City’s ’06 business survivors honored

Businesses in San Francisco that survived the 1906 earthquake were honored Friday by city leaders, who also acknowledged the contributions many made in rebuilding The City.

Many Gavin Newsom, who owns several restaurants and business enterprises in San Francisco, said that the fact that the honored companies had lasted for more than 100 years was worthy of recognition in itself.

“Just surviving five years as a business owner is a bloody miracle, let alone lasting 100,” said Newsom.

The 70-plus businesses recognized had opened their doors prior to April 18, 1906 — the day a 7.8 magnititude earthquake devastated The City — and are still in business today.

“Over the years, much has been said about the individual survivors of the 1906 Earthquake, but we have never before brought together the business survivors,” said Assemblyman Mark Leno, who hosted the ceremony, held outside Brownies Hardware on Polk Street, one of the businesses honored.

Many of the businesses in San Francisco in 1906 reopened just days after the earthquake, said San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President Jim Lazarus.

“They were also there in 1989 [the year of the Loma Prieta Earthquake] and they'll be there again,” said Lazarus, who added that he was particularly proud of his grandfather, a San Francisco jeweler that re-opened the business after the 1906 quake.

Stephen Cornell was owner of Brownies Hardware during the 1989 earthquake. Despite losing power, the store stayed open and gave customers credit for items they needed, such as flashlights.

“Within two weeks every person came back [and paid],” said Cornell, who inherited ownership of the store from his father who bought it from its founder Edgar Brownstone in 1950. “It really tells you something about San Francisco.”

Other business survivors recognized at the event included Fior d'Italia restaurant, King-American Ambulance, Benkyodo bakery, Sherman Clay Piano, Anchor Brewing, Cherin's Appliances, Maxferd Pawnbrokers, McRoskey Mattress and Swinton Builders.

“The keys are adapting and adjusting to the challenges,” said Swinton VP Andrew Holden, who said the last member of the Swinton family died several years ago and the company is now employee-owned. “That's what's allowed us to succeed.”

beslinger@examiner.com

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