Paul Gaffner | Driver's Market

Poet at the cash register: Paul Geffner

There are many reasons Paul Geffner, our co-founder, is excited about Driver’s Market. The Sausalito resident has helped create more than a dozen different businesses over the past few decades. “Of all the things I’ve been involved in, this is by far my favorite!” he exclaims.

As we’ve explained elsewhere, Adam Driver met Paul on a local basketball court years ago, and the idea for the store took shape over a series of talks about their shared passion for the game, personal values and goals and much else.

Over time, Paul says he and Adam realized they had “a natural affinity” for each other’s viewpoint.

“I believe in everything Adam’s doing to try to change the way we think about food, and he believes in my way of running businesses, which is to run them while keeping in mind what’s good for all the partners,” Paul says. “I’m all about one’s personal nation of family and friends, and I think businesses are built by giving opportunities to the people who work in them to participate. For me the actual product can be less important than the system that’s created to make it more of a benevolent creature in society, to be conscious of the neighborhood it’s in and the people it serves. I think of a business as a living thing.”

The Godfather

Paul is proud that a wide network of friends and associates, built up since he arrived in San Francisco from New York in the mid-1970s, is almost a “mafia for doing good.” That makes him Driver’s Godfather. He doesn’t hold a specific spot on our organizational chart, but he’s always around and available, looking after details, advising on important decisions and helping shape longer-range plans. Or maybe even running checkout. “I love being cashier–it’s like being a talk show host,” he says. “People are coming and going all the time, letting you know how they are doing and how things are going.”

Standing there, Paul says, is particularly gratifying as it helps him realize the unique role Driver’s plays in its community. “We’re performing way beyond our expectations,” he says. “People love the store so much — It’s a wonderful circumstance where they are buying from us, and thanking us for it.”

Paul’s business success has helped free time over the years to pursue two other lifelong passions. One, collecting minerals, led to his very first job in San Francisco, in a jewelry store. He’s since become expert in the field. “If you get the opportunity to open up a crystal pocket that’s been in the ground for a million years, it’s a thrilling event,” Paul once explained to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Once in a while you find something that no one has ever seen before — the Mona Lisa of nature.”

The other passion, writing poetry, has been more helpful in a business career than his college professors might have expected. To mark his 60th birthday, Paul published a collection of his work, Your Personal America. “People will sometimes ask me why I’ve been successful in business,” Paul says. ”I’ll say it’s because of poetry, and there’s really something to that. People who can communicate well often succeed in business. Having a good sense for the music of language is a very powerful thing.”

But if you want to run a successful store, he advises, other skills still matter. “It also helps that I was very good in math.”