The best communities are defined by the efforts of their residents – and in the Tenderloin, work is well underway to make the District a better and brighter place for all.
Longtime residents of the area like Chai Saechao, the 29-year-old owner of Plant Therapy on O’Farrell Street, have dedicated their time and resources to improving life and economic opportunities for those living in the area. The Tenderloin has long faced concerns about cleanliness and overpopulation, but Saechao sees those negatives not as an immutable problem, but as a challenge to overcome.
“Me and the other businesses and trying to make it better,” he explains in an interview with Fox KTVU, “[We’re] trying to do what we love and build.”
Saechao has a deeply-ingrained belief that with enough love and work, the Tenderloin can evolve into something brighter and more positive. He centers on the idea of building positive relationships with those in the community; most of his customers are longtime residents of the area, and he wants them to feel welcome in his store.
Most of all, though, he believes in the Tenderloin’s potential to grow – and he isn’t alone. A growing cohort of entrepreneurs has been setting down retail roots in the sector, adding new jobs and opportunities for economic growth. Only a short distance away, larger organizations are helping residents get a leg up on their entrepreneurial dreams.
La Cocina, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide support and training to women and minority business owners, will be opening a female-led food hall in a former post office on the corner of Hyde Street and Golden Gate Avenue. La Cocina’s goals are twofold; they both hope to help local women grow their food operations into successful restaurants and provide healthy and affordable food options to Tenderloin residents. Once gutted and renovated, the space will support eight vendors: seven full-time kiosks, and one pop-up stand. The city of San Francisco has already promised to provide $1.5 million to the project, and La Cocina intends to raise an additional five million before the project’s official opening in the spring of 2018.
The entrepreneurial energy in the Tenderloin is at an all-time high. As Saechao sums up his own optimism for the area, “There’s a lot happening. I can do a lot of things here.”