"Our friends pitied us when they saw this place," says Eileen Hassi, co-proprietor of red-hot Mission District cafe Ritual Roasters. "They told us we were doing everything wrong."

Jeremy Tooker, her co-proprietor, agreed. "We had too much space, they said," he says. "We'd never fill the tables. The streets around here were dead before 10 a.m."

What may have seemed a series of missteps and misadventures to Hassi and Tooker's peers turned out to be serendipity -- the stuff that goes into the best of origin stories. Stuffed into the back office, under the eyes of a giant millipede for whom the gang was pet sitting, the Eileen and Jeremy talked to SFist about how and why they got their start, what it's like to run a small business in one of San Francisco's hippest 'hoods, some of the keys to their recent success, and what's next to come.

Part one of a two-part spotlight