San Francisco’s West Portal turns into an ‘It’ neighborhood and an emblem of loss

Dudum lives in West Portal along with her husband and co-owner, Andrew Dudum, and their two children. You can find them having breakfast on the weekends at Toast or pizza on Fridays at Little Original Joe’s. “It’s a kindness neighborhood,” Dudum said. “There’s so many schools and churches.” 

Indeed, across the street from George’s, girls in Catholic school plaid swarm tables at Easy Breezy on most school days. It’s hard to ignore how many children—from tots to teens—fill the sidewalks of the neighborhood. While Noe Valley has the reputation of being one of the most family-filled neighborhoods, only 17% of households have children there—as opposed to nearly 30% in West Portal. Dogs are everywhere, too, whether it’s in the rows of portraits of them in the BookShop West Portal or at West Portal Spa, where bernedoodles Nala and Zula run in and out of the door wearing matching polka dot sweaters. 

“This is the nexus of 22 schools,” said Kris Politopoulos, the owner of Invisible Jet Comics, estimating the number of schools in the larger area. What’s more, the nine-month-old store serves as a gathering place for students from City College of San Francisco, which has a certificate in comics, and San Francisco State, which has a graphic novel program. The former tech worker said that business has been brisk since she opened in September. “Every day, someone thanks me for being here,” she said. 

Politopoulos lives in Mission Terrace and grew up in San Francisco—she’d often see movies with her friends at that now-closed Empire Theater. The comic books she stocks in her bright yellow shop represent a lot of different voices, an intentional choice for the new business owner. “Reading about other people cultivates empathy,” she said. “And empathy is going to be the thing that saves us all.” 

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