"Jenny, get in. I have an idea."
This is just one of the many memorable, albeit abrupt, requests I'd get from Carl over the years. I would be watering or tending to my garden in front of my house on Johnston Street, and he would drive by heading to or from Feed & Fuel. If he had a landscaping idea or a plant question - I'd get swooped up and we'd check it out together. We would race down HWY 1 headed to his ranch, with speed I was hesitant to acknowledge. Conversation about tractors and (his favorite) passion vine flowers had a nice ability to distract as I white-knuckled the seat belt.
You see, I started to get to know Carl back when I was about 16 years old, planning my gardening business, Wildflower Farms. I would buy seed or hay from the feed shop and bounce ideas or questions off of him. If he was in a generous mood, he'd give me tips and resources that would otherwise have taken me years to compile. If he was busy, I'd get the fuck off look, and... well, I'd fuck off and come back another day. Ultimately, he told me when I was ready (subtext - get your shit together, get a business license and checking account) he would give me a small line of credit within the shop. When I was 18 years old, I went in and got that line of credit - consisting of a small index card in a rolodex of sorts, with my name on it and the date. I couldn't have been more proud - and it facilitated my buying a wheel barrow, shovels and seed. He reminded me to not let it get too big and that I needed to pay it off each month. And I did, religiously.
You didn't fuck with Carl.
Even as he continued to call me "Jenny" - despite my name being Jenn, I didn't correct him. Call it fear, disinterest or... fear - Carl could call me whatever variation of Jennifer he wanted. I always felt happy to be in conversation with someone as knowledgable, generous and fiery as he was. From a young age, he helped inspired me to be in business and stay in the agriculture industry.
Years later when the little retail space at 329 Main Street opened up, I walked in and inquired about it. "You want to open up a little flower shop, Jenny?" Well - something like that, I explained. He was generous with rent, my weird requests and improvements, and helped me get going in my new retail venture. Once Garden Apothecary opened, he came in and said he didn't know what the hell I was selling, but he liked the colors and how I decorated. Through the 4 years I've rented from Carl, he was nothing but generous, moody, kind, brutally honest, creative and fiercely helpful (like that time he yelled at the health department for me).
It was clear he wanted me to succeed.
Carl was a mentor and someone in this community I felt grateful to work with and grow up in front of - in the same company as Bev Cunha, John & Eda Muller, Naomi Partridge, Ron Bongard and many others. I've been in business in Half Moon Bay more than half of my life, with some years being very challenging. The loyalty, helpfulness and influence of our Coastside matriarchs and patriarchs is felt daily, and I believe integral to younger companies thriving locally. They are our advocates when times are tough, and a critical eye when (we think) we are successful.
As the Coastside slowly grows and changes, I find it increasingly important to take note of the folks here that have rooted down, brought business, thanklessly helped others and positively influence generations of Coastsiders. Carl Hoffman is among the ranks, and will be deeply missed.
We are all a connected, woven tapestry in this weird little farm town - and a loss is felt when someone leaves us.
Don't worry Carl, us at Garden Apothecary will continue to tell tourists to stay the hell off the big plastic cow, we will take shots at Feed & Fuel during December, and we will help keep the passion vine growing on the fence.
Thanks for everything, Carl.