Bernal Cutlery has been in the news of late for reasons that no owner wants: a fire and a discombobulation of business smack dab in the middle of the holiday shopping season. That made working on this piece all the more inspiring. We knew the story of Josh Donald and Kelly Kozak, we knew what it had taken to build Bernal Cutlery and we knew the hopes enveloped in their new shop at 766 Valencia St. The fire was all the more painful because of what we knew.

The story of Bernal Cutlery started many years ago in a small kitchen. Josh Donald had recently been laid off. Kelly Kozak was adding up the bills. They didn’t have enough for groceries. Josh was sharpening a knife at the table. Why not offer a sharpening service in the neighborhood to make ends meet?

“The Story of Knives” is an illustrated tale about love, overcoming addiction and the resilience it takes to stay together.

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Mimi Chakarova

Multimedia Editor

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  1. Not meaning to throw any shade or be a curmudgeon on Jan 1, but this touches a bit on how the Mission has lost its soul over the last two decades. Working class people, largely but not entirely latino, have been squeezed out of the neighborhood by the soaring property values wrought in part by the proliferation of gentrifying, phony “live/work” condos. Before Bi-Rite defenestrated him and took over his space for artisanal masturbation classes, you could get your knives expertly sharpened very inexpensively in an actual live/work space on 18th St by one Jivano, a colorful character sewn into the tapestry of the neighborhood. Then, soon after Jivano’s departure, you could get your knives sharpened not so inexpensively by these nice kids right around the corner from where Jivano previously holed up. They have now moved one block away on up to ground zero of gentrification, 18th & Valencia. I don’t blame them at all for what happened to Jivano – they just filled the vacuum created by the Bi-Rite-rification of the neighborhood. I sympathize with the setback the fire caused them, and I wish them the best, but I know that I and a majority of remaining longtime Mission-dwellers unfortunately can’t afford their services.

    1. Sam, Jivano was cheaper because he did shitty work. He destroyed my knives when I took them to him to be sharpened. Your nostalgia for “the good old days of the Mission” is misplaced.

    2. I love(d) Jivano, but he doesn’t sharpen knives so much as grind them when it’s not necessary. I went to him forever until I lost him after his space was taken over, not to mention learning to sharpen my knives myself, but he does one thing and that thing does not need to be done in order to sharpen a knife.

      And of course this is something you also find in “old neighborhood” situations, long-time businesses that ultimately aren’t all that good. I always wished Jivano would expand into doing true sharpening.

  2. Liked that these folks got their act together. Good to see the drug addict to small business owner progression. And they can employ others, so that is a good social dividend. Nice video production.

  3. Awesome piece! I loved hearing about my neighbors, along with the beautiful imagery. This format is beautiful. Well done!

  4. Very cool. Reminiscent of the ‘this american life’ that profiled Trouble coffee, which was also amazing. Well done.

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