Gabriella Lozano has been a force in the neighborhood for many years. To many of us, she needs no introduction. Her warmth and kindness are an integral part of who she is. She is adept at creating and nurturing community, and knows the challenges of being a business owner firsthand.
As Calle 24’s Business Liaison, she will work closely with Calle 24 businesses and nonprofits, the Council, Council President Erick Arguello, and Diana Ponce De León from the SF Office of Economic and Workforce Development’s Invest in Neighborhoods Initiative to ensure an economically and culturally vibrant and healthy corridor. The position is funded in support of the Latino Cultural District through Invest in Neighborhoods.
We spoke to her about her role in the district.
How do you connect with Calle 24?
In 2005 together with both my sisters we opened a small food establishment on 24th Street [L’s Caffe]. We immediately became part of the Lower 24th neighbors and merchant association, that later became Calle 24 neighbors and merchant association, which is now Calle 24 Latino Cultural District (LCD).
A couple of years later I was asked to take a position as a council member that also allowed me to be one of the founders of the LCD. Soon after I was nominated to the Economic Vitality Committee Chair, a position that I held for 2 years.
During these years I have either volunteered or assisted in the creation of some of the cultural festivities organized along the 24th Street Commercial Corridor.
“So many experiences put a smile on my face: seeing the school kids grow to where they are taller than me and have facial hair… amazing! Or having the honor of meeting and on occasion collaborating with great artists. Or having an in-depth and enlightening conversation with a long time senior resident.”
When did you start working as the Business Liaison? What excites you most about the position?
My position as a business liaison became effective November 1st, 2018.
I see this position as a gateway between the LCD’s merchants and City resources, private or non-profit agencies that in one way or another can assist our small businesses.
Being able to host Business Mixers, where merchants can access pertinent information or resources in the comfort of their own neighborhood is what I find most exciting.
Tell me about your experience running a business on Calle 24. What are some challenges? What about the experience makes you smile?
It still amazes me that, not being from this neighborhood, the community took us in embraced us and shaped us into what we are today, a family oriented, friendly, versatile, welcoming and respectable establishment, that holds dearly the values and responsibility of being part of a community, not only to take but to also give back and to guard the environment for the generation to come. We are the only Certified Green Business on the lower part of 24th Street.
By far the biggest challenge we have had to face was the market crash of 2008. Closing down was the only option for a while. Gentrification has taken its toll as well, by replacing entire families with single occupants per apartment who have no need to shop local.
So many experiences put a smile on my face: seeing the school kids grow to where they are taller than me and have facial hair… amazing!. Or having the honor of meeting and on occasion collaborating with great artists. Or having an in-depth and enlightening conversation with a long time senior resident. Or witnessing history being made and ancient teachings and traditions being passed down to the next generation…… All great moments that I’ll cherish all my life.
You have had such an interesting life! Tell me about the path that brought you here.
Yes, Life!! Never a dull moment. I was born in a small town in South Texas where there is a place called Mission as well……Karma? I don’t know. Growing up I lived in several countries due to my father’s job. Having to learn several languages and being multicultural has allowed me to adapt to new settings and to seek new opportunities; for this reason my father calls me the endless wanderer. Being accepted to Hastings College of Law grounded me in San Francisco for a while, then Nursing at UC Davis kept me engaged for a bit longer and after that we opened our business on 24th Street. I think the reason I’m still in San Francisco is because it keeps me entertained.
You served as the head of the Economic Vitality committee before taking this position. What are some of the issues facing business owners now? What have been your favorite things about getting business owners together?
Serving as the Economic Committee Chair allowed me to put together business mixers where merchants are able to share their experiences, challenges and to ask questions or seek resources. The high cost of living in San Francisco has proven to be a detriment to our small mom-and-pop businesses. They are experiencing never before seen high rent prices combined with never before seen high staffing salaries as well as very short rental leases.
Among my favorite things working with merchants are the teachings I come away with. The interaction between business owners truly shows how avid, visionary, and resilient they are.
We have such a diversity of businesses on 24th St. It’s one of the most varied streets in the city. What helps to make it that way?
One common denominator is the Spanish Language. You can go to the Chinese food place, or the corner store run by Middle Eastern people, you name it they greet you in Spanish. No matter how deep or shallow your pocket may be there are goods and services to fit all.
What are some of the services you will be offering to Calle 24 Businesses? How can business owners get in touch?
My role is to assist and support merchants with connectivity, door to door consultation, cultural event engagement, business loans, mini grants, workforce and legal assistance, commercial lease review and referrals.
Businesses can reach out to Gabby:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: Office # 415-658-7930 or Cell # 925-209-7770.
- In Person at the Calle 24 office located at 3250 24th Street @ Capp Street. Working hours will vary.