George’s Zoo keeper

img_7075In the cold, early midst of the morning while everyone is still asleep, Phil Dudum starts his day by hand selecting the freshest ingredients to bring to his loyal customers. Preparing to open the “Zoo” at 7am, the smell doughnuts and freshly brewed coffee fills the air. The deli and cappuccino corner are all fully stocked in preparation for the animals, or in this case the customers, to stop in.
George’s Zoo Liquor and Deli, located just a stroll away from the beach on Sloat Blvd, has been one of the only local business in the Sunset district that has been able to stay open for more than 30 years. Careful customer service is what sets this laid-back corner liquor store and café apart from the others.
Making signature sandwiches of superior quality, while bringing a local, tough love feel to it, Dudum has been a major successor at this establishment. Dudum, who does not fancy first impressions, has personable and honest personality that can be relatable to (most) customers that stop by.
San Francisco natives, Dudum and his family, have spent a lot of time collectively brainstorming in order to come up with the name “George’s Zoo.” The name stems from Curious George, George of the jungle, and even his cousin being named George. All of those things helped solidify the name for the local deli.
At the age of 12, Dudum became the master custom-cappuccino barista at the deli, for the distinct regulars who soon became a part of his everyday routine.
Decorated with bright hand-painted animals and toy airplanes swinging from the ceiling, brings a fun animal theme to all different kinds of people to George’s Zoo.
Customers at the Zoo range from regulars or frequent visitors, long distance, tourist, city employees and locals.
Working hard and respecting the customers are the keys to a successful small business, explains Dudum.
With no prior college education, Dudum has become a successful multi-business owner in San Francisco and is a respected icon in the Sunset district. He is also the proud owner of Alamo Square Liquor and Deli located on Scott St. in San Francisco.
Having grown up in the company of his regulars, Dudum has not only told it like it is but really knows and genuinely cares about his customers.
During his career, Dudum has helped a few regulars kick old or bad habits before they became a serious problem.
“I’ve helped a lot of people rehab back,” Dudum said. “I stopped selling malt liquor.”
Many regulars he knew since childhood would come to the Zoo everyday drunk or high on drugs. Dudum decided to eliminate malt liquor and anything that could be used as possible drug paraphernalia.
“We (George’s Zoo) aren’t the drunk kind of corner store,” says Dudum. “I shoo away homeless and pan handlers to ensure a friendly and safe environment for our customers.”
Apart from being a husband and a father of two, Dudum takes pride in his second home at the Zoo.
Dudum has not only helped members of the community, but inspires and supports previous employees with experience they can take on their future career path.
“I like it because it is a little bit of everything, experience,” said George’s Zoo employee Dillon Fish.
One regular showed his own appreciation by creating a life-like handmade oil painting portrait of Dudum. Over the years, the San Francisco Chronicle has also featured Dudum and his family’s hard work a dedication to the Zoo.
“It’s not about the money, it’s about the well-being of our customers,” says Dudum.
George’s Zoo has been such a staple into the Sunset district, they not only sell their own signature bottle of wine but also a custom illustrated t-shirt collection. Both the wine bottles and t-shirts contain the signature gorilla that is the representing mascot for the zoo.
Dudum brings big hearted business to a small local establishment for the benefit of his loyal customers. His family and reputation is what keeps him motivated to stay open for the future.
When asked to describe Dudum, a loyal regular Larry Helseth said, “Phil is a true San Franciscan.”


Author: alinamarisol

I am a hard-working photojournalism student with a passion for music, culture, outdoors and traveling. I believe that the power of photography can show a story that can change perspectives for a better world. I plan to obtain a career immersing myself in various cultures and showcase captivating lifestyles around the globe. During my free time I love to go hiking and exploring new areas of the Bay Area with camera in hand. Follow me on Instagram, Twitter & Snapchat: @alinamarisolsf

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