Monday, September 27, 2010

An Open Letter from Blue Bottle to the Dolores Park Community

Posted By on Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 1:08 PM

click to enlarge Rendering of Blue Bottle's proposed coffee trailer and its site in Dolores Park. - BLUE BOTTLE COFFEE CO.
  • Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
  • Rendering of Blue Bottle's proposed coffee trailer and its site in Dolores Park.
Organizers of tonight's community meeting at Dolores Park Church to discuss Rec and Park's vendor plans for Dolores Park are finalizing the final agenda. And while representatives of would-be Dolores vendor Blue Bottle Coffee plan to speak tonight, Blue Bottle's James Freeman and his wife, Miette founder Caitlin Williams Freeman, won't be, due, Freeman says, to longstanding travel plans.

This morning, Freeman sent SFoodie two open letters to the Dolores Park community: one he penned, another from Caitlin Williams Freeman. He also sent a diagram of the Blue Bottle trailer (reproduced above), and its proposed location in the park. We present both open letters here, unedited. [Note: in Freeman's letter, "Crystal" is a reference to Dolores Park Works' Crystal Vann Wallstrom, organizer of tonight's meeting.]

The public meeting, in the church at 455 Dolores (at Dorland), starts at 7 p.m. Dolores Park Works has the full speaker roster.

UPDATE: Read our report of the Sept. 27 meeting.


Dear Dolores Park friends and neighbors,

I apologize that I can't attend today's meeting. I had made plans to be away several weeks prior to hearing about this meeting. Such is the nature of the nonrefundable plane ticket. Nevertheless, I'd like to tell you a little bit about my history, our company's history, our desires for the park, and address some of the concerns that Crystal has communicated to me. Mike Hamm, our manager of the outdoors, will be here to answer questions directly, but if you would like to ask me anything, please send me an email at, or perhaps we could meet at one of our shops and discuss over a coffee.

I started Blue Bottle in 2002, but prior to that, I lived on 25th and Guerrero and 20th and Guerrero from 1990 to 1999.

At the time I was a freelance clarinetist, driving around to gigs in the bay area and teaching at the prep department of the San Francisco Conservatory. Every once in a while I would work in the Mission; I have fond memories of playing with the Clubfoot orchestra at Brunos, with my quintet (the City Winds, in case you were one of our 12 ardent fans) at the ODC center, the Intersection for the Arts, and the Community Music Center. I remember eating at the Flying Saucer (Albert Tordjman, RIP), Val 21, Radio Valencia, the Latin Freeze .... A great time to be in the Mission. Living in the Mission caused me to fall in love with San Francisco. It's a different neighborhood now, of course, but that sense of vitality and community is what makes it so magical still. I lived in Oakland from 2001 to 2005, and moved back to San Francisco in August of 2005. Hopefully for good. Now I live a block from Alamo square, but my son goes to school on 25th and Valencia, so I'm in the Mission almost every day. I still love it.

I started Blue Bottle Coffee in August of 2002 in a 186 square foot former potting shed in Oakland's Temescal District. I had no background in business (or coffee really), but I was an avid home roaster and loved coffee so much. It was a total pipe dream. But it seems to be working out. I started in Farmers' markets (where I met my wife) in 2002, and we opened our kiosk on Linden Street on January 23d 2005. We opened our café on Mint Plaza January 23d 2008. In 2009 we opened a shop in the Ferry Building and in the new Rooftop Garden of the SFMOMA, and in 2010 we opened our new beautiful roastery in Oakland, and a roastery and coffee bar in Brooklyn New York. I think that our coffee is getting better and better as we grow. I work with outstanding crew (many of whom have been with me for years), and we have incredibly loyal and passionate customers. I feel very lucky.

The growth issue is a tricky one. I get phone calls and emails from real estate people every single day asking if I wouldn't be interested café spaces all over the country. I usually say no, thank you. But every once in a while opportunities come up in such beautiful or interesting locations that I get tempted. Ferry Building and SFMOMA are prime examples. And we do need to grow carefully and methodically to keep up with increasing costs (for example, our average price for green coffee has tripled over the last eight years). Another factor is labor costs. If I want to hire great people, and keep them motivated, I need to offer them regular raises, the best possible health benefits, and the potential for upward mobility. Almost every single salaried position (except for the accountant) in our company is occupied by former baristas, or other hourly production positions.

  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , , ,


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.