Turning the corner at Page and Webster streets to find the Turkey & Sharkey & Friends pop-up feels like stumbling onto an underground farmers market, neighborhood block party, and garage sale all in one.
Two men play jazz music while Tyler Sharkey and Kendall Brinkley sell sourdough loaves out of their Lower Haight garage, which is decorated like an extension of their upstairs studio apartment with a soft leather couch, record player, and a bed for their dog Turkey. On the sidewalk, customers mingle with vendors selling homemade hummus, kimchi, plants, and vinyl records. An older man who passed by the scrappy pop-up market on a recent Sunday gave the ultimate compliment: “This is what San Francisco used to be.”
Sharkey and Brinkley launched Turkey & Sharkey & Friends almost unintentionally when the couple started selling homemade bread and jam, first for delivery and then in front of their home, after losing their jobs at Airbnb when the pandemic hit. Through friends, Instagram, and word of mouth, up to a dozen rotating vendors — many of whom are now relying on side hustles to make ends meet — have since joined them for the market, which now pops up every Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a community market run by the community, for the community,” Brinkley says. “It feels good to have a space where we can have a sense of normalcy but also make some money to keep living in this city.”
For Sharkey, a copywriter and self-described punk baker, bread became more than just an after-work obsession when he was laid off in March. Brinkley lost her job a few months later and started making jam to help cover rent and bills.
In June, they opened their garage to sell bread along with tea from Oakland’s Flowerhead Tea (whose owner is Brinkley’s best friend), and the market was born. The lineup has grown to include friends who make chocolate chip cookies and fresh-churned butter, a mobile bike mechanic, and Chef’s Cart, a CSA box curated by three local chefs. The couple hung reminders to wear masks and set up socially distanced tables and chairs for people to (safely) hang out.
For vendors and customers, the market is a welcome throwback to a more creative, rough-around-the-edges San Francisco of the past — the one Sharkey recalls moving to when he was 17 years old, when people seemed to know all their neighbors and used their garages to start punk bands.
“It’s a bunch of people who just wanted to do a thing and did it and didn’t ask for permission,” Sharkey says of the pop-up. “I heard somebody say once, ‘If you want to feel like you live here, get involved with your community.’ This, to me, is old San Francisco.”
After Nahiel Nazzal got laid off as bar manager at Pearl 6101 in the Outer Richmond at the start of the shutdown, she turned to delivering homemade hummus to customers and bars that were required to serve food to reopen under public health guidelines. She heard about the Lower Haight pop-up from a friend and was drawn in by the energy of what she said felt like adult versions of a lemonade stand.
“Aside from the financial gains, selling on Sundays gives me something to look forward to every week,” Nazzal says. “There’s a camaraderie amongst the vendors. We all support each other.”
For Izzel of Nana Margarita (who asked that only her first name be used), the market is one of three sources of income she relies on. She works at a restaurant, nannies, and sells her homemade salsas on Sundays. The salsas pay homage to Izzel’s native Sinaloa, Mexico, including a vibrant salsa verde and a smoky, deep red salsa made from morita peppers. It’s a stepping stone to her dream of opening her own Sinaloan food business.
Sitting next to Izzel on a recent Sunday was Matt Tayag, who left his job as a water resources engineer at the start of shelter in place to run a home fermentation business called Matt’s Microbiome. Tayag started by selling kimchi on Instagram, lowering jars in a red bucket from his second-floor apartment to customers on the street.
“I think people sometimes think communities have to be this big extravagant thing but it starts really small,” says Tayag, who’s sold kimchi at the market for the last two months. “When you have this really small thing and it just keeps growing and growing, it’s this mutual benefit. We’re out here feeding people, nourishing them; people are out here supporting us.”
The market has anchored Sharkey and Brinkley during an unmoored time. They’ve leaned into turning their tiny kitchen into an operation that churns out more than 30 loaves of bread every week, plus coffee cake (Sharkey’s take on Entenmann’s, which he grew up eating in New Jersey) and excellent galettes (most recently filled with Brinkley’s sweet onion jam and cream cheese, and sprinkled with everything bagel seasoning).
Sharkey, often bleary eyed from baking all night, roams the market like a chef coming out at the end of service to work the dining room while Brinkley is the bright, energetic front-of-house manager. The market has led to new opportunities for them, including pop-ups at Birba, Gemini Bottle Co., and Roses’ Taproom in Oakland. Family Cafe in North Beach uses Sharkey’s show-stopping rye bread, colored black with activated charcoal, for a vegan sandwich.
The couple’s early customers were mostly friends. They now include neighbors whose Sunday routine is lining up for bread and strangers they’re meeting for the first time.
“In these times of social distancing, business closures, and the constant questioning of why we live in this city at all, this is my weekly reminder that San Francisco is still somewhere special,” Sharkey wrote in a recent Instagram post. “So thanks for bringing that feeling back.”
The Turkey & Sharkey & Friends pop-up runs on Sundays from noon until sold out.