SF People Interviews: Christa Hill of “Hey, Cookie!”

This is part of a series of interviews of people that make up the patchwork quilt of personalities that is San Francisco.

"Hey, Cookie!" Dolores ParkI first met Christa the same way many people do while enjoying some sun in Dolores Park. I immediately fell in love with her charming personality and energy she brings to embodying “Hey, Cookie!”. If you have been living under a rock somewhere and somehow haven’t made it out to Dolores Park on a sunny afternoon, then you may not know who she is. Christa visits Dolores Park and several other locations selling her sweet little treats wearing her signature dresses and carrying her antique wicker basket. To note, her baked edibles are “non-medicinal” as in they don’t have any pot in them. This is something you actually have to clarify in San Francisco when selling cookies and brownies.

Christa has become a friend of mine recently and even made a surprise appearance at my birthday party at 500 Club where she brought me a Rice Krispy Treat with a candle and a party hat.

hey cookie kevin's bday

Christa surprised me by showing up at my birthday party at 500 Club and bringing a party hat & rice-krispy treat with a candle to blow out.

Missionhipsters: So for people who don’t know, what is “Hey, Cookie” and where can they tend to find you?

Christa Hill:  “Hey, Cookie!” is a dessert catering service. You can typically find me in Dolores park or bars in The Castro, Mission, or Lower Haight. My cookies are also sold at Claire’s Deli, H Cafe on 17th Street, DRIPD Coffee on 9th Avenue, and Cup of Joe on Sutter.

MH: What did you do before you started selling treats in the park?

CH: I’m originally from Maryland, just outside of DC, a town called Bowie (spelled just like David Bowie, but pronounced Boo-wee). I came out to San Francisco during spring break while in my Junior year of college…When I drove over the bridge into the city it was like Dorothy finding Oz. I Just loved it. I decided to come to California after college, and I served as a Vista volunteer in Monterey County. I  later worked as the Executive Director for the the Albany-Berkeley-Emeryville Chapter of Rebuilding Together and the Major Gifts Officer for the Gorilla Foundation.

Community service and community building are still very important to me.  I try to donate Hey, Cookie’s services at least once a month to different charities.  For example, in the past month, I sold cookies to raise money for Swoony for Muni, where all the profits went toward improving Bay Area transit.

MH:  How did you come up with idea for “Hey, Cookie!”?

I used to offer my help with fundraisers for friends and local organizations because of my nonprofit background. A few years ago, I held a bake sale for a rabbit rescue organization, SaveABunny, on the eve of Easter. I didn’t bake a thing—I just facilitated the event. I mobilized volunteers, coordinated efforts, and set up shop. We raised $1,200 in four hours.

The next year, I quit my job when my mom had a stroke. When Easter was coming up, I thought that I should help SaveABunny again, and then I thought, “Wait a minute—maybe I should help myself!” That’s how it got started. I truly thought it was just going to be a one-day event, but it turned out to be a really fun and rewarding position.

I continued to sell my cookies in the park and was lucky enough to sell out each the time. One day, I didn’t sell out, so I popped into Moby Dick’s in The Castro and ended up selling the rest. I sought out more bars where the bartenders or bouncers said it was okay to come in.  Eventually, I started doing birthday deliveries, and deliveries to companies like Yelp or organizations like SPUR.

hey, cookie! and truffle guy

Dolores Park icons “Hey, Cookie!” and The Truffle Guy.

MH: Where did the name “Hey, Cookie” come from?

CH: People started calling me Alice and Dorothy based off my outfit. Other people called out “Hey Cookie Lady!” or “Cookie”. So, “Hey, Cookie!” seemed to be the perfect fit for this tiny, mobile cookie shop.

MH: I’m trying to think how to describe your outfit – perhaps German Milkmaid Realness?

CH: I wanted something goofy and unique. My first outfit was actually a square dancing dress. I now have over 25 dresses, including dirndls, the female version of lederhosen. Having an outfit allows me to become “Hey, Cookie!”, it’s like having armor when I might be feeling too shy to sell.

MH:  What’s it like to be recognized as a part of the Dolores Park experience?  Why is it important to stand out from the crowd?

CH: I suppose it is basic marketing. It’s important to be visible and recognizable. I have become my very own walking logo, and it is so exciting to know that it is working!

What better compliment than to hear that people have dressed up as “Hey, Cookie!” for Halloween?  It just makes me beam!

During the past two Bay to Breakers, my close buddies were kind enough to don tights, dresses and wigs, and become “Hey, Cookie!” for the race.  It was my friend Tessa Greenwood’s brilliant idea to underscore the brand, and I think it really worked.

