Many people think of the death of a loved one as a turning point. For Rick Evans, founder of My Favorite City tours and creator of the San Francisco Architecture Walking Tour, his mother’s death in September helped push him to launch his own business.
Evans’ tour company, which he owns and operates single-handedly, gives daily two-hour tours in San Francisco’s Financial District highlighting both historic buildings and the unique places between buildings that Evans said give The City its charm.
"You have to kind of discover it on your own," Evans said. "I meet people who work in the Financial District and really didn’t know about it. We’ve got these hidden treasures right here."
Evans, who said San Francisco is his favorite place in all the world, credits the texture of downtown to planners 30 years ago who mandated that when new constructions go up, developers give back to The City in the form of open space, creating all kinds of unseen nooks and rooftop gardens.
Evans had been a guide with San Francisco City Guides, a program run by the Public Libarary, for 10 years. But lately he had been working full time running human resources for SF Jazz, the jazz programming and preservation group.
When Evans mother grew ill from a debilitating respiratory disease, he had to move her to San Francisco to care for her. Seeking a way to balance work and his mother’s care, Evans left his demanding job with the jazz center and began consulting from home, coordinating the Joie de Vivre hospitality company’s "Golden Gate Greeters" program, which matches hotel guests with volunteer city guides.
Evans had been a volunteer guide for more than three years and approached Chip Conley, the hotel group’s CEO, about filling a vacancy at the head of the greeter program rather than disbanding it. Conley agreed, and Evans continues to offer the company’s guests complimentary tours in exchange for the use of the Galleria Park Hotel as a meeting ground and a promotional page in the concierge’s guest pamphlet.
After 13 months of the arrangement, Evans’s mother died.
Faced with a turning point, rather than go back into the work force or continue his part-time work with the program, Evans decided instead to concentrate on building his own tour company, and founded My Favorite City. He built his own web site and has had to personally develop his public relations strategy. Now Evans wants to build a budget to develop the company further.
His largest tour thus far has been 42 people, but sometimes there are only four. Evans says the tour works best with about 10 people. After learning of a doorman who knew every detail of the old building in which he worked, Evans is trying to add an oral history component to his tours.
"It’s a layer of preservation and of the history of these buildings," Evans said. "Once you know their history you’ll know San Francisco."
New Project: Cataloging and indexing landmark buildings in SF
Last Project: Developing Web site (architecturesf.com)
Essential Web Site: sfstation.com
Best Perk: Exercise walking
Education: M.S. Business Administration Cal State-Northridge
Last Conference: SF visitors bureau planners meeting
First Job: Park and Recreation playground supervisor
Original Aspiration: Psychology and Family Counseling
Career Objective: Building an internationally known tour company
Hometown: Semi Valley
Sports/Hobbies: Contemporary art, independent film
Transportation: City Car Share
Favorite Restaurant: Lefty O’Douls
Computer: Apple iMac
Vacation Spot: Other metropolitan cities
Favorite Clothier: Hound (below historic Hallidie Building on Sutter Street)
Role Model: Mother
Reading: "The Devil in the White City," by Erik Larson
Worst Fear: Laryngitis (or anything keeping him from giving tours)
Motivation: Feedback from inquisitive tourers