Klockars blacksmith shop on Rincon Hill has endured as an obvious contrast of the old San Francisco and the new, a blue-collar relic amid sleek residential towers. But if plans now in the works bear fruit, the two-story wood structure from 1912 will be a symbol of transition all on its own -- from a place where metalwork is forged to a nook where marijuana is consumed.
"Tony's not going to be here forever, and there aren't a line of blacksmiths waiting in line to take over," said Travis Kelly, the grandson of Tony Rosellini, who has operated the blacksmith shop pretty much on his own since 1970. "This way, at least we can preserve the building into the future."
The building is owned by Rosellini's ex-wife, the daughter of Edwin Klockars, who died in 1994 at the age of 96. The family has never had interest in selling despite the offers that routinely come their way.
With his grandmother's blessing, Kelly and investors have filed a proposal with the city to restore the structure and bring it up to code -- no mean feat given the dirt floors in the back and an airy tin roof. The new function would be a cannabis dispensary, for now called "The Weedsmith."
"The old machines, the wide-plank redwood floors, we'd want to keep it all and preserve the atmosphere," said Kelly, 29, an attorney who grew up in Burlingame. "We'd want something high-end, like a Sephora or an Apple Store." [...]
There was a time here when a blacksmith's shop was nothing special, especially in a part of town where small operators were part of the industrial bustle. But Klockars is the only one left, a designated city landmark with 20 stories of condominiums on one side, a massive electrical substation on the other, and a 55-story tower going up across the street.
"It's kind of cold already," Rosellini, 86, said one afternoon last week. "Now it's going to be shady, too."
Rosellini lives in South San Francisco, and most days his exercise consists of long, slow walks at the mall. But he still comes in one or two days a week, firing up the forge and making the hooks used to lift manhole covers, or prongs, or pry bars.
The affable blacksmith loves to tell how he entered the trade: "I was married to the boss' daughter, I got fired somewhere else, and my wife said, 'You better give Tony a job.'" That was in 1960. A decade late, Edwin Klockars was ready to retire.
"I took over the business," Rosellini said with a laugh, then gestured at the spare tools and dusty keepsakes piled high in every direction. "I never made any money. But all this junk is mine."