"Hey, Cookie!"

“Hey, Cookie!” and friends at Bay to Breakers.

MH: What types of cookies do you sell?

CH: There are many variety of cookies, and the list keeps growing! The current offerings, include: chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, butterscotch oatmeal, vegan mexican wedding cookies, gluten-free peanut butter with peanut butter cups, bourbon cranberry and white chocolate, chocolate and mint, toffee, triple chocolate cherry, paleo coconut cups, gluten-free rich chocolate morsels, snickerdoodles; as well as some other treats: brownies, Rice Krispie treats, raspberry shortbread bars, spicy pumpkin bites, and caramel chocolate coconut delights.

"Hey, Cookie!" cookie assortmentMH:  Can we find you on Twitter and Facebook?

CH: Yes, I’m on twitter as: @HeyCookieSF and you can ‘like’ my Facebook page to get my updates as well. And of course all my treats are listed on my website:  http://www.heycookiesf.com/

"Hey, Cookie!" tasty treats

A close up of the tasty treats

MH: What do you enjoy about what you do? Anything ever get on your nerves?

CH:  What I really enjoy about what I do is that I can visibly see that I am brightening people’s days. People recognize me when I’m out and they smile. I can feel their warmth and support.  They make me so happy and keep me going, even when I am tired, or feeling discouraged about “pushing” cookies in a goofy dress.

I am a people person, so people don’t tend to get on my nerves, however, I often hear, “You do know you’d make a lot more money if you put pot in these cookies?”. It can be a little taxing to hear it over, and over, and over again.  Some people are even put off to be offered non-medicinal treat, but that’s just not my thing.

MH: What do you like about living in your neighborhood?

CH: I live in the Castro, and have lived in my sleepy little Victorian for 18 years.  I absolutely love my neighbors, local businesses and my community.  It genuinely feels like my extended family.

Maddie, the rabbit

Maddie the rabbit

One example of this sense of community occurred when I lost my pet rabbit named Maddie. Maddie used to hop around in the small garden in front of my house semi-supervised, and was a delight to all that passed by. One day, Maddie was bunny-napped from the front of the house. Somehow, she made her way down to civic center where she was found and brought to the SPCA. This little lost rabbit made quite a splash in our neighborhood.  I received cards, phone calls, flowers from neighbors expressing their support/concern that she was missing and their joy when she returned.  It is that sense of community and care for each other that truly makes the Castro my home.

"Hey, Cookie!" and Author

Christa of “Hey, Cookie!” and me in Dolores Park.

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Mission Cafe Review: Haus Coffee

Haus Cafe San Francisco

I find myself at Haus, one of the most nauseatingly hipster coffee shops in the mission, let alone the whole city and I find myself oddly liking it. The design of the café is simple, modern, and perhaps a bit austere. It’s full of light-colored wood chairs, tables, and scaffolding; a concrete floor, a big glass window letting in the natural light, an open coffee bar where you watch the lone barista behind the counter prepare your drink, and a spacious back patio full of plants and natural light. A bit of sparse artwork adorns one of the walls. It’s obscure, colorful, has no apparent meaning.  Typical of San Francisco one small wall is full of fliers advertising creative writing classes at the “The Writing Salon”, an “Oldies Night” at a local mission bar, a learn to speak Spanish class, a meditation in Spanish class, a mysterious flier that reads: “MATHEMATICS / PLANET EARTH / CLIMATE DISRUPTION”, and various other posters for jazz, theater, and yoga.

Haus coffee interior designThe cafe’s patrons are engrossed in their work. A collection of white people in sloppily thrown together outfits and expensive, stylish shoes are typing away furiously at their keyboards. Are they all writers working on novels and poetry? Or are they programmers creating the next cool app?  (Fun)employed people looking for jobs?  Why is everybody here?

Haus cafe desksOne girl, a blonde, wears a grey button up top, with skinny black pants that taper down to her hi-top silver Nike’s.  She leans into her work with a focus that I recognize, I think I must be doing it too.  Another girl with long brown hair, a flowy white dress, and chunky high-heels pecks aimlessly at her computer, she’s working on some sort of spreadsheet and intermittently checking her Facebook. The most stylish guy there wears some light jeans, a dark t-shirt, and a pull over blue & white striped mariner shirt made of a soft fabric. It’s the type of fabric and texture that is recognizably expensive and designer. He has on some chunky Ray-bans and an expensive James Dean haircut.  Suede boat shoes and a brown leather bomber jacket complete the look, along with a white backpack designed in the satchel style with brown leather trim and metal buckles. It’s an expensive look and a concerted effort to effect that style that’s says I’m cool, but I don’t care that much.  These sort of outfits are what I have come to expect out of The Mission.

