Right as we were first meeting Tammy Powers, a local police officer on Treasure Island stopped us to ask for her autograph. “I want to be one of the first to get it,” he laughed as he handed her his pad and pen. Turns out we weren’t the only one interested in learning more about this formidable trans woman.
Just a few years ago, Powers was homeless and living on the streets of San Francisco. Now she runs two successful businesses, both of which she started from scratch entirely by herself. What the police officer -- and everyone else on Treasure Island -- knows is that Tammy is about to be famous. An L.A. filmmaker ordered waffles from her Tammy’s Chicken in Waffles waffle cart earlier this summer and asked a few questions about how it came about. She told him her story. He liked what he heard, so now he’s making a documentary about Tammy’s life. And trust us, it’s a story worth knowing -- and one that may have never happened if Tammy hadn’t started sleeping by the water on a man-made island in the middle of the Bay.
Treasure Island was built in 1936-37 for the 1939 Golden Gate International Expo, a fair celebrating the engineering of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. Technically, it is part of San Francisco, but the only way to get there is via the Bay Bridge or by boat. There are only about 2,000 full-time residents, but on the weekends locals and tourists flock there for the monthly flea market, the numerous wineries, and the gorgeous view of the bridge, the water, and the San Francisco skyline.
It’s also the home of Tammy Powers’ two businesses: Tammy’s Chicken in Waffles, a waffle “cart” in a bright pink shipping container, and A Tran’s Bay Bike Shop, the only place on the island to rent bikes or get yours fixed. Tammy does it all herself though, working around 17 hours a day, 7 days a week, so (for now) you’ll have to wait for one shop to close in order to visit the other.
But how did she overcome so many obstacles to end up where she is today? We stopped by Treasure Island to chat with her and find out. And, yes, to eat a bunch of waffles, which, for the record, are as good as they look and well worth the trip.