entire 43-year history. Grimm attributes her love and knowledge of seafood to her grandfather, Nicola Desimone, a fisherman from Amafi, Italy who worked on salmon and crab boats in North Beach and who opened a seafood market and oyster bar in the neighborhood during the turn of the 20th century.

Anchor Oyster Bar on PBS show Check Please! Bay Area, Season 3 Episode 5. 

Anchor Oyster Bar is located next to the former Castro Camera building (now home to the Human Rights Campaign), where Harvey Milk ran his business from 1972 until his assassination in 1978.

The business also has connections to the Castro’s LGBTQ community, as influential gay politician Harvey Milk helped Grimm obtain permits needed to open the business and patronized the restaurant during its early years. Milk, a 2008 feature film about the politician, includes a scene filmed inside the restaurant. During the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Anchor Oyster Bar donated to HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention organizations, like the Shanti Project, and reorganized staff schedules to accommodate cooks or wait staff who volunteered for such organizations. The business also donates to local schools.

Sign in Anchor Oyster Bar’s window, June 2020. Heritage Photo.

Anchor Oyster Bar recently re-opened after a long absence during the shelter-in-place, and their menu is now available for take-out from 2PM-8PM. You can also support them by buying gift cards.

On June 2, 2020, longtime Anchor Oyster Bay employee Neftali Monterrosa lost his beloved son Sean Monterrosa, who was shot and killed by Vallejo Police Department officers. Donations for funeral expenses are being collected for the family at GoFundMe.


Babylon Burning Screen Printing
63 Bluxome Street
Date placed on Registry: February 26, 2018


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Family help at Babylon today. #familyownedsmallbusiness #local

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Babylon Burning Screen Printing, Inc. (“Babylon Burning”) is a traditional plastisol screen printing shop specializing in bulk production. The business has one large 10‐color automatic press, three 6‐color manual presses, and a single 1‐color press. It was founded by Steve Patton in 1980; however, he started out in 1976 as a very small do‐it‐yourself setup in his garage at his house in Bernal Heights. Patton chose “Babylon Burning” as the business name after the song “Babylon’s Burning” by The Ruts.

Babylon Burning advertisement c. 1980s. Courtesy of Babylon Burning’s Legacy Business application.

In 1980, Steve moved the business to a retail store at 21st and Valencia streets next door to the feminist Old Wives Tales Bookstore. There was a retail T‐shirt shop in the front and print shop in the back. Nearby at 974 Valencia Street was Valencia Tool & Die, a music venue and art gallery founded by Peter Belsito and Jim Stockford that presented punk, new wave, and new music performances, as well as performance art, film, and visual art shows from 1980 through 1983. During this time, Babylon Burning printed for many social activism groups, recognizing that screen printing could be a powerful tool in spreading messages to larger audiences. They produced many anti‐war, women’s rights, and gay rights T‐shirts for groups like Act Up!, the Central American Solidarity Committee, the Womenʹs Building, and The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. As their work steadily improved, they developed a reputation for quality and honesty. The business never advertised except for a Yellow Pages ad under T‐shirts; the rest was word of mouth.

The business experienced a big rent increase in 1987, so they moved into a unit on the fourth floor of the Southend Warehouse in the South of Market (SOMA) district at 2nd and Brannan Streets and quit the retail business. After another rent increase shortly following the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, Babylon Burning moved to its current location at 63 Bluxome Street, also in SOMA. This building has been largely dedicated to the arts since the 1960s, and has hosted studio spaces for artists including Ruth Asawa and Sam Shepard. Continuing this artistic tradition, the business finally acquired its first automatic 6‐color press on a factory lease and increased production by at least threefold. In 1999, Steve Patton sold Babylon Burning to his then employees Mike Lynch and Brian Von Bargen. In 2001, Mike bought Brian out of the business and has been running it ever since.

Today, Babylon Burning continues their long history of taking on projects that help support local San Francisco businesses. Some of the their recent projects include designing tote bags and t-shirts to help benefit the Balboa and Vogue Theaters, t-shirts and sweatshirts for The Stud, and shirts for Black Girls Code to name a few. Follow them on Instagram for more projects of theirs that you can support, and check out their website if you are interested in your own screen printing services!

Veritable Vegetable
1100 Cesar Chavez Street
Date placed on Registry: May 29, 2019

Veritable Vegetable staff with a student tour group in front of one of the company’s famed near- zero emission trucks, date unknown. Courtesy of Veritable Vegetable’s legacy business application.

Veritable Vegetable is a women-owned-and-led organic produce distribution company based in San Francisco, California since 1974. It is the oldest organic produce distribution company in the country, and has been an industry leader in the organic trade for over 45 years. Veritable Vegetable formed out of a movement that sought to bring low-cost, nutritious food to neighborhood co-ops and community storefronts. This group of collectives, called the People’s Food System (PFS), extended throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area and provided an alternative to the existing corporate food system. The tagline for their social enterprise at the time was, “Food for People, Not for Profit.”

Veritable Vegetable’s offices/warehouse on Cesar Chavez St., showing its curved roof and canopied solar array of 560 solar panels to offset energy costs.

There were many collectives that represented different parts of the food system – dry goods, baked goods, dairy, etc. Many PFS support collectives were located in a warehouse located at 3030 20th Street in San Francisco. The founders of these collectives had a unified vision: to create a viable alternative food distribution system that would eventually replace the corporate food system. In December of 1974, four individuals began to focus on buying and selling produce, calling themselves the “Veritable Vegetable Collective.” With a small staff, Veritable Vegetable was one of the first wholesale buyers to form direct relationships with local growers to bring organic produce to urban consumers in Northern California. Like most of the People’s Food System supply collectives, Veritable Vegetable was a worker-run collective where all workers made business decisions jointly. There was no formal ownership structure at that time.

In 1977, the PFS fell apart, but Veritable Vegetable embarked on its own and moved to 233 Industrial Street. Over the next several years, Veritable Vegetable grew its operation to better meet farmers’ needs and to serve the expanded demand for organic produce. Over the years, the company shifted ownership structure several times, but generally continued to operate with collective decision-making responsibilities. The company now operates out of four sites, several on Marin Street, but maintains its offices on Cesar Chavez in the Potrero Hill neighborhood/southern part of Dogpatch.

Legacy BusinessesSouth of MarketCastroDogpatchPotrero Hill

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