Tag Archives: Whole Foods Stanyan

Mirkarimi Breaks Bread With Whole Foods

New Haight Street Whole Foods

After a surprise soft launch on Monday, the new Haight & Stanyan Whole Foods had their official grand opening this morning with the breaking of the bread (an eight-foot sourdough loaf), speeches from Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, Haight Ashbury Improvement Association President Ted Lowenberg and others, and the presentation of a $50,000 loan check to Marin’s Rustic Bakery.

Supervisor Mirkarimi talked about how the new store will be an anchor for the community, but made clear that it shouldn’t be here to put the other local natural food grocers out of business. I asked if he plans to make an appearance at Haight Street Market to celebrate the completion of their expansion once construction is complete. “Absolutely!” he said, adding that he had meant to mention them in his speech.

I also asked about his rumored mayoral ambitions and he said that as of right now, rumors are all they are, as he has yet to make any formal announcement. He’s still weighing his options, including a possible run for Sheriff in which he could put his law enforcement background to use.

Some photos from the opening below.

The breaking of the bread, a Whole Foods tradition for new locations.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi enjoys some sourdough.

Presentation of loan check to Rustic Bakery.

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New Whole Foods Opening TODAY

Just got the following notice from Whole Foods:

The new Whole Foods Haight store is actually open today! Since the store was ready they decided to open today – a soft opening – to get their sea legs before the big grand opening this Wednesday, Feb. 16.  On Wednesday, we’ve still got a bread breaking at 9:45 a.m. with Ross Mirkarimi (Supe) and Ted Lowenberg (President – Haight Ashbury Improvement Association) speaking and the traditional cutting of an eight-foot sourdough loaf.

Also, walking by Haight Street Market, it appears work on their planned expansion might be underway.

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Upcoming Events

Whole Foods
As we previously reported, Whole Foods will be opening their new Stanyan Street (Haight) location this coming Wednesday, February 16th at 8 AM. The event will feature a traditional bread breaking demo at 9:45 AM and the presentation of a $47,480 loan check to Marin’s Rustic Bakery as part of their Local Producer Loan Program (LPLP) (seems odd they didn’t choose a San Francisco producer).

They’ll also be hosting the “Good Food Celebration” this Sunday, February 13th from 12 noon – 4 PM. From their press release:

This event will be held in the parking lot and feature ethnic foods from La Cocina members and an assortment of specialty beers from neighborhood favorite Magnolia Brewery, among others. Admission is free and all food items are priced under $5. All profits made from beer sales will go directly back to La Cocina to support its incubator programs for low income food entrepreneurs.

Park Branch Library
After an extensive $2.9 million renovation, the 101 year old Park Branch Library at 1833 Page Street will be having their Grand Reopening on Saturday, February 26th at 1 PM. If you can’t make it, stay tuned to Cole Valley Alley for plenty of photos/details from the event.

Park Branch Library

Off The Grid
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the food truck sensation known as Off The Grid every Thursday from 4 – 8:30 PM at Waller & Stanyan Streets. Choose from several delicious options including Indian, Korean, Southern, Mexican, Californian, cupcakes, coffee, and more!

Know of an event happening in Cole Valley or the surrounding ‘hoods? Please contact us.

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Here Comes Goliath

The new Whole Foods at Haight & Stanyan

San Franciscans are an interesting bunch. Although we generally seem to rail against large chain stores, like the fight against American Apparel on Valencia St, or the recent Happy Meal Ban, we tend to change our tune when the chain in question is one we like or want. Residents of The Castro, for example, are eagerly awaiting the opening of a new Trader Joe’s in the old Tower Records location on Market St, and everyone seems equally thrilled about the new Target on its way to The Metreon (as well as one planned for the old Mervyn’s space at Geary & Masonic), apparently already forgiving and/or forgetting the uproar over their contributions to an anti-gay politician.

Then there’s Whole Foods, which has been on a San Francisco expansion spree lately. In addition to their existing SOMA & Pacific Heights stores, they’ve recently opened locations in Noe Valley & Potrero Hill, with another about to open at Haight & Stanyan, and yet another recently approved for construction at Market & Dolores in the old S&C Ford space across from Safeway. All these stores have gone forward with very little, if any, neighborhood opposition (aside from some minor traffic concerns).

Construction finishing up at the new Haight & Stanyan Whole Foods

Now it may be true that, as far as chains go, companies like Trader Joe’s & Whole Foods are very low on the scale of corporate evil (they’re no Home Depot or Wal-Mart [although Whole Foods is just as anti-union]). They generally pay their employees fairly well (including benefits), have aesthetically pleasing stores with small footprints (physically & environmentally), and sell quality products San Franciscans actually want to buy. However they’re still chains, which means they have an impact on the unique character of our neighborhoods and can negatively affect established locally-owned businesses, sometimes driving them out.

