| May 2011
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By Erica Reder
Marianne Hampton has lived in Noe Valley for 35 years. A self-described “neighborhood activist,” she sits on the board of Upper Noe Neighbors and volunteers at On Lok’s 30th Street Senior Center. Now Hampton has found a new way to celebrate her community: by starting a gift basket business that features locally made goods.
“I would imagine that my neighbors want to share the good news of what’s in Noe Valley with the people back east, or their sister, or their next-door neighbor,” she says.
Hampton has been doing that herself since she moved to the Bay Area. “I live far away from my family in Pennsylvania,” she explains. “Sending gifts is a way for me to communicate with them and be with them.”
Traditional mail-order gifts have never appealed to Hampton. “I’m not a big fan of sending flowers,” she says. “It just seems very impersonal.” Instead, she prefers to select items from the bounty around her. “We have the newest and most interesting combinations of things here,” she says. “I have to share the story.”
Her business, Regional Gift Baskets, will allow you to send a basket of artisan foods or other gifts and products anywhere in the country. Customers can choose from over 15 different baskets, each filled with Bay Area–produced treats. Some focus on occasions such as Easter or Mother’s Day.
Others reflect their geographical origins. The “Good Morning San Francisco” basket ($89.95) contains breakfast items made exclusively in the city, whereas “Good Day East Bay” ($59.95) gathers edibles from across the Bay.
And then there’s the “Noe Valley Day Break,” so far the only neighborhood-inspired basket. The $69.95 package includes a jar of Noe Valley Apiaries Honey harvested by beekeeper Philip Gerrie in his 26th Street back yard. It also comes with coffee beans, pastries, and a mug from Café XO on Church Street.
Other items in the basket hail from slightly farther away. “A pound of coffee and some pastries is not a full breakfast for somebody who doesn’t drink coffee,” laughs Hampton. For that reason, she includes a pot of Berkeley-based Artisana nut spread and squares of Oakland-based Fearless Chocolate, among other goodies.
But Hampton hopes to have a wholly 94114 basket soon. “I am going to uncover every last straw and find stuff that’s one hundred percent Noe Valley,” she says. “I just found somebody trying to do maple syrup in the neighborhood, and I bet you a dollar somebody has tea.”
Hampton also seeks out gifts that are kind to the earth.
Her “Green Morning SF” basket ($59.95) features breakfast goods made by eco-friendly companies like Jeremiah’s Pick Coffee. The South of Market roaster only buys beans from sustainable farms. Other San Francisco suppliers in the mix include 18 Rabbits, which makes organic granola, and David Rio, a tea company that supports animal welfare organizations.
In addition, Hampton favors businesses with altruistic missions. “As much as I dig the creativity part of people starting up businesses, I also dig people improving their lives whether they come from an at-risk situation or they’re low-income,” she says.
To that end, Regional Gift Baskets will donate a portion of proceeds to La Cocina, an industrial kitchen on Folsom Street that helps low-income entrepreneurs grow their own businesses. Several baskets feature products made by La Cocina graduates, such as Slow Jams fruit conserves and Clairesquares shortbread. And Hampton’s Spa Basket ($69.95) includes eye pillows made by Keep Turning Heads—a Mission nonprofit that teaches at-risk youth how to sew.
A sampling of baskets can be viewed at www.regionalgiftbaskets.com. Hampton says customers may order online or call her directly. Though shipping costs apply for places outside the city, delivery is free in San Francisco.
For now, Hampton works out of her house on 30th near Dolores. “I have a big garage,” she says.
But she hopes Regional Gift Baskets will one day have a visible presence in the neighborhood. “I have this dream. I would love to have a storefront in Noe Valley and have people be able to come and make their own baskets.”
Even before that happens, Hampton is inviting her neighbors to participate. “If you see something that you want me to add, let me know,” she says. “Because there’s so much innovation going on here all the time, and I don’t want to miss anything.”
To reach Marianne Hampton, call 415-601-7845 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.