It's your last weekend to grab a banh mi from Duc Loi at 18th and Mission, as the 36-year-old Vietnamese grocer and sandwich counter is closing up shop — though the store will continue on under new ownership.
Eater broke the news Thursday morning that Duc Loi is planning to close next week, by Sunday, August 13. Owners Howard and Amanda Ngo, who bought the property at 2200 Mission Street in 1998, first opened their market down the block on Mission Street in 1987, operating for a decade in just 600 square feet. After expanding to the current, 4,000-square-foot spot, Amanda began making the banh mi sandwiches she'd learned to make as a girl in Vietnam.
The current incarnation of the market is the result of a 2009 renovation, and as the couple explains on their website, they've expanded offerings over the years to include more organic produce, sustainable meats, fresh-baked bread, and gourmet items.
The exact reasons for the closure aren't clear, but the Ngos have a buyer who'll be reopening as soon as Monday — just without the sandwiches. As the Chronicle reports, the new owner is Jamal Ahmed, the owner of Temescal Produce Market in Oakland, and the new name of the store will be International Produce Market.
Amanda Ngo tells the Chronicle that she and her husband plan to focus their attention on reopening Duc Loi Pantry, the second location of the market in the Bayview (5900 Third Street) that they opened in 2016 and closed in 2019. (The space was previously home to a short-lived Fresh & Easy supermarket.) It may be a struggle, however.
"To tell you the truth, we don’t have very strong financing, we don’t have the income," she tells the Chronicle. "We will need a lot of money to reopen, but we’ll try our best to do it."
The location has been the focus of multiple community and city efforts to be a grocery store serving low-income residents, in what has long been one of the city's "food deserts."
The Ngos emigrated from Vietnam in 1979, with an American sponsor in San Francisco sponsoring Amanda and her family to come to the Bay Area. Howard, whom Amanda grew up with in the small town of Vinh Chau, joined her a year later after being sponsored to go to Georgia.
At the market, the couple says they've always been committed to fair prices — and the name Duc Loi means "ethical earnings" in Vietnamese. They explain on the website that this is a third-generation ethical business in Howard's family — his father owned a hardware store called Duc Vinh ("ethical pride"), and his grandfather owned a pharmacy called Duc Tho ("ethical longevity").