A former DeLano’s grocery on South Van Ness Avenue near 24th Street has been empty for more than six years, but will return to its former use with the grand opening of Grocery Outlet next week.
Grocery Outlet first indicated to the city that it was interest in the space in August of 2015. Before that, Fresh N Easy had been eyeing the space, as had developers with housing in mind. In the end, Grocery Outlet prevailed. Though the community meeting process and securing permits took its time, construction also added to the time it took to open the store.
“Anytime you’re doing construction here in San Francisco, it’s very urban very regulated area, there’s a lot of stuff we have to deal with to get the store successfully open,” said branch owner Eric Liittschwager. “The site was in pretty poor shape needed a lot of construction. I think this store has cost three or four times the normal construction costs for us.”
That price tag, he said, came to more than $5 million for construction of the space alone.
The result? “Now it’s beautiful. People won’t recognize it,” Liittschwager said. “They’re gonna be blown away.”
This isn’t Liittschwager’s first grocery store rodeo. He runs another Grocery Outlet in Visitacion Valley. He’s also served in the military, been a corporate pilot, and worked for the State Department overseas. He eventually left that life behind, settled in San Francisco, and got back into the grocery business.
“Hotels get kinda boring,” he said, by way of explanation.
He has owned the Grocery Outlet in Visitacion Valley for about two and a half years. But the Mission location, he said, is more what he envisioned when it came to owning a grocery in San Francisco.
“This feels like San Francisco to me,” he said. “The Mission, it’s got its own vibe, its own culture, there’s a vibrant community around and I really really like that.”
But what about all the other groceries in the Mission? Aren’t those competition?
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“Part of our biggest selling points really is that we make quality food of first-rate brand names very very affordable,” he explained. “I was just reading an article today about the cost of living in San Francisco, how it’s so high. This is something that really impacts people.”
An example? His store just received a pallet of coconut water that usually sells for $4.29 a package, but they will be offering it at $1.49. Grocery Outlet manages those prices by having ongoing relationships with distributors who turn to them when they need to sell over-inventory items, have a packaging change, or otherwise need to offload.
“There’s a lot of corner grocery stores around here, but as far as full-service, bigger-box groceries, there’s really only Safeway and Foodsco,” Liittschwager said.
The Mission District Grocery Outlet employs about 45 people, he said, many of them students or mothers supporting children who appreciate the work’s flexible schedule.
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