In 1984 the phrase “Who ya gonna call?” became all the rage as “Ghostbusters” hit the big screen. On the small screen, Tom Selleck impressed fans as Ferrari-driving Hawaii detective extraordinaire “Magnum, P.I.” while sporting an even more impressive mustache. Michael Jackson thrilled as his “Thriller” album went on to sell over 37 million copies. In Cupertino, a company called Apple released Macintosh, one of the first user-friendly computers ever made, with a “1984”-inspired Super Bowl commercial that metaphorically shattered the wall between technology and people.
That same year AND started the initial concept of what would eventually become Specialty Mills Products in our shop in North Beach. The cabinet shop was created as an outgrowth of AND’s Employment Training Center (ETC) program for high-risk youth started in 1978. In creating a social enterprise that was a real-world job environment for low-income residents, ETC had begun to experience a growing demand for its quality casework products as well as generate income for AND’s program.
As then-executive director Maurice Lim Miller noted, “We strongly believe that jobs in manufacturing can be brought back to our urban neighborhoods. These are the kind of jobs that at-risk populations can rebuild their lives around.”
The millwork shop soon focused on two revenue streams: high-end custom cabinetry--for spaces such as the lobby of the Rincon Center; reception desks and conference tables for upscale offices; merchandise displays for a Ghirardelli Chocolate store on Union St.--and durable, affordable, well-designed furniture for buildings housing single-room occupancy (SRO) residents. The success of the shop soon required a larger space and it moved to Bayview/Hunters Point in 1985, then to a specially constructed facility in Potrero Hill in 1991. A second site in West Oakland followed in the late 1990s.