SF Supermarkets: 1920s to 1970s

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I'm looking for info on the former (1920s through 1970s) locations of large supermarkets in the city for an article I'm writing. I'm mostly interested in the chains (Safeway, Lucky, etc.) or particularly large independents. All help is most appreciated!

-- David Gwynn (planetsoma@yahoo.com), June 01, 1999


Terrible memory, but I barely recall The Crystal Palace between 8th Street and 7th on Mission? or Harrison? in the early 50's and was told by oldsters that the market was there in the '20s. It was huge, like a square block and indepn- dent stalls were set up by various merchants of all nation alities, as is S.F. and one could buy fish, flour, spices (ah, the smells are what we recall best, no?) The noise, the languages but they all spoke "money". This was long before the notion of "supermarket" which is really a post WWII phenomena. Don't know who owned it, how it ran or stuff, but thanks for that trip down mememory lane. I can still visualize the sawdust on the floor, the roof which had glass in it, and other things. PS: Good luck in your search as they tore this market down in the mid 1950's

-- Len (len@sonic.net), June 05, 1999.

Here's about 160locations with dates and adresses.

Mac Marr Stores 1930 Monterey Blvd 709 Mac Marr Stores 1930 Noriega St 1301 Mac Marr Stores 1930 Ocean Av 1601 Mac Marr Stores 1930 Pacific Av 1215 Mac Marr Stores 1930 Pine St 1018 Mac Marr Stores 1930 Polk St 1300 Mac Marr Stores 1930 Precita Av 548 Mac Marr Stores 1930 Sacremento St 3625 Mac Marr Stores 1930 San Bruno Av 2670 Mac Marr Stores 1930 San Jose Av 1804 Mac Marr Stores 1930 Sutter St 880 Mac Marr Stores 1930 Taraval St 2133 Mac Marr Stores 1930 Union St 2174 Mac Marr Stores 1930 Valencia St 914 Mac Marr Stores 1930 Vicente St 1208 Mac Marr Stores 1930 Washington St 2970 Mac Marr Stores 1930 West Portal Av 99 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Balboa St 1802 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Bush St 671 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 California St 6300 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Chestnut St 2159 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Clement St 823 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Divisadero St (*Devisadero,*Benton) 501 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Fillmore St 2400 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Geary St 828 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Haight St 489 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Hyde St 2000 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Irving St 1949 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Mission St 6315 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Monterey Blvd 783 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Ocean Av 2367 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 O'Farrell St 720 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Polk St 1552 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Powell St 849 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Stockton St 1355 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Sutter St 871 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Taraval St 1006 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 Van Ness Av (*Marlette) 2301 Piggly Wiggly Stores 1930 West Portal Av 63

Hope this is useful

-- kurt iversen (iversenk@aol.com), June 25, 1999.

Thanks for all the help! I've been tearing through the city directories at the library back to 1950 (so far), but I didn't even know there had been Pggly Wiggly stores here. And I'd never even heard of Mac Marr!

If anyone's interested in waht I finally come up with, please let me know...

-- David Gwynn (planetsoma@yahoo.com), June 27, 1999.

I don't think Haight Street has a 1900 block. I was told by an oldster (she was 90 in 1963) that at the end of Haight and Stanyan there was a barn of horses that caught fire, and when put out the whole area smelled terribly. There was also plenty of water in that area which I gather was a natural spring from the surrounding hills (Twin Peaks, Lone Mountain, Tnak Hill) which pooled in that area.

-- Len (len@sonic.net), June 28, 1999.

There were a couple of decent sized independent grocers in the Sunset in the 50's and 60's. The Super X at 25th/Noriega, Seabrite on Noriega between 25th/24th, across the street from the Super X! And Foremost on 33rd and Noriega. There were others in the neighborhood, but mostly mom and pop shops. Does anyone remember the Sun Valley Dairy on 25th/Lawton? How about when you couldn't buy meat on Sunday, or after 6:00pm any day?

-- Joe Fazio (jjfpi@msn.com), February 15, 2000.

Never heard of Piggly Wiggly in SF....but I do remember Draegers on Taravel St. where we did our shopping...of course Safewy on NOriega...and the Lucky Market out by Stonestown...but my all time favorite was Petrini's . They had one at Stonestown...and a main branch over by the old Lowell High School I think....The coolest thing I ever saw was a whole suckling pig with an orange in it's mouth in the meat section...I thought it was sleeping...!! Way cool....My Grandfather owned several markets around town...from the teens on....catering to the Presido Walll and Pacific Heights crowd...The Gilt Edge Market was one of them..can't remember the others..he had about four at one time..... But I'll never forget Petrini's...I think the last one closed up in Santa Rosa..a few years ago...too bad.

-- Kathy Gori (webdog@webtv.net), November 13, 2000.

How about Sutro Super, where there is now a Walgreens, close to the SF Fire Department, on Geary/around 43rd. It was there when I was here in 1977.

-- Wolfgang Schubert (chouby@aol.com), November 17, 2000.

Thanks again...

If anyone's interested in what I finally came up with, please drop by; http://www.planetso ma.com/bottles/

-- David Gwynn (planetsoma@yahoo.com), November 22, 2000.

There was mention of the Crystal Palace Public Market. It's front door was on Market Street right at the South-East corner of 8th Street. It opened in December, 1922 and closed in August, 1959 to make room for the Dell Webb's Townehouse, a motor hotel. It was like a farmer's market, only indoors (and was not limited to food). There was sawdust on the floor. There were a hugh list of companies that had stores in the Crystal Palace.

