Community donates nearly $20,000 to help the faltering Bazaar Cafe

Just after Christmas, the Bazaar Cafe on California near 22nd Avenue sent an email to its patrons and supporters, letting them know they were in danger of closing due to tough financial conditions. They asked for help via donations to raise the needed $7,000.

That seemed like a tall order given the state of our economy and it being the tail end of the holiday season. But not only did they receive what they needed, they exceeded their goal quite handily, raising nearly $20,000 from just 212 donors.

“As I begin to write I find that I am struggling to find words to adequately express our appreciation to all of you. The words “thank you” seem small in measure for what you have done for us, but let’s start with that… THANK YOU,” the cafe wrote on their website.

When we published the story last weekend, many were skeptical, commenting that if the cafe couldn’t stay afloat on their own, shouldn’t they just go out of business? It’s a fair point, but clearly the Bazaar Cafe has enough fans and neighbors that want to see it succeed. Or perhaps those neighbors just don’t want to see another empty storefront in the neighborhood, and appreciate a small cafe that offers a cozy place for a cup of coffee and live music.

“It’s incredible that this little cafe has touched so many lives and got so much in return. As a longtime regular (first place I played music, and I met my husband/got married in their garden!) – I am in awe,” wrote RichmondSFBlog reader Robin when she sent us the news.

Owners Les and Makiko say they will use the extra money raised to make needed improvements to the cafe, including repaired and improved lighting for the garden and improved signage to start. They’ll also tuck some away in case there’s another rainy day.

The cafe also has plans to ensure a brighter financial future for the cafe, including holding several benefit concerts in the coming year. They’ve also established a tax-exempt nonprofit foundation – Bazaar Foundation for the Arts, Inc. – to help fund “concerts at schools, libraries and other nonprofit and for profit spaces by paying, thus supporting, local songwriters and other musicians.”

While there may not be a Santa Claus, it looks like our community was ready to fill his shoes for the cafe this season. Well done, Richmond District.

Sarah B.


  1. This is truly great news. Les and Makiko are such nice people, and are the type of business owners that truly care about their neighborhood and go out of their way to get to know their patrons. The Bazaar Cafe has provided an important place for people to gather to relax, socialize, sing, network, and get to know their neighbors for such a long time…it’s fantastic to hear they’ll be around for a long, long time. There are obviously others out there who feel the same about what amazing people they are, and what a special place the Bazaar is. Hooray!

  2. Yes, wonderful news. Hope this keeps them out of trouble until the economy picks up again.

  3. WOW, what a scam! Hey erin#1, lets relax,socailize,sing, and cry together sometime @bazaar. so lame! hey guys, give me some money also like tyler#3 says.

  4. Wow, Tobie – nice community minded attitude there buddy. With a personality like yours, you wouldn’t enjoy hanging out at the Bazaar with nice, normal people anyway, so maybe you should just stay seated there in your parents basement, playing with your Wii and waiting for someone to give you money. Happy New Year!

  5. Oh yes, it didn’t take long until the holier than though crowd showed their true colors. “I am a worthwhile human (crosses arms across chest, head tilts down, lower lip protrudes) Hmmmmph!”
    Yes, Bazaar sounds like paradise if it is full of people like you who shout every cliche insult like a person with Demagogue Touretts.

    People are fine to do what they will with their dollars, but don’t call me names because of my opinions. It is not so much the free market as it is common sense- this place will not be in business through the end of the year if they are already $7,000 in debt on day 1.

  6. Hey guys – let’s please avoid personal insults at one another and stick to the topic at hand. Thank you!

    Sarah B.

  7. Truly an amazing story and the Bazaar Cafe is a true gem in the Richmond community. It just shows people can band together and help one another when the going gets tough.

  8. I hope Makiko reads this – I don’t patronize your cafe any more because your young staff smokes just outside an open side door, and that husband of yours smokes, just outside every door, and all over the garden – as do so many others. It used to be a lovely place and garden but it’s usually filled with smoke and the lingering smoke of those that “sneak” breaks just outside the doors while leaving them open. And Les chain smokes then comes in and serves up my coffee with his smoker hands without washing. I guess those new smoking laws mean nothing to many neighborhood cafes, and I for one have stopped supporting those establishments. Utterly disgusting.

    Even if it were smoke-free, I wouldn’t call Bazaar an amazing community love den that some people are going on about. It’s an average cafe with average food and drinks – but a wonderful hostess in Makiko.

    If it closes, I hope someone takes over the space with a smoke free cafe that sells REALLY GOOD coffee. We desperately need GOOD coffee out here.

  9. So now what does the American Red Cross have to do to get you guys to donate $20,000 to them?

  10. Tyler – you disparage people for calling you names in the NEXT sentence after calling them names. Why do you care so much anyway? So what? People were generous to someone you obviously don’t even care about and you find it this necessary to insult them? It is really not that big of a deal.

    People make money and it is up to them what they do with it. This is not about what anyone thinks about Bazaar Café or their fare or habits. Go somewhere else if you don’t like the place. No one cares where you drink coffee or breathe your toxins.

    It’s a nice example, in my very humble opinion, of compassion – which is in short order lately, so let’s just all enjoy and aspire to be just as human.

  11. I am glad people care enough to step up to benefit our community!

  12. I think Tyler and Tobie are just kids. Go easy on them.

    I think it’s interesting that people who seem to argue from a free-market, financial Darwinism perspective (the “if they can’t support themselves then they should fail”) are also trying to tell individual people in the community how to spend their money.

    If you believe a business should have complete liberty to succeed or fail on their own merits then you should also believe that an individual in the community should have the liberty to spend their money however they want.

    Unless someone is forcing people to make donations, this is all part of how the market works.

  13. Tobie & Tyler, the donations were well earned. Bazaar Cafe has built the good will of the Richmond District and beyond for 13+ years.

    When the pet store across the street suffered from water damage, Bazaar organized a fundraising event. When a regular customer with no health insurance had to pay major hospital bills, they held another fundraiser – and these were only a couple of many. Occasional homeless person and quite a few unique local characters found a welcome, a chair and a warm word from Makiko, even if they spent less than a dollar for a cup of coffee and the privilege of basking for hours in the most beautiful garden in the Richmond District.

    Over the years, owners Les and Makiko have touched hundreds of hearts, and had created a safe, comfortable, positive and beautiful community space that, to me and many, make this neighborhood what it is. I personally know at least 3 people who live around here specifically to be near their favorite cafe. I am the 4th.

    It’s not about the ratings for coffee or eats, the speed of service, or how much subservience you can get from the person behind the counter. It’s about knowing everyone’s name. It’s about Makiko seeing me walk by & putting on a double latte, so it’ll be ready when I come in. It’s about hundreds of original music, comedy and learning events I laughed, cried, and held hands with people important to me at. About making true friends, meeting good people, falling in love, knowing the names of the third generation of hummingbirds that “own” the garden, hearing David sing hymns among the flowers in the morning for the sheer joy of it. It’s the place where you can find unrepentant idealists, and, not being fashionably nihilist, I like it that way… and you know what? We just proved that unrepentant idealism *works* :-).

  14. Thanks Sylvia! They are modest folks and never brag about the good deeds they do for people in the neighborhood. There are many beyond the ones you listed. It is a safe comfortable place to interact or to be just left alone without hassles. Say what you want, they are great people, its a great place and they are loving wonderful people!

  15. What a great response from the community! This is really awesome.

  16. @ kayvaan, @ sylvia

    what type of anchor is required to keep you from floating away (what with all the hot air up there…)

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