The History of 1345 Grant Avenue
After the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906, North Beach was rebuilt. “While the reconstruction of lives, businesses, and buildings was everyone's first priority, some parts of the city were rebuilt more quickly than others. A map of new construction published one year after the fire shows the Italian quarter of North Beach solidly rebuilt.” (From The Chronicle archives.) Though there’s no beach in North Beach, it was home to a majority of the fisherman and seafarers who worked the bay and beyond.
In 1907, Figoni Hardware opened at 1345-1351 Grant and held forth for the next 91 years. The last owner was Melvin Figoni. According to his son, Mel Jr., the store “sold imported Italian goods and hardware. It became a central hub in the life of many North Beach residents.”
And from the late local chronicler Ernest Beyl: “Let’s talk hardware stores. My favorite was Figoni Hardware on Upper Grant Avenue.
Of course, I can’t complain too much about its loss, since artist Kevin Brown moved in and named his gallery Live Worms from a sign he found when he cleaned out the place. Figoni Hardware sold live worms for fishing bait.” (“In pursuit of North Beach: A torch song for the good old days”, from Ernest Beyl‘s North Beach Journal column, Marina Times, November 2015)
Al (?) outside Figoni's hardware
Ferlinghetti drops by Live Worms
Photo: Stewart Bloom
In 2003, painter and retired airline pilot Kevin Brown “discovered” 1345 Grant on a stroll around The Beach. He made the call, closed the deal and “Live Worms Gallery” (and Kevin’s painting studio) was born. When he decided to make the space available for artists to rent, he ended up continuing the tradition set by the Figonis before him – by once again making the location a hub for both artists and the community.
And again, Ernest Beyl captured the essence of Kevin and his gallery in this great article from 2011: “Soon Live Worms began attracting artists, who came not only from North Beach, but also from all around Northern California. Suddenly there was an art scene on upper Grant Avenue where once the Beats had gathered to drink red wine, recite poetry to jazz backgrounds, and to celebrate their benevolent, but urgent lifestyles. Today the old neighborhood is renewing itself and once again becoming a center for artistic expression. Other galleries, live music and unusual shops are cropping up and attracting a lot of foot traffic. To suggest that Live Worms is providing a high dose of cultural nutrients to a reviving North Beach is not an overstatement. (http://www.northsidesf.com/mar11/op_appetitesandafterthoughts.html)
In early 2019, Kevin was ready to free up his time a bit more, reshuffle his life a tad. The neighborhood breathed a sigh of relief when three locals took over the space and continued operating as 'Live Worms Gallery'. They hosted finely curated shows featuring local and visiting artists. After only 11 months, the pandemic descended upon San Francisco in March 2020 and "....they stepped away to pursue other projects".
And so, out of the metaphorical ashes, we bring the next chapter of “Live Worms Gallery” at 1345 Grant to life again!