Business from Basements: das form bureau

Most people don’t often think about modern, handmade furniture in conjunction with the Tenderloin, but it just so happens that there is a fine, subterranean craftsman making apartment-centric one of a kind furnishings. Meet Oliver and das form bureau.

As you may have guessed from the name, Oliver is originally from Germany. For many years he has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in varying, “portable” capacities but when he finally settled down to more permanent housing, he lived in a dinky studio apartment right next door to Edinburgh Castle. Living there with his wife and two cats (yes, these two cats) he realized that he had to make the most of the space provided, which wasn’t much.

Thus began his first endeavors in to the craft of furniture–a type of which needed to be functional for living within the tight confines of San Francisco apartment life. Initially, it was just a raised bed frame, that gave way to a dining table. This dining table gave way to more innovation as once it was constructed, Oliver realized that it was just the tiniest bit too large to fit in the doors. So, he had to work on designing it to be able to be taken apart easily to be moved in and out of small spaces. Basically, think of it as Ikea furniture that is made from sustainable real wood, can be taken apart and put back together, and is handcrafted.

These days, Oliver has a whole line of high end, finely-built works that are nothing short of genius in how they fit in to home and are both incredible functional while also beautifully designed. While you can tell that they were dreamed up out of personal need, the universal application and insane attention to quality of work is amazing. Running my hand along a current table that Oliver is working on, while I can see the joints, I simply can’t feel them–and these are designed to come apart and go back together in 15 minutes.

Walking through Oliver’s top floor, south-facing apartment is like walking through a high-end furniture catalog, kitteh Gothic arch and all. You can create this look as well of course as Oliver and das form bureau will happily hook you up with sleek, modern furnishing of your very own.

Business from Basements: Soapy Soaps

The smaller-sized Soapy Soap bars that Sue-May distributed amongst her neighbors

We always love receiving tips and reader emails, but a couple of weeks ago we received one that was particularly compelling with the title ‘Random Act of Kindness in the ‘Loin’. It was a lengthy, but here’s the excerpt that really caught our attention:

The ‘Loin is so much more than what meets the surface and is ultimately why I decided to live here (and why I read the blog). In fact, I have experienced several acts of random kindness that have really impacted me including one today that I wanted to share.

I was on my way out of my apartment to pick up a pizza and watch the game (go Giants) when I stepped on something odd. I bent down to pick up the item and read the note attached to it. It reads:

Hey neighbor,
I’m a craft soap maker and I have some extra bars that I would like to share with you.
Sue May

This came attached to a bar of Lavender and Rosemary soap.

As I made my way down stairs I noticed that every single door in the building had a bar of soap sitting in front of it with the same note.

To learn a bit more I checked out the Soapy Soap website and learned that Sue May is based here in the city, does not use any unnatural colors or scents and uses environmentally friendly business practices.

Obviously, I was very excited and immediately contacted Sue May via the Soapy Soaps website asking to hear more about her company. A couple of days later, I found myself in soap heaven, gazing at and inhaling from the dozens of different hand-crafted soap combinations she makes in her Tenderloin kitchen.

That day Sue May was preparing to package several cute, little soaps that she had custom-made for a friend’s event: starfish, flowers, moons, leafs, citrus carpels, etc… She told me that only a few days earlier some bakery had ordered a hundred cupcake-shaped pink soaps, and that basically they can do anything people can think of in soap form – not just in terms of shapes but also ingredients.

Sue May is originally from the East Bay, but spent several years in Canada before settling down in San Francisco about a year ago. She chose the Tenderloin for the (allegedly) lower rent, but mainly because of its central location close to the farmers’ market, the main library, museums and within walking distance to any place she wants to go. In spite of all the sketchy action happening under her window on a daily basis, she says that she’s liking the neighborhood more and more. Although Sue May is a software engineer by trade, she’s been making soap for almost 20 years for friends and relatives since she learned its secrets in a chemistry class back in high school.