Indeed, Whole Foods’ rapid growth in the ’80s & ’90s was largely fueled by their acquisition of other natural foods grocers & chains, most recently their merger with Wild Oats Markets in 2007, at the time one of their only remaining major competitors. Although initially held up by the FTC due to an antitrust complaint, the deal was eventually given the go ahead. However the FTC investigation appears to continue, even resulting in Whole Foods subpoenaing the confidential financial records of New Seasons Market, a local competitor in Portland, OR, in 2008.

So, given their history, what effect might their new Upper Haight location (slated to open February 16th) have on the established natural food grocers in our community?

I spoke with employees at the two local grocers that will be most directly affected by the opening of the new Whole Foods to get their reaction to the impending competition.

Haight Street Market, Haight & Ashbury

Haight Street Market, opened over 30 years ago, is still a locally-owned, family run business. I spoke with a manager, who wished to remain anonymous. He didn’t have much to say, as he didn’t want to ruffle anyone’s feathers, but he did mention that they’ll be expanding their store in the “very near future”, as previously reported. And on a positive note, he said he’s glad that at least they’re cleaning up that corner, which has been an eyesore since Cala Foods closed in May 2006.

The Real Food Company, Stanyan & Carl

The Real Food Company started in 1969 with its first store at Stanyan & Carl, right off the N-Judah line (where it remains today). They added a second location on 24th St in Noe Valley in 1970, a third on Polk in 1975, and a fourth on Fillmore in 1997. The stores were owned by Kimball and Jane Allen of Marin from 1970-2002, at which point they were sold to Fresh Organics, a subsidiary of Utah-based supplement company Nutraceutical, which also owns Thom’s Natural Foods in The Richmond District. The Noe Valley location was unexpectedly shut down in 2003.

I spoke with Sara, a manager at the Stanyan Street store, to get her reaction to the new Whole Foods. “At first, I was a little surprised they wanted to open here, since they already have so many stores in the city.” She’s not too worried, though. “Although it may impact us a little at first, the majority of our customers are regulars, so I think they’ll keep coming back.” She also pointed out her store’s commitment to organic produce, something Whole Foods likes to preach, but doesn’t whole-heartily practice. Indeed, on a recent visit to The Real Food Co, I could only find two conventionally grown items in the entire produce section.

Unlike Haight Street Market, The Real Food Company doesn’t have any plans to expand their store. According to Sara, it’ll just be business as usual.

Alpha Market, Cole & Parnassus

I wrote Whole Foods to get their perspective on how their new store might impact the established community markets. Adam Smith, Whole Foods Executive Design & Construction Coordinator responded:

“A trend we observe when we move into an area is that rather than take business away from competitors, Whole Foods Market helps to raise the interest in and awareness of natural and organic foods at farmer’s markets, co-ops, and other natural and organic supermarkets. We raise the overall awareness of organic and natural foods.”

This may be true in a community that doesn’t already have a lot of exposure to natural/organic foods, like Redding or Fresno, but I’m not sure such an argument holds up in a place as eco-conscious as San Francisco.

I also asked him about their percentage of organic & locally sourced produce:

“Organic and local percentages vary drastically by season but we expect the Haight Street store to mirror what we see in the surrounding SF stores, 58-60% organic and 50-52% local based on annual purchases”

And what percentage of the staff will be hired locally:

“We hired 168 team members, 97 were transfers from other stores; 56 of which were from other city stores and 71 new team members hired from all over the city.”

Ashbury Market, Frederick & Ashbury

The new Upper Haight store doesn’t necessarily mean impending doom for the local players, though. Just across the Bay, Berkeley Bowl supermarket is thriving, despite their long-standing competition from Whole Foods. They’ve even opened a second location in West Berkeley that’s already very popular.

And further South, in my hometown of Santa Cruz, where Whole Foods only recently opened their first two stores in the County, the established local & natural food grocers seem to be doing pretty well. Shopper’s Corner, across the street from the new Santa Cruz Whole Foods, has made several improvements to their store. And Staff of Life, a fixture in the community for over 40 years, is in the process of completely renovating a former car dealership nearby which they’ll be moving into next month. New Leaf Community Markets, a small natural food chain in the area, built a huge new store a few blocks from their long-standing Westside location which they moved into just before Whole Foods came to town. They also remodeled their Downtown store and built a large new store in Half Moon Bay.

With the surge in demand for local/sustainable food, the market is there. So as long as enough people keep patronizing our neighborhood grocers, they can succeed, even thrive, creating a hulking David to take on the coming Goliath.

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