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Category   SOMASapiens

SOMASAPIENS are Finding Their Place in the Sun 

In every community, there are certain individuals whose story, dedication, and vision make a significant impact on the lives around them. These "SOMASAPIENS" are often the driving force behind initiatives that foster growth, community, and positive change. Today, we want to share a spotlight on those who seek to inspire, initiate, and impact others here in SOMA. 

 What is the SOMASAPIEN Project? 

The SOMASAPIEN project is a collaboration between the SOMA West Community Benefit District and award-winning filmmaker Grant Thompson. Inspired by the photo series ‘Humans of New York’, SOMASAPIENS seeks to share and celebrate the human stories that are the living tapestry of this vibrant community. We work with anyone and everyone who lives and works within the district. The aims of the project are twofold: 1) give the district a platform to represent itself as it imagines itself, & 2) uplift local businesses, artists, and craftspeople on an individual level by giving them film and photography material to market their work at no cost to them.


Below are few of the SOMASAPIENS along with their brilliant stories. 

Taik Judah, famously known as Tony from Tony Baloney's, tells his amazing story from his spot on corner of 7th and Howard. After six months of living in San Francisco, Tony was drawn to the city's way of life and the culture that places an emphasis on living freely. Taik opened his first business here in SOMA back in 1987 and has been in business since. Taik is the ideal model for an honest businessman, and it shows in the way his guest encourage him for the work he does. What he loves the most about San Francisco, particularly this neighborhood, is that he gets to engage with people from all walks of life.

So If You Don't Respect Yourself, You Don't Respect Anybody Else. You Gotta Respect Yourself To Get Respect From Others....... To Get Respect In Life, You Have To Respect Yourself First. 

-Taik Judah (Tony Baloney's)

For almost four decades, Taik has been a pillar in SOMA, doing what he loves and serving the community with integrity and compassion. Hear his full story at 

When people think about a dying art, they might think of things like calligraphy or basketweaving. Not too many people consider sign making a part of this list. Most people might not even know the intensity that comes into play when thinking about sign making. Right on 9th Street, a store called New Bohemian Signs is adding a a touch of old-school style to the SOMA community. 


The more that things digitally infiltrate every aspect of our lives, the deeper we are going to hunger for some evidence of humanity.

Damon Steyor , Owner of  New Bohemian Signs 

New Bohemian Signs is currently the longest running sign shop operating in San Francisco. This shop specializes exclusively in hand-painted signs. While arts and signs are being pushed into a more digital age, there is always going to be a need to ask 'Who is best with a paintbrush' that can get the job done. Along with Shinya, the sign painter, New Bohemian Signs are striving to add a gentle touch of humanity to San Francisco's informational displays. 

Damon and Shinya are often praised for their craft, one that derived from the old masters. Shinya came all the way from Japan to study under Damon and learn the ways of hand painting and sign making. Together they have established deep roots in the SOMA community and plan to keep pushing forward the narrative that humanity and arts go hand in hand. Hear the full story at

Do you remember what it was like to be nine? SOMASAPIENS can attest that sometimes even the greatest life lessons can come from those who have only been on this earth for what seems like a short period. Kyle reminds us what it is like to see the world from the eyes of a SOMA youth. Despite being young, Kyle is a very experienced chess player. She applies the same strategic thinking from chess to real life situations, referring to it as 'thinking one step ahead' This mindset can be applied to many different factors in life. 

If you pour a bowl of cereal and you want to bring it to the table but there is something in the way, what can you do? You can go around it or you can move it so that it is past you....... What are the advantages or disadvantages of the thing blocking you? 


While this may be a simple lesson, it is one that we as adults must consider in our everyday lives. It can be applied to almost every factor in our life, and learning these truths at a young age is what SOMASAPIENS seek to highlight in Kyle's mindset. Learn more about her youthful insight at