Some regular soap bars ready to be wrapped, and special shapes for a custom order

Morgan, Sue May’s sister-in-law based in LA, learned soap-making from her and really enjoyed it. So when she found herself jobless around the same time as Sue-May, she convinced her to create a joint soap company. Thus was born Soapy Soaps two months ago. They sell mostly online through their Etsy store, but lately they’ve been getting a lot of customers through in-person word of mouth and direct marketing such as Sue May leaving soap samples to every neighbor in her building. Also, they have plans to be selling at crafts fairs and possibly at farmers’ markets both in LA and San Francisco. If you’re a Tenderloiner, chances are you might be able to pick up the soaps yourself personally (and if you’re lucky, she might give you some samples like the ones pictured below which she usually adds to every order).

A variety of samples and some beeswax regular bars

Being a regular user of all-natural personal care products, after meeting Sue May talk about her Soapy Soaps, naturally I had to try them. Call me an alcoholic, but I was very curious about their wine-based soaps (apparently they have a very rich lather), but those are Morgan’s specialty and so not available in the San Francisco ‘lab’. I ended up going home with a bar of white tea and ginger (because I love tea), and one of avocado, lemon and verbena because the avocado comes from a beautiful tree in Sue May’s backyard. After using the latter for a few days, I’m enjoying it so much that I think I’ll have to say goodbye to Dr Bronner’s (which is actually more expensive than Soapy Soaps).

The official Tenderblog t-shirt

At Tendernights, we were pretty stoked that the loin was there selling their wares. We were even more stoked that they were able to print up Tenderblog t-shirts which we were running around in. Some of you even bought them and are wearing them around the hood. All solid. All good.

For those of you who might have missed out on getting one of these magnificent specimens of clothing, you shall remain missed outteth no more for they are now for sale in black, gray, and army. If you were smart, you’d get all three in a whole variety of sizes since they’re 100% cotton, screened here and just $15, which in today’s tee couture market is a freakin’ steal.

And let me emphasize that in buying one of these tees, you’re not only fronting your Tenderloin/blog pride, but also supporting a local business. This does a helluva lot more for this neighborhood than financially dead-end museums which is why we’re super behind this. That and the fact that the shirts and you, dear TenderReaders, are cool.

(While you’re at it, get a hoodie too. When I wear mine to meetings at the office, those effin’ meetings are adjourned if you get my drift, which I don’t even think I do.)

Business from Basements: “the loin”

Deep down in the heart of The Loin is, “the loin”, an underground print shop that is pressing out some mighty fine wares these days. Sometime back, we got word of this shop when they had a show at Cafe Royale. But that was just a taste, a nibble off “the loin”. To really find out what’s happening with this local guerrilla-marketed brand here in hood, I made trip down to the basement lair of “the loin” production.

As I was led down in to the printing room by Jeff, at one point I thought I was going to have to ask, “And as to The Gimp, is he currently sleeping?” I mean, unless you know where to go, you simply aren’t going to find the place and that’s how they like it, keeping the freshness only for those who know… or manage to get hooked up when they’re out selling them at various spots around town. Unfortunately, right at this very moment, online orders are offline as they’re working to spiffy up that portion of the site.

But, as time has gone on, “the loin” has branched out a bit more than just shirts. Jeff showed off his latest creations which are buttons and bottle openers. These are cool and I picked some of those up too, as well as the stickers that magically pop up around the hood. But, what I think was super cool is that he made up bottle bags for local liquor stores to hand out with purchases one night which you can see in the lead image. He went around taking shots of the boozers in the night with their “the loin” advertisements. This is one guy who knows his market and how to use it.

And of course he’s printing skate boards as well with “the loin” logo across them. If I skated, I would hit one of those as well. As it is, I have all the grace of a mule on a frozen pond, so I think I’ll stay clear for the time being.

Overall though, I just find “the loin” to be super cool as it’s starting here in this hood with what is known and Jeff feels like I do in that this neighborhood is pretty kickass, like Mission II: The Loss of Bullshit and is a place where people can actually live and start doing things while being in downtown. And what he’s doing from his basement got me thinking about the fact that I know other people working out of their basements as well, so I’d really like to open up an invite to others to share what they’ve got going on in the basement. No weird shit though because remember that I’ve got my father’s gun and a scorching case of herpes.