Battle Lost : Fillmore Grind to Close

Saturday morning, I made my daily stop into Fillmore Grind for a bagel and a coffee. During these uncertain times, the $4 I spend at Mike's coffee shop is one thing I just can't surrender. It's not just the jolt of caffeine or the toasty bagel that forces me out of the apartment every morning. It's actually not that at all.

On Sunday, as happens about once a month, Mike took the day off. I walked down Fillmore a few blocks, found a local shop and sat down with the Sunday Times. And although the coffee was better and the bagel tastier, it just wasn't Mike's. After one article in the paper, I gulped down my food and drink and headed home.

Back to Saturday. When I walked into Mike's, ready for our morning discussions about the Middle East, Obama, his business and other topics that bring on debates and laughs, I saw Mike's landlord sitting at a table with two other gentleman going over mounds of paper. I didn't need to ask. That quick sight revealed the end.

Mike has been at this location for 12 years. Prior to this, he spent 15 or so years running a coffee shop in Brooklyn. I don't know, maybe the Brooklyn to SF move created the initial bond. Mike could actually pinpoint the block where I lived in Brooklyn. In the two years that I've lived on Fillmore, Mike has become one of my closest friends. When he doesn't show up on a certain day, I worry. When he's in one of his hilarious and uplifting moods, it makes my day. When I sense that business is struggling, I try and figure out ways to bring in more money.

Many local folks have chipped in to try and revitalize the place. We've painted, provided music, cleaned, re-arranged, built a website and so on. His friend and former neighbor Amy has led the charge. Her and I exchanged e-mails this weekend. They were short, somewhat resigned and seemingly deep in sorrow. There's no more fight.

Prior to the economic collapse, the Bush years taught people to consume, consume, consume. Unlike Obama, Bush never mentioned the need to work within our communities. Starbucks, Wal-Mart and Exxon were our friends. Some of us never bought in. But not enough people looked for alternatives. With Obama's national call to service and community development, suddenly everyone appears to want in. As much as this is good for our nation, I really wonder where these people were the past eight years.

The closing of the Fillmore Grind has brought on those five steps. I've felt anger, heartbreak and now perhaps, acceptance. Ok, I haven't made it to that final step yet. I just returned from my morning visit. As happens almost every day, Mike asked me to watch over the store while he went to the bathroom. As I watched over, not one person walked through the doors. In about two weeks, those doors will be closed. And in a short while, just like Mike, I will bid farewell to the neighborhood.


Anonymous said...

Where's my Habibi?! I lived in the Fillmore from 1999-2003 and Mike was the best Part along With Sari,Saad and Yusem at Tim's market.I watched the restroom and made change for Mike often in those years. Where is he now? I like many live in Oakland these days but always have a place in my heart for those times