“Dollars for Deb” Eric Whittington billed the fund-raiser.
Whittington, proprietor of Bird & Beckett, has thrown rent parties with live jazz before, to help keep his independent bookstore open for another month. But over the summer, he threw a rent party for Destination Bakery’s Deb Lunsford, a neighborhood favorite who’s recovering from surgery.
Bakery regulars know Deb as the doler-out of coffee and baked goodies for the human customers, and dog treats for the four-legged ones.
“Deb hosted awesome pancake breakfasts for me back in 2002 when the bookstore was located where Manzoni’s now is,” Whittington told the Glen Park News. “Those benefits paid the rent and much more.”
“We haven’t missed a Friday night of jazz in all that time,” continued Whittington, “and this was an opportunity to pay a little back to Deb.”
Kind of karmic—it’s that kind of bookstore.
Joe Schuver, the owner of Destination Bakery who prepared the Diamond Street pancake batter 17 years ago, like Deb, has been MIA for some time. Deb underwent a knee replacement, while Joe is recuperating from recent heart surgery. Both plan to come back to work when they’re healthy enough, but in the meantime the bakery is closed on Sundays and Mondays, and has temporarily dropped some specialties.
While she recuperates, Deb needed a little financial help from her fans. So the neighborhood pitched in, both on-line and on July 26, when the 230 Jones Street Band and special guest pianist Eric Shifrin kicked off the first set with a rendition of “Travelin’ Light.”
Whittington’s efforts paid dollar dividends. “Like $4,500,” Deb told the Glen Park News.
“It was crowded early, crazy crowded,” a jazz lover and a Deb supporter said about the crush of Deb fans. Meanwhile, the guest of honor reigned from a seat that Whittington had reserved for her.
At a break, between numbers, Deb called out over the crowd’s buzz: “Hello Eric. You haven’t aged a bit….have I?”
The shout-out was directed not at Whittington, but at Shifrin, who provided the vocals for “Travelin’ Light.”
He and Deb go back to the early 1990s, when the Malibu-born Shifrin performed at clubs throughout North Beach, including fabled Enrique’s on Broadway. Deb was the manager there.
At the set break, Shifrin wasn’t shy about singing the praises of the other Eric.
“I love Eric and Bird & Beckett,” said Shrifin, who minutes later fittingly sang “Please Send Me Someone To Love,” the Percy Mayfield standard. “It’s the best place in town to listen to jazz. Never noisy. Other places—people just won’t shut up!”
Florence Hitchcock, 88, sat a couple of rows in front of Deb, close to the stage. A retired elementary teacher who taught at Commodore Sloat, Brett Harte and San Francisco Community School, Hitchcock lives in Noe Valley, but is no stranger to Bird & Beckett or Destination Bakery.
“I sit at Joe’s over a cup of coffee and work on the New York Times crossword puzzle,” she said, waiting for saxophonist Jerry Logas to begin another tune from the American songbook, “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To.”
“And the bookstore?” she mused. “San Francisco is changing so much. I cherish the kind of people who come here to browse and to listen to music.”
Pausing, she added, “They’re not faceless.”
Deb, who since her summer surgery has been recuperating in her Bernal Heights digs, found herself surrounded by a legion of friends, including Marilee Hearn, a long-time bakery customer. Hearn assisted Whittington in pulling off the fund-raiser.
“Marilee is a dear friend,” volunteered Deb. “She made this happen.”
Heather World, who lives on Chenery Street, sat only seats from Deb.
“Deb’s a wonderful, friendly person, really one of a kind,” World emailed the Glen Park News a month after the rent party. “I really miss seeing her at the bakery. I was so happy to see the neighborhood rally around her.”
She added. “It’s these local shops and local people that make Glen Park the neighborhood it is. I’m so grateful to live here where we all know and help one another. And, of course, the fund-raiser was at Bird & Beckett. Eric is one of the most generous people I know, and his bookstore is an anchor for good will and good happenings.”
“I’m getting stronger every day, everything is getting back to normal, and I’m in great spirits back at home.” Deb told the Glen Park News by phone on Aug. 13. “I’m doing my PT, take ‘knee’ classes at Kaiser and walk my bicycle around the neighborhood.”
She said she planned to be back behind the counter by late September. “And Joe,” she added, “he’s doing great, getting stronger every day.”
In fact, on Aug. 27 Joe paid a social call to the bakery, thanking the employees for keeping the ovens on.
“It’s such a great neighborhood,” said Deb. “Can you believe it? All that generosity, I’m still writing thank-you notes to the beautiful people in Glen Park. I owe everyone so much.”