The “gateway to San Francisco,” also known as the Embarcadero Ferry Building, looks a little different this month.
That’s because the beautiful metal gates that separate the Ferry Building’s stalls from the market’s main walkway are decorated with vibrant red and gold fans, tapestries, and lanterns provided by shops from San Francisco’s historic Chinatown. It’s part of a collaboration between the Ferry Building and the nonprofit San Francisco Community Business Resource (SFCBR) to remind San Franscicans of the importance of supporting local small businesses. Every Saturday and Sunday throughout the month of March, a variety of Chinatown merchants are setting up shop to both broaden their own clientele and bring more shoppers to the Ferry Building. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
“A friend of mine, Myron Lee, shared that he was raising money for Chinatown’s single room occupancy (SRO) families with young children, through the San Francisco Community Business Resource, who were giving out hundreds of traditional Chinese New Year meals that were ordered from struggling restaurants in Chinatown,” says Ferry Building Property Manager Lin Wu of how the partnership started. “Our Ferry Building team was inspired to showcase small businesses from Chinatown in the marketplace on Saturdays and Sundays to remind people of the richness of San Francisco’s neighborhood shops and how vital it is to support them.”
Featured merchants include the Chinatown Kite Shop, Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, Dragon Papa Candy, and China Live. That means Ferry Building customers can order authentic Chinese food, desserts, and beautiful handcrafted toys all under one roof. The merchants are some of San Francisco’s most popular tourist destinations: Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, for example, has been wowing travelers from around the world with their handmade cookies since 1962.
San Francisco’s Chinatown has taken a tremendous economic blow in the last year. Many businesses depend on foot traffic, which has decreased immensely city-wide. Many businesses are also cash-only, or not technologically resourced enough to provide socially distant curbside pick-up or delivery options. As a well-known tourist destination, a lack of travelers hit Chinatown businesses’ bottom line, too. Increased xenophobia and violence targeting San Francisco’s East Asian community, especially since the start of 2021, hasn’t made things any easier.
San Francisco Community Business Resources, however, has been doing their part to help this neighborhood, and others, stay afloat. The organization is an offshoot of the Northeast Community Federal Credit Union, which provides funding and facilitates collaboration between small businesses and nonprofits with mutual interests. They helped establish BeChinatown, which has held several community events such as a COVID-safe “Christmas in Chinatown’ event in December where people dressed up, arranged children’s gift giveaways, and even took photos with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. For a neighborhood that’s seen such hardship during the pandemic, it’s community events like this that keep spirits high.
“We really want to thank the people from all walks of life who have been supporting us with their passion,” says Golden Gate Fortune Cookie owner Kevin Chan. “In San Francisco, we have so many different cultures, and when things happen we connect and unite. I got that from the very beginning: it’s not just me, it’s not just my brand, but also all the people here that work together and help each other,” he says. Having survived multiple recessions, it’s this community spirit that has allowed his business to survive for almost 60 years.
Chinatown merchants will be selling their wares at the Ferry Building from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday for the month of March. Customers are recommended to check the building’s Instagram, @ferrybuilding, for the latest updates.