Pork Store Cafe has long been a renowned San Francisco breakfast spot with a storied history. It all began in 1916, when a Czechoslovakian couple immigrated to the United States and opened the original Pork Store, which was a butcher shop on Haight Street.
Over 100 years later, current owner Art Herzallah carries on the tradition of serving delicious, home-cooked style meals to San Franciscans. Pork Store now has a second location in the Mission District.
“I have a story with this place. I used to be the manager here, started in 2002. Then in 2013, I purchased it. I’ve been here for about seventeen years,” shares Herzallah.
“I’ve always been in the restaurant industry. By coincidence I was friends with the old owner. We were friends, but didn’t know we were both involved in the industry. When we found out, I started running this place. It was a family atmosphere, so I could implement my own ideas. The previous experiences I had were in corporate. You always had to go up the ladder to get approval. Here, we just try ideas. If they work, we apply them. If they don’t, we move on. I like that part of it. I like working in a San Francisco neighborhood rather than just serving professionals here and there.”
The importance of community and a friendly atmosphere has sustained Pork Store and its staff throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Coronavirus affected us big time,” says Herzallah. “Business decreased more than half. It wasn’t as bad as other spots, because I’ve always been a partner with a lot of platforms that do delivery. That was something good to build on during this emergency. But it’s definitely affected our numbers and the well-being of our employees.”
“It’s getting better in terms of us getting used to it,” he expands. “Businesses are still paying rent for a big operation. Your purchasing and labor is less, but when you factor in rents, it’s a lot. Though our landlord has been really understanding and wonderful.”
In this new landscape, Herzallah has had to rethink his approach to serving food and connecting with customers. “I adjusted my hours, so I open longer than I used to. Because my menu is virtual now, that’s what people are looking at, rather than walking on the streets.”
By working with online platforms like Chow Now, Pork Store has been able to continue serving its classics like eggs Benedict, pancakes, and Mediterranean infused dishes. After all, even in a pandemic, comfort food provides welcome succor to hungry patrons.
Herzallah is not only looking out for his customers, he is also invested in providing stability to his staff, who he says have become like family to him over the years. “We used to close at 3:30 and we only advertised breakfast and lunch online. Now we added dinners and extended hours so we can keep a couple of full-time employees going. Once things are ready to reopen, you can’t do it alone. My staff has been around with me for a long time, so I’m doing the best I can to sustain as many as I can.”
Herzallah’s dedication to and love of his community has been returned. He says, “A lot of our customers want to give more, they want to support local business. It’s amazing how people went above and beyond.”
“Food is a part of this culture, it’s a part of this city. It’s not going away. We just have to adjust what we’re doing according to the times.”