Photography by Michelle Kilfeather
Welcome to Season 6 of the Storied: San Francisco podcast!
We really couldn't dream of a better place to kick things off than Bayview's Old Skool Café. In Part 1, we meet Teresa Goines, the founder and president of Old Skool. Originally from Tucson, Teresa spent a lot of time growing up in the country (which we call desert) outside Tucson.
She left to get a bachelor's degree in psychology at UC Santa Barbara. She had planned to become a therapist, citing her father's severe disability with instilling a caretaker mentality in her from a young age. She had always wanted to alleviate suffering in others.
But after college, Teresa had an opportunity to work with youth in the Santa Barbara County prison, as she was also interested in law enforcement. She says she wanted to mitigate trauma at its source.
In her time spent time with incarcerated youth, Teresa heard stories of mere survival over hope and promise. Many inmates got few or no visitors and no mail. These were 14- and 15-year-olds. Teresa felt like society had thrown them away, but despite it all, they were hungry for love and opportunity.
Teresa started a career exploration program for the youth where she brought in firefighters and computer programmers and took kids to the local city college. Through these efforts, she saw them starting to hope. But as soon as they were released from prison, they'd go right back to the street economies they were familiar with. Many youth would tell Teresa that they wanted to be back in prison, because it was safer there and there's more love.
Thinking about how to stop this cycle is what led to Old Skool Café. But how she got there is its own story.
She lived in Guadalajara for a stint, and then went to New York City for a job opportunity that ended falling apart before she began. This was 2001, and her original start date was Sept. 10.
A college friend who was from San Francisco and moved back here after graduation told her, "Come here." Teresa decided to try it ... "for a year."
Upon arrival on New Year's Eve 2001, she worked in a gang prevention program and Head Start. The vision of Old Skool started coming together in 2004, with dinners set in her home at the outset. At the end of 2005, she quit her job to do Old Skool full-time.
To inform the nascent operation, Teresa listened to incarcerated kids talk about what they got out of being in gangs and translated that to its themes: belonging and purpose. She wanted to offer those ideas in different forms and the ideas came in three parts: 1. She wanted to break the cycle of going back to jail, 2. She saw that SF is a foodie city and that we love music here, and 3. The City is a tourist destination with a huge hospitality industry, and hospitality jobs can be taken just about anywhere.
It didn't hurt that servers get tips in cash, and cash competes with life on the street. The more introverted youth could be back of house at a restaurant, using their creativity and focus back there and seeing people up front love what they do. Teresa always saw room in the operation for entertainment. She noticed that her youth crew included comedians, poets, dancers, and singers.
To secure a space for Old Skool outside her home, Teresa connected with local church leaders, who told her that churches needed to get behind her vision. A group of Bayview pastors had a place in mind and gave Teresa a good deal on rent. Eventually, she had a chance to buy the building that housed Old Skool, and so she learned how to raise money.
One donor gave them $300K, which allowed them to get a matching loan for the same amount. Old Skool paid off its loan at the end of 2019, right before the pandemic.
In terms of what's next at Old Skool, Teresa points to their growing team of adults and youth, both formerly incarcerated and kids from the foster system. Folks in other cities have reached out asking for an Old Skool of their own, and now the SF team has a chance to explore that. We end Part 1 with Teresa expressing how very important it is to them that Old Skool Café is rooted in San Francisco.
In Part 2, Teresa shares how she came to find out about Chef Eddie Blyden through a mutual friend. She was persistent in her efforts to track Eddie down, and once she did, she asked him to teach the youth in the nascent Old Skool program, which was still taking place at Teresa’s house.
Eddie agreed to join the Old Skool crew and he brought in other SF chefs. They did supper salons and pop-ups as well as gala fundraisers with as many as 250 guests. Chef would cook outside the events, which were volunteer-run and meant to raise money for their own brick-and-mortar space. Later, years after Eddie had moved on and as she was preparing for the 10-year anniversary of the Old Skool spot just off Third Street, Teresa reached out again to her chef friend.
Eddie Blyden was born in Nigeria. His dad was born in Sierra Leone, and his mom was from Massachusetts. He has lived in the US, the Virgin Islands, Africa, and Europe. He was living in Zurich, Switzerland, when a friend told Eddie he was opening brewery in The City. This is what brought him to the Bay—he moved here to help open 21st Amendment.
Eddie says that he has remained here for nearly three decades because of the beauty, the proximity to so many diverse landscapes, the food scene, and the laid-back way of life we enjoy. After they opened 21st Amendment, he left briefly to work in Philadelphia, but came back to work at Magnolia Brewing as they were ramping up to open The Alembic.
He lists off many restaurants and hotels, in SF and the East Bay, where worked for years before going private as well as doing some catering.
The Old Skool chef tells us that the menu at the supper club was inspired by the youth who've worked there, drawing from several family food lines from Central America and other parts of the world. He cites three challenges of running the kitchen at OSC: 1. the food itself; 2. working with youth around the food; and 3. the youth and their life challenges. He enjoys it to this day, pointing to what he considers a “village of people, adults and youth.”
Old Skool's hours are as follows:
Happy hour every Wednesday from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Dinner Thursdays through Saturdays from 5 to 9 p.m.
Visit Old Skool's website for more info and to sign up for their newsletter. Follow them on Instagram.
We recorded this podcast at Old Skool Cafe in the Bayview in September 2023.