Marsha Berkson, Co-Creator of Anthology San Diego and Creator of Hand Up Youth Food PantryBy Robin Dohrn -Simpson
Marsha Berkson is everywoman’s woman. Like all other modern women, she struggles with juggling home, kids, activities, community service and a full time job. Unlike most women Marsha (along with her husband) owns the hot new concert venue and restaurant in Little Italy, Anthology.
Marsha was busy raising her two sons, while her husband pursued a career as an attorney and real estate developer. But her husband, Howard, always had a dream of opening a music venue where the sound was perfect and where musicians loved to play.
“My husband did his due diligence. He would go to clubs everywhere when we were on vacations, for hours, and he’d learn a ton of what to do and how to put them together,” Marsha explains. He sought out the best sound people in the country to figure out what to do.
Finally one day he said “I’m going to build my music venue that I always wanted.” And then he did it. He converted a 1 story garage into a 3-story state-of-the-art music venue, with nooks and crannies throughout. But most importantly with perfect sound. He didn’t want to get into the restaurant or night club business, all he wanted was to have a place with great sound, and bring great music to San Diego. His desire was a place that people would enjoy being a part of; artists would enjoy playing and guests would enjoy listening to the artists.
The original philosophy of great music morphed into bringing back “that old supper club feel” but with a contemporary spin on it. Today you can enjoy fine dining with a value added spin on it when you go to listen to an artist.
“It was built in the most efficient and effective way to build. The room is built for sound. It is acoustically perfect.” Marsha said. “All of the materials are here for a reason. How they absorb sound. How sound travels.” She explained that the ceiling was even made with waves in it to make the sound travel evenly. “You can sit in any spot in the room and have the same perfect sound at the same time as the person 2 stories up hears it.”
Artists love performing here due to the perfect sound. “There isn’t an artist from Ramsey Lewis to Pat Metheney to Chick Corea that doesn’t walk off the stage and say ‘Wow, this sound is amazing’. So when you hear that from their perspective you know you got it right. And they want to come back and perform.” Marsha said.
Jazz isn’t the only genre of music that you’ll hear here. Today you can hear music for everybody. Some of the singer/songwriters are younger and bring a younger crowd. Some classic rock groups bring a more mature crowd. Whatever it is, you’ll find somebody on their calendar.
The food parallels the sound. Anthology’s chef, Eric Bauer, has created a tasty menu with foods with the simplicity of flavors. His goal is to create a menu with the freshest ingredients that San Diego has to offer. Most Saturdays you can find him at the Farmers Mercado in Little Italy searching out seasonal produce.
The Berkson’s love the neighborhood feel of Little Italy. It reminds them of their native Chicago. They have taken that feeling into their creation. Tuesday is Fresh Vibe night where guests can walk around the area and pop in after work, enjoy a drink and Chef Eric’s appetizers and meals and listen to the house band.
Anthology is located at 1337 India Street. Check out their calendar at www.anthologysd.com to find when your favorite artist is playing.
Marsha’s true passion is community service and social action. When her kids were younger, she helped with social programs at their school and felt that kids needed to learn how to give back to their community. “I wanted to create a program where kids participated, or ran the charity.” Berkson said. One day she approached the administrators of Jewish Family Service (JFS) with her idea to start a food pantry, which was run totally by the kids. The kids would plan, take in inventory, pack food for distribution and distribute food; handle the whole process. JFS liked the idea and “Hand Up” was born.
“This charity is not a hand out, it is a hand up.” Marsha explains. “There’s a huge difference between the two.” Everyone needs help at different times in their lives. Hand Up Youth Food Pantry is all about providing help for people get back on their feet.
“We’re teaching the kids the full cycle; they can see how important it is that everything and everyone work together. Seeing the food recipients makes a huge difference.” The Hand up grocery store is open one Sunday a month at Camp Pendleton and once a month at Murphy Canyon military housing. There are various other locations throughout the county, go to www.handupfoodpantry.com.
Marsha also wanted to teach the kids leadership skills and public speaking. “If they’re going to be able to go and talk to somebody at their school, or business, or church or synagogue, they need to know how to speak in public.” She wanted them to learn how to conduct a meeting, run an agenda, motivate people and even how to write grants. The fruits of her year and a half labor now extend to 12 high schools in San Diego. “Where other charity’s food pantries have bare, empty shelves around the country right now, our food pantries are full. Stocked to the brim. And it’s really wonderful. The kids feel the passion and they understand the importance of hunger.”
“The ownership that the kids have in the program is rewarding.” Marsha said.
All of her efforts paid off when she was presented with a Mitzvah (meaning a good deed in Hebrew) by Jewish Family Service. Last year she was recognized nationally by JFS with the prestigious Goodman Award, a new program honor. Although very thankful for this award, Marsha is more thrilled when kids stop her and thank her for starting Hand Up and for letting them be a part of it.
To donate to Hand Up or to conduct a food drive in your school, business, group or congregation, call (858) 637-3088. If you would like to volunteer contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.