Haus Coffee CappucinoThey serve Ritual espresso, so naturally their espresso drinks are delicious.  The barista prepared for me a cappuccino with those little hearts on top. Overall it’s a pretty good place to get work done. Just make sure to bring a Mac and wear your coolest shoes though if you want to fit in.

Haus Cafe San Francisco

Unpretentiousil – A cure for HIPSTER disorder

Finally, the big pharmaceutical companies have gotten together and developed a drug to treat the common anti-mainstream trends that ail us.

How it feels to sit down at a meal with hipsters

How many times have you sat down at a nice meal in The Mission District of San Francisco or a trendy little place in Brooklyn, New York only to have your food subjected to an all out photo shoot followed by your friends amateur critique of the finer flavors of your food? This video captures it perfectly.

#Instafit: body building culture comes to Instragram

instagram logo Over the last few months that I’ve been slowly falling in love with the social photo sharing site Instagram.  It’s a simple little mobile application that allows you to take, edit, and share photos with your friends and the larger Instagram community.  Interestingly there are actually several applications that allow you to take photos and apply filters to make your pictures look pretty, but only Instagram has gotten the social aspect right.  (Examples of other applications include: Hipstamatic, PhotoShop Express, and Camera by SmugMug.)

Never mind that Instagram doesn’t necessarily have the best filters to be applied to doctor up their photos, it’s the social element that has made it a big success.  Instagram intrigues people with the process of discovering new photos and users, as well as the excitement and validation from receiving multiple likes on your photos.  From art to nature photos, from travel to food porn, and from pictures of couples and friends – Instagram has it all. Of all these areas to discover, one trend has certainly caught my eye: the body building community.

IMG_6053The body building community has been around for a long time (at least since the 1970’s in the U.S.), but the rise of social networks and body-building forums have allowed this dispersed community of bodybuilders to come together virtually. They trade advice on workout routines and nutritional supplements in body building forums, as well as complement and comment on each other’s progress on weightlifting goals by posting pictures in common sites. With the advent of Instagram its become that much easier for these folks to find, comment, and follow each other.  These bodybuilders comment on each other’s pictures with encouragement like: “great pic! Keep posting!”, “sick abs, great job man”,  “what’s your workout routine like, have any IMG_6054tips?” and some that become a little more directly sexual like “U are gorgeous”, “I think U so sexy”, and “take off the pants & underwearrr”.  The funny thing about this is that many of these body builders, who are purportedly heterosexual, receive just as many of these comments from girls as they do from guys. They write in their personal bios: “just me tryna get big”, “shrugs not drugs”, “fitness and music keep me young”, “forever young”, “follow me on twitter”, “add me on kik”.

There are also a few super users making a name for themselves by re-sharing other bodybuilders’ photos and then encouraging their followers to like and follow the featured body builder of the day. Examples of these include “RuIMG_6055ffRoad”, “CuteBoys” and “HotGuysWorld”. (They may be walking a fine line of ethical & legal rules because it seems some of them get taken down from time to time.) Many users use hashtags (#) in the descriptions of their photos to tag their photo as discoverable for a certain theme. Bodybuilders are not the humble sort, but rather into self promotion using tags like: “#model, #sexy, #sixpack, #hottie, #muscle, #picoftheday, #stunning, #adorable, #instaboys, and #instafit.

Most of this is all fine and good. However there are certainly some troublesome things brewing in here. First of all there is the very likely possibility that many of the pictures being shared and re-shared are of underage youth (below 18 years old) and their pictures are being consumed and sexualized by adults. Second, many young adults and teenagers are now becoming part of this hyper-sexualized and steroid enhancing world – which is putting them at risk. The kid in this last photo here definitely looks barely 18. The NY Times had a nice article on this a while back: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/19/health/teenage-boys-worried-about-body-image-take-risks.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

And since this website starting as a hipster-bashing blog I feel that I should mention my college friend’s site: http://definitionhipster.com/ and Instagram handle: DEFINITIONHIPSTER.  His weinstagram photo missionbsite allows people to submit pictures of people and then vote on on a scale of 1 to 10 on how hipster they look in the photo.

You can also follow my Instagram: MISSIONHIPSTERS. I apologize in advance if you got to my profile hoping to find shirtless pictures of dudes, sorry you won’t find any there.