If there's one thing San Francisco's famously tony Nob Hill is missing, it's a place to buy Two Buck Chuck.
The neighborhood's long-standing cultural deficit will soon be remedied when the Cala Foods near the intersection of Hyde and California streets closes down this Saturday to make way for the city's fifth Trader Joe's.
Yes, the beloved, Southern California-based discount grocery store chain--and its exclusive distribution deal with Charles Shaw--will be taking up residence in the Nob HIll storefront when Cala packs up after more than half a century of continuous operation.
In addition to the new grocery store, the lot will also be home to a CVS pharmacy. The landlord is considering devoting a number of spaces in the parking lot to a car sharing service like Zipcar or City CarShare.
The new stores will create a net positive of new jobs for the city. The Trader Joes expects to employ between 75 and 125 full- and part-time employees with a little over 30 at the CVS. The Cala story currently employs 85.
The demise of the 24-hour Nob Hill Cala Foods was long in the works; but before Trader Joe's decided to take over the 14,000 square foot space, local real estate investment house The Prado Group planned unsuccessfully to demolish the building's iconic swooping roof in favor of a 95-unit condo complex.
Traditional grocery stores are increasingly becoming an endangered species in San Francisco. They're facing stiff competition, not only from specialty grocery stores like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, but from land-hungry developers with eyes on their precious real estate.
Supermarket sites are some of the last large real estate lots in the city. Eager developers are making such generous offers that store owners would be crazy to turn them down. No wonder supermarkets are an endangered species in the city.
Increasingly, they are being replaced by specialized markets, places like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and the new Fresh and Easy markets from the United Kingdom. Boosters say those stores are no more expensive than the old neighborhood supermarket, but everyday shoppers would disagree.
Cincinnati-based Kroger owns Cala Foods and has been gradually shutting down locations of the California supermarket chain over the past decade. The Nob Hill storefront, the last store proudly displaying the Cala Foods logo, has been slated for closure since 2008.
The store was originally supposed to shut its doors for good near the end of last year; however, the scuttling of the condo plan left the landlord scrambling for a last-minute renewal of the lease until a new use for the site could be secured.
"The situation was very unanticipated," said Prado Group President Dan Safier in a statement. "Supervisor [David] Chiu [who represents the Nob Hill area] jumped right in to help facilitate a lease extension with Kroger. Despite their planned closure of the Cala Foods chain, Kroger's management worked very collaboratively with us...[and Supervisor] Chiu to extend the lease and avoid any disruption to the community."
Earlier this year, Trader Joe's abandoned its plans to open a location in the Castro when neighborhood groups pushed to block the supermarket from installing additional parking.
While renovations necessary to convert the building into a Trader Joe's will take at least six months, the city's newest grocery store is tentatively scheduled to open its doors sometime next year. Since Trader Joe's technically falls under the classification of "formula retail," the store will also require approval from the city's Planning Commission.