Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Bao's house

Business Briefs

Stylist Tung Luong, left, and owner Bao Tonthat at Salon Baobao. Photo: Raymond Flournoy
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Editor's note: Castro blogger Raymond Flournoy is guest-writing Business Briefs while columnist Katharine Holland is taking some time off.

Stylist Bao Tonthat, recently of Nice Cuts on 17th Street, has renovated the space between Mecca and Eros to open his own shop, Salon Baobao (2041 Market Street). Done up in cool tones of seafoam and slate, the salon offers a variety of services for both men and women.

Tonthat admits that going out on his own is a scary step, but credits a wide-ranging group of friends and clients with providing the help and support he needed to take the plunge – or as he puts it, "Everything you see here is the work of every queen in the Castro." He would have preferred to open shop in the heart of the Castro where most of his client base is located, but he chose this storefront close to Church Street because the rents were substantially less. Nevertheless, he is excited about the location, as numerous neighbors have already stopped by to welcome him to the neighborhood.

Salon Baobao is open for appointments and walk-ins, with preparations under way for a grand opening celebration on September 16.

Looking forward to Mecca

Next door to Salon Baobao, the restaurant and bar Mecca (2029 Market Street) continues to recover from its June fire. Co-owner Stephen Weber reports that the owners have decided to use this opportunity to freshen up the interior with new colors, new booths, and a new finish on the bar, although the overall design of the space will remain unchanged. Also unchanged will be Mecca's equal emphasis on its food, drinks, and entertainment, as well as its desire to appeal to the full cross-section of San Francisco diners – gay and straight, male and female, romantic diners and bar minglers alike.

The fire originated in a wood-burning oven in the kitchen, and fittingly the oven is gone now. In its place executive chef Randy Lewis has installed a wood-fired grill and an Italian fire rotisserie, allowing him to expand his menu in new directions. During this period of closure Mecca has continued to pay its staff and plans to reopen with the same crew as before.

Weber, along with David Jennings and five other partners, owns Mecca and Bagdad Cafe further up Market at 16th Street. He describes the group as "a bunch of neighborhood guys" who enjoy being part of and investing in the community.

Mecca's reopening has been delayed by construction issues, but Weber currently estimates that the doors will reopen in early October.

The Tao of beauty

The Martin de Porres Medical Building across the street from Delano's IGA Market has a new tenant who can help you look better for your next date, or help you recover from your last one. Tao Boutique Day Spa (4200 18th Street, Suite 203) offers therapeutic massage and skin treatments in a tranquil, second-story oasis.

Co-owner Jaimie Mak proudly shows off the spa hideaway, which was until recently an austere clinical office, while enthusiastically describing the positive reaction and support Tao has already received from Castro residents and other businesses in the neighborhood. Mak acknowledges the competitive commercial environment in the Castro, but she touts Tao's full range of spa treatments and late business hours as key differentiators. (Tao closes at 9 p.m. each night.)

The spa is currently accepting appointments at (415) 255-8338 with an official grand opening on September 1. Mak also will offer a 20 percent discount during the month of September to clients who mention the Bay Area Reporter.

The circus runs away

Last weekend the Under One Roof special gift sale ended its short run, exceeding its goal by pulling in over $28,000 to support local AIDS agencies. The sale was held in the former Tower Records space, graciously donated by building owners Kent and Edna Jeffrey. Next up for Under One Roof (549 Castro Street) is the "Bubble Games," a fundraiser set for September 15 that consists of teams traveling through the streets of San Francisco to hunt down the secrets of champagne and sparkling wine. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

The Metro moves one stop east

The Castro will say goodbye to the Metro bar (3600 16th Street) on August 30 after 26 years at its present location overlooking the intersection of Market, 16th, and Noe streets. Owners Richard Pearson and Mario Enriquez (life-partners as well as business partners) have lost their lease at the present site, and will be moving the bar down to 2124 Market Street, into the space currently occupied by the Expansion bar. The relocated Metro will feature the same staff, but will trade its distinctive balconies for pool tables and more of a sports-bar environment. Pearson, who formerly owned the Rainbow Cattle Company in Guerneville, describes the new space as "basic, funky, and comfortable."

The new Metro opens September 1.

Muscles to the Max

Max Muscle (3600 16th Street) is back with new owners under an old name. The previous owner had operated the store first as a Max Muscle franchise and then as an independent store under the name Maximum Strength & Health, but as of July 21 new owners Maurice Sandoval and Mark Sarale have brought the store back into the corporate fold. The store offers a wide range of nutritional supplements and fitness-related items, as well as diet and nutrition counseling from a certified sports nutritionist.

Check out Raymond Flournoy's Castro Shopper blog at

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