Mike’s Deli hadn´t been doing well for a while, and its owner, Mike Jweinat, thought it was time to give the spot a sexier look. He created some new sandwiches, colorful signs, and a brand-new name: Gunz and Bunz.
The idea only lasted a couple of weeks.
“The community says it’s too violent,” said Jweinat. “We’re not violent, we don’t sell weapons!”
Jweinat just wanted to sell sandwiches, but residents in a neighborhood where shootings aren’t uncommon failed to see the humor, so the space at 3100 24th Street at Folsom is once again Mike’s Deli. After all, the new name was meant to sell more, not fewer, sandwiches.
The only reminder of its brief spell with a new name is a small sign on the board inside.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Jweinat as he sat in Purple Haze, the smoke shop he owns nearby. “They came and said that they are trying to clean the area, to have kids here,” he said referring to neighbors. He told them to clean up the drugs at the corners, not the small businesses.
“They said that they wouldn’t come here and would take photographs and tell others not to come either,” he said. He was supposed to go to a community meeting to explain his point of view, but he decided to remove the sign instead.
In fact, he said, the name came from the Lebanese fast-food restaurant Buns and Guns. Now closed, it was located in a suburb of Beirut and caught the attention of the media back in 2008. There, it was good for business.
The thought that his neighbors believed he was promoting violence still offends him. Jweinat arrived in the United States from Jordan when he was 15, and has lived and owned businesses in the Mission for more than 25 years.
Erick Argüello, from the Lower 24th Street Merchants and Neighbors Association, said the group received only two e-mails complaining about the name, so it surprised him when Jweinat took it down. Argüello was still trying to mediate the conflict.
“He has been in the neighborhood for a long time and has helped to clean the block,” Argüello said. “I told him what people were saying. With the violence here, the shootings…. They feel offended.”
The name change was so brief that some in the neighborhood had not even heard about it. Scot Thompson at nearby Mission Skateboards had not, but acknowledged, “Gunz and Bunz…. I don’t think I would have chosen that name.”
Ángeles López, at the store De Todo Un Poco, was also unaware but unsupportive. “Those names promote violence, and specially here, the 24th, which is not a very safe street,” she said in Spanish.
Not everyone agreed. “No, it doesn´t offend me,” said Greg Stauffer, who has been working at Bello Coffee & Tea for a month and ate at the deli during its brief stint as Gunz and Bunz.
Jweinat still has a $6 discount coupon for Gunz and Bunz online, and it’s valid until January 21, 2012.
“I just thought it was like a sexy name,” he said wistfully.