A generous SF tech investor just gave a pie baker a million dollars to support small businesses and try to help them stay afloat through the coronavirus crisis. The tech angel in question is Emmett Shear, the CEO of Twitch, the live-streaming platform for gamers, which has on average more than 15 million viewers a day. He’s handing over the cash to Lenore Estrada, owner of Three Babes Bakeshop, which is both known for its delicious blackberry crumble and salty honey-walnut pies.
Estrada started banging on doors last year when the food delivery company Munchery went under and stiffed the bakery for nearly $20,000, although an anonymous donor eventually paid her back. She was also one of the first chefs to reach out to Eater SF when the big tech cafeterias started closing and canceling their pie orders, prompting her to lay off 20 employees and put the anticipated opening of her new storefront on hold. But love them or hate them, before the pandemic descended, tech companies made up about 60 percent of Estrada’s business. And now that small restaurants and bakeries are frantically setting up GoFundMe fundraisers, the biggest potential donors are tech executives with deep pockets.
Shear doesn’t have any background in the restaurant or hospitality industry. “He’s just a civic-minded person, interested in supporting the city and small businesses,” Estrada said. For her part, as the owner of a small bakery, Estrada has never run a nonprofit. She met Shear in college, at Yale University, and the two have been close friends going on 20 years. They’re calling their new project the SF New Deal, with the goal of “keeping small businesses in business.” They have set up a 510(c)(3) nonprofit and launched a website. Shear has personally committed $1,000,000 to the cause, and the website solicits additional donations. Jacob Bindman, director of the events space Four One Nine, is stepping in to run ops. They’re also partnering closely with Kim Alter, from Nightbird, who’s part of #savehospitality, a coalition of chefs advocating for restaurants in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.
To start out, the SF New Deal will focus on helping restaurants. Estrada says the goal is to give them some steady income by connecting them with hospitals, churches, and other organizations, paying restaurants to serve meals to people in need. With restaurants currently limited to only takeout and delivery, the additional business will help them to be able to still offer their employees some reduced hours and benefits and try to stay afloat. Ideally, it will be a win-win: The meals will go to the city’s most vulnerable populations, including people who can’t leave their homes, such as seniors and people with pre-existing conditions, as well as those who have lost their jobs, low-income families, and those who are homeless.
SF New Deal already has 30 participating restaurants, from Michelin-starred Mourad and Mister Jiu’s to newly opened Prubechu and Reem’s. They say they are partnering with specific organizations within the City of San Francisco, UCSF mental health services, and the SF African American Faith Based Coalition. The program started last week delivering 100 meals a day, and Estrada says they hope to deliver 4,400 meals a day next week. Any chefs, organizations, or volunteers who are interested in participating are encouraged to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.