This is a good sign for our neighborhood.
It’s been a tough month for most of us but we have some good news. As we careen headfirst into the holiday season, Portola finally has a proper grocery store again! Grocery Outlet finally opened 2 weeks ago in the old Fresh & Easy space at Silver Ave. & Goettingen (I spelled it right this time). The Grand Opening was marked with a ribbon cutting celebration that included G.O. staff and supervisor David Campos.
My partner Jonathan and I have now shopped at G.O. no less than 8 times and our impressions are overall very positive so far. The store appears to be much nicer than other Grocery Outlets locations that we have shopped in the past. To start, the Portola store actually looks like a proper grocery store. For example, items are either displayed in new refrigerated cases or placed on shelves rather than the boxes they were delivered in. Gone are the annoying Fresh & Easy self check-outs, replaced with real live people. In fact, those employees are our neighbors as the management focused its hiring on the 94134 zip code. The store franchise owner, Raymond Ng, is even a Portola resident. Born and raised in the neighborhood and he welcomes any suggestions for products that customers would like to see or general feedback on the store. In fact, Grocery Outlet is a Bay Area company with its headquarters in Berkeley and it’s roots in San Francisco.
Our first G.O. meal, baked organic Portobello Mushrooms, stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese, sautéed red onions and spicy salami. It was delicious.
Back to the food. For those of you looking for good prices AND healthy food, you might be pleasantly surprised with this location and company. So far we have found a winder than expected selection of organic produce and foods. Ranging from sprouts to Enchiladas from well-known brands such as Amy’s. We were also very pleased to see a nice selection of popular gourmet local brands such as Three Twins Ice Cream (and at a great price). There is an entire aisle of seasonal and household items as well as personal care products. Again, we were happy to find high quality brands like Tom’s toothpaste in the mix and at a much cheaper price than regular retail. This being a discount market though, the products are often changing. They will always have ketchup, for example, but which brand and type changes. If you enjoy a bargain and trying new things, this is kind of like the Nordstrom Rack of food.
Good beer selection, many local and California brands such as Lost Coast and Speakeasy.
Just as exciting as the food, is the HUGE wine and craft beer selection. Grocery Outlet has a bit of a following when it comes to their wines. It’s a treasure hunt to discover which are the really good ones but at $3-$6 for most bottles, you can do a little experimentation. We had to learn our G.O. wines through trial and error and tips from other shoppers in the wine aisle. A great starting point is one of the independent blogs where G.O. customers and aficionados rate the wines. This seems to be the best that I could find: The Magical World Of Wines From Grocery Outlet
Where to even start?
Finally, it’s worth sharing that Grocery Outlet has already given back to the community. At their public meeting last year, G.O. representatives didn’t bat an eye at the suggestion of a mural on their store. G.O. teamed up with the Portola Neighborhood Association and held a competition with local artists for an installation on the Silver Ave. facade. The winning entry was by local artist Arthur Koch for his work that represents the rich and diverse history and culture of the neighborhood. The mural was painted by Arthur as well as a team of volunteers, many of whom were untrained passersby who wanted to help. One neighbor, Becky Luong, was so touched by the experience, she left this comment on the Artist’s Facebook page:
Arthur, thank you so much for your patience and letting me be part of your great work, it was a nice memory and experience to work with you and Paul, enjoy seeing it when I walk my dog everyday. Thank you for putting the great mural in our neighborhood, so proud of you.
A great representation of the power of art to connect a very diverse community. If you check the lower right hand side of the mural, you will see the names of all the local volunteers who added their hand to the work. And because I felt bad excluding any volunteers, here is a plethora of pictures of our neighbors helping out.
Volunteer Lisa, photo by Arthur Koch.
Volunteer Ashley, photo by Arthur Koch
Volunteer Megan, photo by Arthur Koch
Volunteer Becky, photo by Arthur Koch
Volunteer Lesley, photo by Arthur Koch
Volunteer Mindy, photo by Arthur Koch.
Volunteer Keith, photo by Arthur Koch
Volunteer Jayli, photo by Arthur Koch
Volunteer Matt, Photo by Arthur Koch.
Volunteer Karen, Photo by Arthur Koch
Volunteer Paul, photo by Arthur Koch
Artist Corey Farris, who designed the Garden Snake mural down at Alemany, returned to paint it in this rendition. Photo by Arthur Koch
The Artist, Arthur Koch, photo by… you guessed it.
Finally, here is the Artist’s description of the final work that explains every element. Enjoy and see you at the Gross Out (said with love now)!
The mural represents the diverse Portola district of San Francisco as seen through the past and present. The first panel begins with a painted freeway support pillar located on the northeast entrance to the the Portola at San Bruno Ave and Alemany with the native green garter snake in the grass, gardenias, and butterflies. There used to be a street car that served the neighborhood, some trademark businesses from the past including The Avenue Theater, Etalo’s Italian Market, Johnson’s BBQ, and Lido Bakery. The Lido Bakery was recently renovated after serving the Portola for almost a century. In spite of the PNA’s request to preserve the sign for it’s historic value, it ended up lost in the junkyard, so at least it will be remembered in the mural. Jean Harrell, longtime owner of Ruth’s Children’s Shoppe is featured putting on a Martin Luther King Jr school uniform on Alfredo Gomez Jr. Who’s father grew up in the neighborhood as well.
The middle panel begins with one of the first Jewish Synagogues in San Francisco and my Tai teacher the late Hubert Lui practicing his secret Yang style symbolizing the growing Chinese population. One can find various groups of people practicing Tai Chi early in the morning at Palega Playground and McLaren Park. The greenhouses, gardens, chickens, and goats represent, the area’s rich history and the recent declaration as San Francisco’s “Garden District”. Palega Playground in the center is dedicated to Samoan Sululagi M Palega Jr., the “Gentle Giant” an athlete and sportsman dedicated to non-violence and compassion. The fish shaped windmill was recent’y removed for structural problems so this may be it’s brief place in history. In the distance are the neighborhoods characteristic houses on the hill and McLaren Park. In the foreground are flowers that used to be produced here and later replaced by victory gardens after WW2 which initially supplied the Alemany Farmer’s Market, San Francisco’s first. The rainbow colored rows of flowers suggest diversity and the flower power movement. They also echo the multi colored houses on the hill symbolizing the growing LGBT community.
On the far right panel are Maltese dancers representing their large presence here, (the largest population outside the Mediterranean island). Behind them is the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater that hosts “Jerry Day” on his birthday every year near where he grew up. In the distance is a trademark windmill and the blue water tower that marks the southwest corner of the Portola. The silhouette is of of Gaspar de Portola, the Spanish colonial discoverer of the Bay Area on a hill overlooking the Ohlone Indians paddling down Islais Creek which bordered the northern end of the Portola District along Alemany Blvd. The Ohlone lived on the San Francisco Peninsula for thousands of years. Below them on the far right are some kids sitting in front of a truck of the Garibaldi owned University Mound Nursery. The district housed as many as 19 family run nurseries and many of the streets in the Portola are named after eastern Universities. The round red symbol is Chinese for Good luck and gives focus to their growing community. All this is framed by the familiar skyline of McLaren Park, the houses perched on the hill and the raised freeway where 101 meets 280 on the left.
Portola’s second mural this year, sponsored by Grocery Outlet.