Downtown San Jose has a variety of places to wine and dine, and the SoFA Market is making its name heard thanks to the managing style of Nate LeBlanc. Coming over from San Pedro Square Market, where he was the manager, LeBlanc took a moment to talk about the success over on First Street with the SoFA Market.

Name: Nate LeBlanc

Occupation: General Manager of SoFa Market

Outside of  SoFA Market, which two restaurants do you like most in Silicon Valley?

My wife and I are always on the lookout for new places to eat, but since this is a San Jose-centric piece I’ll give you my go-to taqueria and pho joints: Jalisco Taqueria on King near the Pink Elephant on the East Side, seemingly always open, good quality staples, very consistent; and Pho Y #1, on Silver Creek near Capitol in Evergreen, was the place that taught me to love Vietnamese food.

Is there anything unique about the SoFA Market that most people don’t know?

A large percentage of our businesses are owned and operated by women. I’m not sure that this is unique, but I think that it is notable.

How did managing San Pedro Square help you in this new venture?

I came into that position with little to no experience, just a passion for food and for Downtown San Jose. I really learned on the job. With the guidance of folks like Steve Borkenhagen (SPSM’s original manager), I learned everything there is to know about running a public market here in San Jose. One thing that really has stuck with me is the importance of maintaining good relationships, especially with the people who are invested in the project. A market can only be as good as its tenants.

How long have you lived/worked in San Jose?

Essentially, all of my life. I went away for college to UC Santa Cruz but always kept one foot on this side of the hill.

At what point did you decide to stay in San Jose and pursue your career?

In the early 2000s I was in college but was also spending time over here re-connecting with my childhood friend Paolo “Cutso” Bello, and he introduced me to the burgeoning art scene happening at Anno Domini Gallery in their old location on Montgomery near the arena. I got to know the owners, Cherri Lakey and Brian Eder, and a bunch of young people coalescing around the gallery who loved art and music the same way that I did, and decided to stay.

What do you like most about San Jose?


If you could change one thing about San Jose, what would it be?

There’s been a saying going around among the civically engaged folks here in the Downtown community: “There’s nothing wrong with Downtown that 50,000 more people wouldn’t fix.”

What San Jose event do you most look forward to every year?

I really hope Viva Calle becomes a regular event. I thought the first one was very important for us as a city and actually quite beautiful.

How do you like to hang out when you’re not working?

Honestly, at home. I had my fill of nightlife in my twenties. These days I’m pretty much a homebody. On the rare occasion I do go out for drinks, I’ll pick somewhere low key like Wine Affairs, Good Karma, Cafe Stritch, or the patio at SP2.

Who is the most interesting person you know in San Jose?

That’s a tough one. I know and admire a lot of interesting people, but I would have to say Ryan Sebastian. I’m consistently curious about his plans and thought processes.