The "rite" stuff
Bay Area market starts growing its own groceries.
The Bi-Rite Market has been a neighborhood institution in the heart of the gritty Mission District of San Francisco since the 1940s. The store features everything from gourmet cheeses to freshly baked breads and cookies to custom-carved meats—and even a rooftop herb garden.
But the store isn't just a place to buy groceries; it's the culmination of a dream for owner Sam Mogannam. His family has owned the store since the 1960s. In 1998 Sam took over full ownership, using his experience as a chef to turn the store from a neighborhood market to a neighborhood marketplace—that is, a showcase for all things that are considered new and fresh, even for the most discerning of foodies that are found in the Bay Area.
At the heart of the store's success, both in the past and present, is the produce department. Fresh fruits and vegetables from across the state are featured here, complete with pictures and descriptions of the farmers who grow them. And they're all under the supervision of produce manager Simon Richard. A former farmer, Simon knows firsthand that the produce selection at this tiny but mighty neighborhood market is unlike any other you'll find. He works closely not only with farmers to find the best produce he can, but also to educate his colleagues and customers about the produce.
To take Bi-Rite's commitment to farm-fresh food a step further, Sam and Simon have teamed up on another project and in the process have gone from simply selling food to farming their own food. Three years ago the duo bought land on two plots in Sonoma County and, with help from store workers, began their foray into farming.
The Bi-Rite staff estimates they now get about 5,000 pounds of produce from their Bi-Rite farms, which they use in a variety of ways at the store. Some produce goes directly to the produce section, while some goes to the deli, bakery or creamery. And although it may not seem like a lot of produce compared to other grocery stores, it is a big step for this neighborhood market as it feeds a new generation of customers hungry to know where their food really comes from.
For more information about the Bi-Rite Market and Farm, visit www.biritemarket.com