On December 5, 2022, our partner Babylon Burning was nearly destroyed in the wake of a devastating fire. Since its conception in 1976, the locally owned and run print shop has been a monument to, and a promoter of, authentic San Franciscan culture, creating some of the first shirts for groups such as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Women’s Building, and Mother Jones magazine.
Our relationship with Babylon Burning, and owner Mike Lynch, originates with our CEO Ninive Calegari. The two have been working together since she founded 826 Valencia in 2002. “Mark and I have a long history as friends and partners, one that goes back more than 20 years,” Ninive said while reflecting on her own personal history with the shop. In 2018, Babylon Burning was brought in as a partner when they hosted one of our Career Experience Interns, Jeremiah Litz, a student at Life Learning Academy who was fascinated by the idea of owning his own business one day.
“Along with showing us how to print a shirt, Mr. Lynch also showed us how artists and small business persevere in times of trouble. Listening to him speak about his own work and the community was very inspiring”. – Sasha Granat, Career Exploration Intern, 2021
After that introduction, we have continued to work with them in multiple capacities. Babylon Burning has been responsible for printing our commemorative T-shirts every summer, which we give to interns once they complete their internship. In 2018 and 2019, we hosted SuperHeroes, an event celebrating and thanking teachers in San Francisco. For this event, Babylon Burning made sacks reading “I’m a teacher, what’s your superpower?” which we filled with gifts and gave to the attendees.
“The tour of Babylon Burning was so unique. Mr. Lynch is a caring, passionate small business owner, and his insight encouraged me to connect to the community by shopping at more small businesses.” – Zi Yin Zhou, Career Exploration Intern, 2021
After COVID hit in early 2020, Enterprise abruptly went from 66 internship host sites to 20. “We had a lot of youth who needed work, yet there were a lot of places that understandably couldn’t host interns,” Ninive said. “We had to create some programming, and so we created the Career Exploration Internship, in which youth get to hone their skills and learn about all kinds of industries and jobs.” Mike Lynch opened his doors to our interns, hosting extensive tours of Babylon Burning’s facilities in 2020, 2021, and 2022 for our Career Exploration Interns. During these tours, Mr. Lynch spoke in depth about his experience owning a small business that produces art. Then, in a step-by-step demonstration, he printed that year’s shirt right in front of the attendees. To Ciaran Buitrago, a 2020 intern, the tour was so inspiring he was moved to write an essay about the site visit.
“It was really interesting to learn the process of printing a design onto a shirt, and to learn how their print shop works.” – anonymous Career Exploration Intern, 2022
Whether Mr. Lynch will continue to give tours depends much on the business’s ability to recover. While the business is functional, it has also been depending on community support, mostly in the form of donations. “We’re greatly uninsured so all the GoFundMe money we get goes directly to helping us secure equipment,” they write in one of their Instagram posts.
Babylon Burning’s clients and community continue to show support, and the future of the print shop seems to be brightening every day. “The community’s outpouring of resources, the loyalty of the businesses, it’s a reflection of who Mike is in the world, how he treats his staff, and how he engages with the clients. He’s an honorable and good man,” Ninive remarked when reflecting on the flood of support in the aftermath of this tragedy. The most recent update has Mr. Lynch and his team settling into a new shop, still in SoMa, as they begin to rebuild from the ground up.
We’re incredibly grateful for the education Mike Lynch and his associates have given to our youth, and we wish the best for Mr. Lynch and his business.
“I was reminded that art can lead to very interesting and fulfilling professions. It reaffirmed my belief that as long as I am passionate about my career, I will do well.” -Ciaran Buitrago, Career Exploration Intern, 2020
Enterprise continues to offer youth internships in the arts as one of the nine employment sectors we partner with, and we are looking to expand our list of internship sites. If you are interested in playing a key role in developing the work experience and exposure of youth, consider becoming an intern host.
By Francis Orkin, Blog Intern, Enterprise for Youth