-- Ken Parker (parkk@www2.kparker.org), February 21, 2001.

My grandfather had a radio program "Cal Kings Country Store" and advertised for the Crystal Palace. This was before network radio in San Francisco.

In the 50's and 60's the Sunset District had 22nd and Irving Market; Mother Market (23rd & Irving); and Sunset Super (25th & Irving). Park&Shop (now Andronico's) was bulit on the lot of the old car barns.

The old QFI (Quality Foods Incorporated) included "Petrini's Meats" in most of their locations. They not only had their own stores , but Sunset Super (on Irving), Westlake Foods, Skyline Foods, Stonestown Market, and several stores around San Francisco. QFI had stores under their own brand on Alamany in San Francisco and down the Peninsula. The "QFI Warehouse" was in Daly City on Junipero Serra in the building that "What A Racquet" is in. I believe the name of their wholesale company was "Richmond Wholesale".

Cala purchased several chains over the years; Littleman, Jolly Stores, Super X, QFI and Bell.

Purity was another chain that was on the Peninsula. As you drive through towns you can still see their former locations with their distinctive roofs.

Mayfair Markets were in Daly City, San Mateo, Belmont, San Francisco up until the 70's when they (Arden Group) sold the chain to other stores including Brentwood (merged into Safeway, owned the Pac & Save stores), Farmers, and Co-op (presently the Fishermans Wharf Safeway). In a recent trip to Southern California I discovered that Mayfair Stores were being converted to Gelsons Markets.

Alpha-Beta, Ralphs (Both are part of Kroger), Gemco (Lucky), at one time or another had a prescence on the peninsula. ALbertsons left the area for years, to return by merging with American Stores and taking over Lucky.

Co-ops were in Berkeley, Marin, San Francisco and Palo Alto.

Lees Markets had stores along the Peninsula (Carlmont Shopping Center, Los Prados Shopping Center, Burlingame Square (?))

Hope this gives you some information you can use. Good Luck

-- David Kinkead (dkinkead@valusource.com), March 05, 2002.

Westlake Foods - Skyline Foods now owned by Safeway were built, owned and operated by Vincent James Nevolo. An Italian gentleman of Sicilian decent who began his enterprise in the late fifties with a small market in the Mission District. Being so successful with his formula of high quality, low prices and honest friendly disposition he opened his next market where Wallgreens is now in Westlake, Daly City. He outgrew this location as soon as he opened his doors. He then began construction of what was soon to become the Largest Super Market in existence at that time. The square footage of his warehouse was double that of his retail section allowing for large inventory direct to sales. This allowed him to cut retail prices below that which his competitors QFI, Safeway and Cala Foods were able to meet. There warehouses were far from there retail outlets thus additional shipping expenses were added. His Meat Department was also of the highest Quality and lowest prices under the same methodology. People came from miles around responding to his unbeatable specials in his two page weekly ads to return again and again, shopping carts often overflowing. 12 check stands fully manned and still lines up the isles. Week after week, year after year. People willing to endure this process because of the High quality merchandise, prices and customer care almost nonexistent in retail today. Where’s the ketchup? Waa hunh aaa... I dunno, the managers not here. 5 years later he opened Skyline Foods. These were and still are key locations easily found by there well thought out names. Vince's, Jim's, Nevolo’s, etc. were considered but not used, he believed in the simplicity of name recognition and location rather than pride for the customers sake. Where is Vince's Foods vs where is Westlake Foods, you knew where they were to be found. His plans for expansion throughout the west coast were curtailed by a stroke in the early seventies. Safeway, QFI as well as numerous other retail food distributers were constantly making offers to buy his business. He knew that if he sold, the Quality, Low Prices and Dedication to Customer Satisfaction would be lost. After 2 more strokes he was forced to retire and reluctantly sold his business to Safeway where we all know of the level of quality and customer satisfaction...waaa? He died several years later after his fourth and final stroke. An innovator of his time in the Retail Food Business Vincent James Nevolo will not be forgotten by those who knew him personally, worked for him or shopped in his stores as a man of Integrity, Generosity and The Genius of Business that he was.

Robert L. Boring

-- Robert L. Boring (Klklklop@alloymail.com), May 05, 2002.

Pictures of the Crystal Palace are over at the SF Library's historical photo collection. Here's the subject search page:


Now, will somebody please remind me the name of the grocery on Polk Street that is now razed for a condominium complex? It began with a B and I want to say "Bernstein's" but that doesn't sound right.

-- Rosa (rosadebon@yahoo.com), May 05, 2002.

There was a Large Independent store on 7th ave called Lick super between Clement and Geary streets through the 70's Little Bell Market on Castro Where a Walgreen's is now off Clipper Street Foodland on Eddy street near Fillmore Lincoln Super on Clement St between 5th and 6th ave. That's all I can remember for now.

-- Bruce Jolly (Dexzac1@aol.com), October 19, 2002.

how about rossi's market on vallejo st. in north beach. used to go there when i was a kid in the 50's.

-- david gomez (dave194812@dygo.com), March 10, 2003.

Another North Beach market of the larger variety was the Buon Gusto on Colombus at Green (if memory serves).

-- D. A. Martinich (dutchm@dcn.org), March 12, 2003.

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