An Open Letter from Blue Bottle to the Dolores Park Community
Are we commercializing Dolores Park?
Short answer: yes. Longer answer: I believe commercial enterprises in parks can be charming amenities. Some of my favorite parks around the world have commercial enterprises within that are beautiful, high-quality ventures that add a different layer of interest, put another set of eyes on the park, raise money for the park, and add to the texture of the community's experience. I think of Madison Square Park in New York, Villa Borghese in Rome, or Kyoto Gosho, being some examples of the most successful integration between the commercial and the public.
Will having Rec and Park approved food vendors change the culture of the park?
The culture of Dolores Park is so strong and vibrant that it will take a lot more than two trailers to change it significantly. We want to enhance the culture of the park, make it even more convenient and pleasant to spend time there, rather than change it.
What's the impact on the park's infrastructure?
Our trailer will run on propane and Honda's smallest and quietest 3000-Watt generator. Our trailer will sit on a concrete pad near the dumpster by the playground and not on the grass. Nor will we have to drive on the grass during any part of our load in or load out. That location was chosen because it is the farthest place from the 18th st. retail corridor that is paved and flat enough to park. We will pull in every morning and leave every evening. Our permit requires us to pack out trash within 100 feet of our trailer. Currently, 2/3 of our waste (by volume) is compost.
Will there be an increase in people because vendors are there?
It's possible, but we suspect that most of our customers will be park patrons. Coffee and cookies are often about convenience and whim, rather than premeditation. Having said that, I think it would be lovely if people were spurred to go out in the fresh air and discover Dolores Park for themselves because of us or La Cocina.
How did it go from pushcarts to a trailer?
"Pushcart" is a term used by the health department and Rec and Park that is a generic term to cover a variety of mobile vending operations. Unfortunately, if you are not in the food industry, the hominess of that term conjures up the popsicle vendor pushing his cart rather than trucks or trailers. I originally wanted to modify a Ford Transit Connect for this project, but sadly realized that it would need to have larger interior dimensions than exterior dimensions. Which is either impossible or prohibitively expensive. So the solution we have arrived at is an 8x12 trailer, clad in shiny new aluminum, tastefully and discreetly branded with a medium sized blue bottle and menu, and a jaunty red, lever-pull espresso machine. The trailer will allow the crew a modicum of comfort in inclement weather.
How much money will be paid to Rec and Park in rent?
We are hoping 20-30k will be paid to Rec and Park. Our minimum rent is $1000 per month. What Rec and Park does with the rent money is out of our hands.
Now that Blue Bottle has a roastery in Brooklyn, is the money generated in
Dolores Park going outside the Bay Area to fund a national chain?
We are still a Bay Area business with our headquarters in Oakland. Although our project in Brooklyn is, mercifully, breaking even financially, we are rooted right here. I chose to expand in Brooklyn precisely to avoid having too many retail locations in one area. It's not the most efficient way to grow, but I think it's more interesting. Four of the nine employees we had at the opening of our Brooklyn roastery were blue Bottle employees who started either in San Francisco or Oakland. They were excited to have the opportunity to take on more responsibility in such a fascinating part of the country.
What do the carts look like and where will they be located?
Please see the rendering and site plan that our office manager and production artist, Michelle Ott, has provided. Unfortunately, the trailer itself is still in Benicia, CA having the finishing touches put on it, so we couldn't get a very good photograph.
I hope that this letter answers most of your questions. If you have more
questions, please let me know, and I'll try my best to answer them. I hope that
this letter is evidence of my best intentions. If you agree with nothing in this
letter, at the very least, I hope you are impressed by the sincerity of my effort
and that the fact that I spent several hours on a beautiful Sunday afternoon
writing this letter to you.