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The Besties: Five San Franciscans We’re Proud to Call Our Own

They’re challenging the status quo in the best way possible.


Emma Rosenbush and Gabriela Cámara

(1 of 4)

Emily Holt

(2 of 4)

Carole Shorenstein Hays

(3 of 4)

Doniece Sandoval

(4 of 4)


Read more Best of San Francisco 2016 here.

Cooking with Conviction: Emma Rosenbush and Gabriela Cámara
Cala serves Mexican food unlike what you’ll find anywhere else in San Francisco, but perhaps the most unique thing about the Hayes Valley restaurant is its hiring policy. Owner Cámara, spurred by general manager Rosenbush, has built a staff largely from people who have spent time in prison. And they’re not just dishwashers hidden away in the kitchen: They’re some of the waitstaff welcoming you to the restaurant and taking your order. With help from the Delancey Street Foundation and the city’s Adult Probation Department, Rosenbush and Cámara have proved that taking a chance on those typically passed over creates not only good feelings but good service.

The TL Goes Vogue: Emily Holt
After this former Vogue editor (and Los Gatos native) moved back to the Bay Area in 2014, she settled in a neighborhood not typically known for its style: the Outer Richmond. But Holt has always been a contrarian, which is why she’s launching a 1,500-square-foot lifestyle boutique, Hero Shop, in the Tenderloin this month. “A new store on Fillmore? Who gives a shit,” she says. “In the Tenderloin? Now that’s interesting.” The concept shop will stock high-end fashion and accessories by designers like Gabriela Hearst, Delfina Delettrez, and Myriam Schaefer, as well as giftable extras like flowers, glassware, and candles—think Colette meets a less earnest Goop. But Holt, who cops to suffering from “fashion guilt,” is building a store with a conscience. “I know I’m just selling things,” she says. “So I’m doing my damnedest to support the community in the process.” This summer, she plans to partner with Raphael House and 826 Valencia to host benefit shopping nights. 982 Post St. (near Hyde St.). 

One-Woman Show: Carole Shorenstein Hays
In 2014, Carole Shorenstein Hays parted ways with SHN, the Broadway production company she founded in the 1970s. But rather than getting out of the game, the mainstay producer set out to restore the Curran, one of the city’s legendary theaters. While renovations are under way, the venue has hosted small-scale black-box shows as part of a Curran: Under Construction series. In the newly revived, 1,600-seat house—slated to open this January—Hays plans to stage genre-bending departures from typical tourist lures like The Lion King and Wicked. Case in point: The season will open with Fun Home, the Tony Award–winning show based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel about growing up a lesbian in a home with a tortured, closeted gay father.

The Mobile-Shower Matriarch: Doniece Sandoval
Three years ago, Doniece Sandoval was an arts marketer and food-truck fan with an untested idea: Apply the mobile-retail model to sanitation for homeless people, who have access to fewer than 20 drop-in shower stalls citywide. “I thought I would be sharing an idea with an expert who would take it and run with it,” says Sandoval. “But nobody ever stepped forward.” In 2014, she launched Lava Mae mobile showers in a decommissioned Muni bus—a feat that required retrofitting a vehicle with ADA-accessible plumbing. Lava Mae added a second bus in 2015 and a towable three-shower trailer this year, bringing capacity to 250 showers per week. By year’s end, Lava Mae plans to have pilots up and running in San Jose and Los Angeles (there’s already a similar program in Zimbabwe). Crucial to Sandoval’s “radical hospitality” MO is cultivating a well-designed place—think skylights and music—where people can feel like themselves again.


Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco

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