Bi-Rite Market, the high-end specialty grocer that has anchored the Mission’s ritziest food corridor for decades, will open a new store at 2140 Polk St. between Vallejo and Broadway streets in early 2023.
That Russian Hill address, currently the last remaining location of Real Food Company, will be the third Bi-Rite Market, after the 18th Street mothership and the Divisadero store. The larger “Bi-Rite Family of Businesses” includes the Creamery across 18th Street from the original location. A cafe at the southeast corner of Civic Center closed during the pandemic.
“Divisadero will be 10 in March, which is crazy,” Bi-Rite founding partner Sam Mogannam told The Standard. “We opened nine-and-a-half years ago.”
Expansion has been measured and deliberate.
“It’s not about growing for the sake of driving sales,” Mogannam said. “It’s about having an impact, and there’s a lot for us that makes that possible over the long-term—and it’s finding the right neighborhood.”
The motto of “Creating Community Through Food” has helped Bi-Rite earn near-fanatical love from its customer base and loyalty from its staff. Polk Street’s general manager will be Steffan Morin, who started with the company as a cashier 16 years ago. (Disclosure: I worked as a bartender for the catering department for five years.)
Having been a Real Foods since 1976, Polk Street will also be the largest of the three markets, although, Mogannam added, “it’s still going to be pretty intimate.”
“There’s so many amazing neighborhood-serving businesses on the block, and they’re all independently owned still: the pet store, the bookstore, little clothing stores. All of that adds up to make a community super-viable,” Mogannam said.
Since the Cordano Brothers opened it in 1940, Bi-Rite Market has passed in and out of the Mogannam family. They bought it in 1964 from the guy who bought it from the Cordanos.
“Fortunately, they were smart,” Mogannam said. “They bought the building and the business, and when my father and uncle realized that I wasn’t going to step into the family business, they decided to sell in 1989, shortly after the [Loma Prieta] earthquake.”
After nine years of cooking in restaurants, Mogannam realized what could have been, so he and his brother bought it back in 1997, reopening it with a kitchen and a “food vision.” It’s now been in the family’s possession for 25 years, or just as long as it had the first time.
If gradual growth was the plan, then why not the Inner Sunset, the foodie-obsessed neighborhood where Mogannam lives?
“I looked!” he said.
2140 Polk St.
Opening early 2023
Peter-Astrid Kane can be reached at [email protected]