Joe Raskin, 37, poses in Mama's Market at 22nd and Dolores streets on Feb. 2, 2022. Raskin has been shopping at the corner store since he was ten years old and became its manager in September 2021. Photo by Anlan Cheney.

Joe Raskin, 37, manager of Mama’s Market at 21st and Dolores streets, stood in the doorway and pointed to his San Francisco Giants ball cap, a World Series version.

“I’m a local guy,” he said.

Shrink-wrapped bundles of firewood act as door stops under the vintage Mama’s Market sign. At night, the fluorescent sign also heralds “Spirits” to passersby. 

True to the sign’s advertisement, the shop stocks quite a few spirits, as well as several racks of wine and fridges of beer. There is some upscale gelato and Haagen Dazs ice cream in the freezer, too.

One of the first shelves customers encounter holds a “new item,” Joseph’s-brand pita bread made from flax, oat bran and whole wheat.

“In a corner store like this,” said Raskin, “it’s mostly wine, beer, snacks; grab-and-go sorts of items. It’s hard to make a meal, but it is possible.”

People typically take five minutes in the store, he said.

Raskin explained that he tries to diversify the items in the store to reach more people, and he takes requests for new items. 

He pulled out a flattened brown paper bag from behind the counter on which he had listed some of the requests. A few are scratched off, but the remaining include the odd triumvirate of Belching Beaver peanut butter milk stout, McVitie’s digestive biscuits, and Pedialyte. 

Raskin moved to the neighborhood when he was 10 years old, and has shopped at Mama’s Market since. “You’ve gotta put your heart and soul into it, have a vibe for the neighborhood,” he said, having managed the store for two years. “Work well with your vendors. Kindness and honesty go a long way.”

And that’s not all. “In this location you’re not necessarily just taking care of customers, you have your eye on the streets,” he said. “You see what’s going on out there.”

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"Annie" is originally from Nebraska, where she found her calling to journalism as editor of her high school newsletter. Before returning to the field, she studied peace and political science in the Balkans, taught elementary and middle school, and worked as an epidemiologist during the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow her on Twitter @anlancheney.

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