Discolandia: Font Stays, Sign Goes?

Photograph by Lissette Mejia.

Photograph by Lissette Mejia.

En Español.

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Word is out: The storefront formerly occupied by Discolandia will become a restaurant named Pig & Pie. Conditional use permit hearing scheduled for September. Restaurant tentatively slated to open in November.

And so the question is: What will become of the sign?

Discolandia’s owner, Silvia Rodriguez, crafted the sign for the record store in 1962, from an older sign that read “La Casa de los Discos.”

Rodriguez bought the business for $500 when she was just 19 years old. Over the next few decades, she built it into a hub of the Latino music scene. A description of the store in its heyday depicts a place that was part record store, part social club.

Ismael Miranda, the famous Puerto Rican salsa singer, would buy old Cuban LPs of guanguanco and guaracha music for inspiration. Oscar D’León, a Venezuelan salsa star, would come by to drink Cuban coffee and buy records and listen to songs that were older than himself, Rodriguez said. Tito Puente, a famous Puerto Rican timbalero, began to drop by after he saw Celia Cruz make a stop there.

Rodriguez kept the record store open long after others — Ritmo Latino, Mission Music — had closed their doors. “I couldn’t live without Discolandia,” she said when Mission Loc@l interviewed her last summer. “I wake up and get ready for this. I’m working for the love of the art.” She closed in the business in January of this year because of health problems.

In the Mission, where distinctions between public and private often blur, the older something gets the more it tends to be viewed as community property. The neighborhood is full of people still smarting over the loss of 17 Reasons, the sign for a long-defunct furniture store, nearly a decade ago. The sign continues to sail like a ghost ship through the local imagination, reappearing in poems and plays and books and tattoos and television shows.

When Discolandia closed, it became clear that, for some, its sign had a similar resonance.

After getting word that a neighbor had written to the Historic Preservation Commission to express her concern and ask what could be done to protect the sign, the building’s new leaseholder, Miles Pickering, told Mission Loc@l that he was surprised to find that people were concerned about its preservation. He added, though, that he was considering continuing in the tradition begun by Rodriguez, by altering the sign to replace “Disco” with a new word.

Pickering also said that he was contemplating leaving the entire “Discolandia” section in place and changing the sign that says “Records,” since rumor had it that the “Records” sign projected too far out into the street and was likely to be deemed in violation of the city’s planning code now that the space had changed hands. “I don’t want to run into problems about the sign,” he said then. “It seems like we can change the lettering and still be respectful of the history. That’s my opinion, but I could be wrong.”

Last week, the food blog Grub Street posted that Pickering and his business partner, Nathan Overstreet, had put in for a liquor license under the name Pig & Pie. Not an “olandia” to be seen.

The news was posted on the blog Mission Mission, and comments quickly turned to the fate of the sign.

One excited reader put together a quick Photoshop image of the storefront letters spelling out “Porkolandia.”

Wishful thinking. Image originally published on Mission Mission. Photoshopping by Chris Klippel.

Not quite, said Pickering, in response. He loved the sign, he said. He loved the storefront.

But, he said, there would be a new sign. It would have a similar font, but it would read “Pig & Pie.”

Both signs will qualify for historic status when they turn 50, in 2012. The Vintage Sign Ordinance [PDF], which protects old signs that are no longer in compliance with city codes, was passed by the Board of Supervisors this past Tuesday. That ordinance, inspired by neighborhood devotion to an old Coca-Cola mural on the side of a former general store in Bernal Heights, only protects signs on property owned by people who actually want to keep those signs.

The new ordinance may protect Pickering from having to remove the “Records” portion of the sign, as long as he doesn’t make any major alterations to it.

Nicholas Saucedo, the agent for the building’s owner, told Mission Loc@l back in March that Pickering had already signed a contract giving him the option of replacing the sign.

An employee at Architectural Resources Group, a San Francisco-based private firm that specializes in historic preservation, told Mission Loc@l that the best, and perhaps only, way to preserve the sign would be to contact the Neighborhood Planning teams at the San Francisco Planning Department.

“Use words like ‘concerned citizens,’” said the employee, who asked to remain anonymous. “Organize a petition drive.”

Many thanks to Lissette Alvarez and Lisette Mejia for the reporting they contributed to this story. 

5 Comments

  1. Miles

    Ok, to clarify here, because the way this is written makes it sound like we’ve already made up our minds about what’s going to happen to the sign and everything is set in stone, we haven’t made up our minds yet and nothing is set in stone. There are a lot of options on the table and community feedback to listen to and after that a process to go through with the city. We don’t know what’s going to happen but we hope that we’ll be able to preserve what’s out there (within reason) and also reflect the changing nature of the business.

    Also, our conditional use permit is not slated to be approved in September, we have a hearing in September. It’s not a given that the permit will be granted and it’s a mistake to assume that it will be. The planners may decide that 24th street doesn’t need another restaurant and we’re pretty much SOL. We hope they’ll see our side of the picture though. We think Pig and Pie will add significantly to the diversity of food available and bring people into the neighborhood.

  2. claire

    Four and Water, Hogs and Rocks and now Pig and Pie? Come on! Break the mold!! Give your spot a little charm and uniqueness. You should just keep the sign. It’s awesome and historical. Possibly lose that for PIG and PIE??? Really? Ditch the Pig and Pie nonsense! Ugh. The Mission keeps losing it’s character and it’s depressing.

  3. CRS

    Very nice and congrats, P&P!

    P.S. Get rid of the sign.

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