The Tropicana Coffee Shop on Third Street is a Joe kind of place. It’s been open for 45 years, serving breakfast and lunches to regular Joes, who appreciate that roast-beef sandwiches still cost $3.90 and the "Shipyard Special" is only $1 more. Its coffee is also best described as Joe. But according to its landlord, Joe’s got to go.
Owner Cesar Camino received notice to clear out on Valentine’s Day from his landlord, the Murphy Trust. Trust member Thomas Murphy heads property-management firm SF Rents. The Tropicana will close in mid-April.
The Tropicana was on a month-to-month lease, according to Gregory Twiss, the SF Rents property manager for 2291 Third St. Twiss declined to name an exact reason why Camino is being evicted, but alluded to the low rent — $600 a month — and cleanliness issues.
"Mr. Camino is a nice fellow, but ... in his situation, his struggles with the San Francisco health department were a matter of public record," Twiss said. "It’s a combination of factors. I can’t hold up a card and say, ‘This is what happened here.’ This is something we’ve been working on for the past three years."
Some local Dogpatch residents are sad to see it go.
"It just seems all very rushed and not very considerate of what a small businessman like Cesar provides for the community," said Tom Harris, who is fond of the steak and eggs.
Camino’s shop was cited by inspectors for a cockroach infestation in the basement twice in 2006, once in March and once in July, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health. He remediated the problem in August after hiring a licensed pest controller, according to city records.
The records also showed he received good marks for food storage, ability of cleansers and bathroom cleanliness, though there were minor dings on his record for issues with thawing, food storage and other areas between 2004 and 2006.
Camino blames the cockroach infestation on construction undertaken by the owner while constructing the newer café next door, Sundance Coffee. He said the landlord did not offer him the option of refusing a higher rent. The previous owner brought Camino to the United States from Peru to work in the shop in 1961, and he bought it from her in 1980. He said he gave everything to the business, including his former marriage.
"I was married to this place, so I had no time for her," he said. "It is very hard for someone my age to go to work for somebody else."