It was 1974, less than two years after we started Interactive Resources, when Gary McDonough and Yves Martin asked us to design a restaurant for them on an ugly lot under a giant billboard on Market Street in San Francisco. The challenge was that they had almost no money. What we came up with was an economy structure built entirely from Redwood greenhouses mail ordered with a kit of parts.
Surprisingly, Café Flore, as they named it, was an instant hit. I have no idea now how we got a building permit to erect an agricultural greenhouse as a commercial building in San Francisco, but the City of San Francisco was much more laid back in those days. Or, maybe someone knew somebody at City Hall. I remember asking the contractor on another San Francisco project at the same time if he had a permit, and he responded, “Well, I have sort of a continuous permit.’
I hadn’t thought much about it for years, but recently my son Andrew and I were in San Francisco, and he asked me about it. Although he was born only a year before Café Flore opened, he had some recollection of seeing it in the Interactive Resources archives. I couldn’t even remember where it was, and I speculated it had been torn down long ago. But we Googled it, and voila, there were multiple media posts announcing its reopening after a three-year closure shortly before COVID. According to a March 6, 2023, posting on Hoodline (Check out the new café Flore, to be reopened this summer as Fisch & Flore), a new owner, Serhat Zorlu, would be reopening it this summer.
We stopped by the site, at Market, Noe and 16th Street, and the door was open. I went in and introduced myself to the new owner, who was pouring over a set of plans for reopening. When I told him I was the architect who designed Café Flore 47 years ago, he was blown away.
I took a couple of photos of what Café Flore looks like in 2023 and then back at the office dug into the archives and came up with press clippings and photos shown below. I vaguely recall that R.B. (Bob) Read, the author of the San Francisco Examiner “Underground Gourmet” and a book of the same name lived in Point Richmond at the time. He wrote a 1966 article about Point Richmond (“The hidden village you can only find by slowing down”) for California Living, the Examiner “magazine” section.
Figure 1 - 1975 articles about Cafe Flore
Figure 2 - Market Street view on March 31, 2023
Figure 3 - 16th Street view on March 31, 2023
Figure 4 - The previous sign fudged the opening date by a couple of years. I guess 1975 didn’t rhyme with “be.”
Figure 5 - The site pre-construction 1974
Figure 6 - Forming the foundation 1974
Figure 7 - Ready for business 1975
Figure 8 - The Menu - Crepes $0.90, Sandwiches $1.95
Figure 9 - Interactive Resources staff Jim Beavers, John Clinton and Bob Dietrich on the front porch
Figure 10 - The sunny interior
Figure 11 - This was before laptops
Figure 12 - Interior view looking towards 16th Street
Figure 13 - A sunny day in San Francisco at Cafe Flore
Here's a link (https://richmondcarotary.org/miraflores/) that explains Richmond Rotary’s Miraflores Centennial Project 2020 that will one day be installed in the Mriaflores Sustainable Greenbelt when the development is back on track. Also attached is an older article that dates back to 2017 that helped our club choose to support this project.
Also, see Transforming a Bay Area Brownfield into a Green Jewel.