The Bi-Rite Stuff: Sam Mogannam takes grocery retailing to new heights
I wrote our cover story for the October/November issue on Sam, the Bi-Rite Farm (that's him in action above), and the history of this San Francisco family-owned retail institution, which from the beginning of Sam's tenure has been committed to selling primarily fresh, local, seasonal food. The magazine — our first-ever "business issue," with features on the inner workings of Fatted Calf, Yield Wine Bar, Mariquita Farm, and local restaurants — is coming back from the printer in just a few days. (You can pick it up for free at various locatons around the city, or better yet, subscribe.)
ESF editor Bruce Cole has just posted the Bi-Rite story. Here's how it starts:
"Look at that tomato! It’s huge! It’s gotta be over a pound!” Sam Mogannam kneels in the dirt, thrusts a tattooed arm into a thicket of tangled tomato plants, and extracts a sunny yellow heirloom the size of a small boulder. “This is going to be one expensive tomato. We might as well eat it”—and he places the fruit gently inside the basket of cucumbers, peppers, beets, and more tomatoes that he’s already harvested for lunch.
Seconds later something else catches his eye. “Smell this melon!” he says. Its quilted beige skin exudes an intoxicating perfume, like honeysuckle wine. “I mean, can you believe how good that smells?”
Given that Mogannam, 40, was born and raised in the grocery business, you’d think he’d have long ago stopped getting excited about fresh produce. You’d be wrong. Watch him in the early morning at Bi-Rite Market, his grocery store on 18th Street in the Mission, plucking a perfectly ripe Asian pear from a farmer’s delivery truck and devouring it with distracted grunts of pleasure. The man loves food. But these tomatoes and melons are special. Mogannam grew them himself, on a thriving mini-farm surrounding the house he and his wife and business partner, Anne Walker, bought last October in Sonoma.
Bi-Rite photos by Bart Nagel
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