Beloved bougie grocer Bi-Rite is in expansion mode once more, and the next neighborhood that will be getting the honor of a new store is Russian Hill.
It was big news back in 2013 when Bi-Rite opened a second location on Divisadero, marking a peak moment in the "Valencia-fication" of the formerly more utilitarian corridor. And nearly a decade later, it's big news once more that the legacy SF artisan grocery store is coming to a third neighborhood. As Bi-Rite owner Sam Mogannam announced Tuesday that he has secured a deal to take over another legacy grocer's digs, that of Real Food Co. at 2140 Polk Street.
Neighborhood fans of Real Food Co., which has touted its own selection of "natural foods" and local produce since 1976, might not be super pleased to lose their longtime grocery store — or rather, to see it change and/or get more expensive. But longtime owners Kimball and Jane Allen apparently were looking to sell, and Mogannam had been in the market for a new spot for a while.
The Allens closed their Cow Hollow location of Real Food Co. without fanfare in 2016.
"I’m ecstatic to have this opportunity for Bi-Rite to serve and become part of the Russian Hill and Polk Gulch community," says Mogannam in a release. "We’ve been looking for a location for years, somewhere we could become part of the community’s fabric for decades to come. Now that we’ve found it, we can’t wait to share the most delicious food in San Francisco with more people, create more jobs, [and] help local producers grow their businesses."
Mogannam also said this would help the company increase its capacity to give back to nonprofits it supports, including The Village Project, Mo’MAGIC, and The Women’s Building.
Taking over as manager of the third location will be longtime Bi-Rite staffer Steffan Morin, who's worked at Bi-Rite for 16 years — starting as a cashier on "my third day of living in San Francisco," he says.
"San Francisco is an incredibly dynamic city, and every neighborhood, community, and staff member has different needs," Morin says in a statement. "I can’t wait to start supporting them all, starting with partnering with local organizations to help feed those who are currently food insecure."
In 2023, when the new location opens, Bi-Rite will be celebrating 25 years under the leadership of second-generation owner Sam Mogannam. He took over in 1998, and created the upscale neighborhood grocery store we know today — ushering in the era of 18th Street between Guerrero and Dolores as a foodie haven alongside Tartine Bakery and Delfina, which opened in 1998. The store's focus has been on local meat and produce, pre-made salads and made-to-order sandwiches, a high-end cheese and wine selection, and organic dry goods. Bi-Rite has been serving the neighborhood as a grocery store, though, since 1940 — with the vintage signage and original glazed tile facade still intact.
It's not clear when the last day for Real Food Co. will be. The store has not announced a closure on its social media yet, and it sounds like escrow has not closed on the Bi-Rite deal just yet. Bi-Rite says that there will be a brief closure after close of escrow during which there will be some small configuration changes inside, and a bit of remodeling.