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Storied: San Francisco

Jul 5, 2023

In Part 3, we pick up where we left off in Part 2, with Mike's story of arriving at Bluxome Street early in the morning on Dec. 4, 2022. His San Francisco legacy business, Babylon Burning, was on fire.

Mike recounts the SFFD firefighters taking care when breaking into the 63 Bluxome art gallery doors that led to Babylon Burning. It was Mike, his wife Judy, and his brother, Clam's, gallery, and it was special. Firefighters also saved finished orders that were just inside the doorway to the screenprinting shop. Some fire had trickled in, on the ceiling and in the back of the shop. But most of the damage came from water, as is the case in most fires.

They saved as much as they could and got to work getting that stuff to storage. Rains were on the way. But their friends, Balboa Theater owner Adam Bergeron and his wife, told them it was time to go home and sleep. They took their friends' advice, but Judy was already at work looking for a new spot.

They lucked out getting an insurance broker that Mike had an immediate connection with. Judy liked him, too. Meanwhile, the task of salvaging what there was to salvage and getting it into storage began in earnest. The heavy rains didn't stop them. The work was under way.

Once they got the main business computer out and back to their coworker, Seth's, apartment, they could really get things going again. Friends with much smaller shops offered their spaces. They now credit their team, their friends, and the community with helping them keep the big ship going. They also got a lot of help from the folks at San Francisco's Legacy Business Program.

Judy was working with the realtor and they began looking at spots around SoMA. They brought the broker to the old Babylon site so he could get an idea of who they were and what they were looking for. They ran through a checklist of things they needed—enough power, gas, walls that could be fashioned into a gallery. After only three weeks, they found 939 Howard Street.

It seemed too big at first. And the landlord's construction crews stored equipment there, so it was hella cluttered. But they liked the front room and could already envision a gallery there. There was a strange middle area that intrigued them. And the back provided ample space for their new shop. Mike and Judy brought Seth to see the space, and it lifted him out of a funk he'd been in since the fire.

They knew that they had to show some big-time love to everyone who got them out of the wilderness and into this new phase. In late-May, they threw a party with music, art, a taco truck, and filled with members of the community who love Babylon Burning. Jeff was there. It was magic.

Now that they're operational, they're planning more events, including a July 29 benefit for The Stud collective, as that group continues the search for a new permanent home. Follow Babylon Burning to stay up to date. And please consider them for any screenprinting needs you might have. Also follow Gallery 939 for updates on art shows and other events.

Photography by Jeff Hunt