Revealed! What’s Happening to the Former Bernal Heights Produce Store on Cortland


Reinvention is underway at the iconic Bernal Heights Produce store on the corner of Cortland and Ellsworth. The old business has shut down and workers are busy rebuilding the interior, but paper covers the windows to hide the transformation taking place inside.

The only clues that hint at what’s coming next are a new awning and  a series of cryptic signs taped to the windows, all of which are written in the voice of a very cute young girl named Hannah.



Baffled by the ambiguity of these signs, several Cortlandia residents contacted Bernalwood to seek our help in sorting out what the store will become next. Happily, when we visited the Bernal Heights Produce site, the answer immediately became obvious.

Indeed, many residents of Precitaville probably could have solved the mystery as well. The signs in the windows were the big giveaway: The notes from Hannah use a distinctive typeface and graphic style that’s familiar to many northsiders, particularly those who shop at the Harvest Hills Market on the corner of Folsom and Precita. Thus, immediately after visiting Bernal Heights Produce, the Bernalwood Action News Team rushed to Harvest Hills to verify our hypothesis.

Here’s what we saw when we walked into Harvest Hills:


Ah-HA! Different subject matter, but a near-purrrrrrrfect graphic design match!

We asked the woman working behind the counter at Harvest Hills if there was indeed a link to the new Bernal Heights Produce store. Here is what we were told:

Confirmed! The owners of Harvest Hills have acquired Bernal Heights Produce. The Cortland location had a vent hood, which is very exciting, so the new owners plan to take advantage of it by offering more cooked and prepared food, in the style of a delicatessen. In addition, they also plan to offer lots of fresh fruits and vegetables (much as they do at Harvest Hills). We were also told that the name for the new store has not yet been chosen.

So there you have it. A riddle wrapped in an enigma shrouded in mystery… but a secret betrayed by some distinctive typography.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

48 thoughts on “Revealed! What’s Happening to the Former Bernal Heights Produce Store on Cortland

  1. This is great news. We live a block from Harvest Hills and do a lot of our daily food shopping there. Good people. Good food. I’ve often thought that there could be a market for the fruit and veggies gone by…compotes, jams, pies, tapenades. Hope they find an awesome baker to tie up with.

    • I like how Charlie snapped up the lease on the old Park Bench Cafe space apparently to make sure that Harvest Hills didn’t expand there. Which is a shame, our ‘hood now has one more ugly gated storefront taking away from the nice appearance of the street.

      It’s a shame that Charlie’s doesn’t offer some better food. The coffee is fine, but the sandwiches are sub-par. And the hours. It’s sad to see it closed up and the steel gates down on a sunny Saturday afternoon when the park is brimming with people. I’m always surprised why Charlie’s isn’t open later on the weekday’s as well.

      It’s sad to see our 2 neighbors feuding.

      • I agree that it is sad to have two neighbors feuding, but perhaps it has eased over the past year. I don’t know, and it’s not my business, personal or otherwise. Usually open-minded people (and those who are not) can be very tough on newcomers–whether it’s a new cafe or a new grocery store (or the influx of “new money” in Bernal that is often a heated subject of conversation on this blog and elsewhere). There is an adjustment period, and it may feature scuffling. We can all hope that they can learn to play as well as the dogs in Precita Park, who also need time to get acquainted.

        The allegiance to Charlie and his cafe is a little mystifying–dead average place across the board but absolutely nothing similar to compare it to in this area (in terms of history, at least), which is to its definite advantage. I’ve gone there for the ten years, with it grading a consistent C+/B-. But to not genuflect to them seems near heresy in the neighborhood, so much is the fawning sentimentality.

        Whatever the plans may be for the old cafe on Folsom–or if there are none–it would be nice to have some idea made clearer, instead of having the (publicly known) conversation apparently stall (about a year ago?) with musings about a tapas place or yet another place to drink wine with pretentiousness. It’s been a long time of silence, especially for someone with supposed business interests who gregariously slaps backs in his cafe while supposedly being an “important part of the community.”

        If Obama can hold a press conference and talk about the drone program, can Charlie talk about his business? I know: We didn’t elect Charlie, it’s his own business, and so on…But even his legions of fans must want to know what is going on, right? Is no one curious?

        For someone who has stated that he hates the fact that he has to cover his (oft-closed) cafe with an unsightly door from the late afternoon, Charlie may not seem to be doing much to open the other one that has been chained shut every second for the past year. That does not strike me as community leadership, and does not seem to reflect any business savvy or creativity or interest in improving the neighborhood, where commercial real estate is scant and precious. Time (and survival skills) will tell if Charlie’s is a part of the gentrification movement or will be a victim of it.

        I can’t wait for any responses to this post. I hope I will learn something new, not something old.

    • I was thinking the same! Then they can keep the awesome sign already in place.

  2. This is great news to start the week on. . .who says Monday’s need to stink?

  3. I love Harvest Hills Market, but parking can be a problem. This location will be much more convenient and just in time for their annual summer fruit extravaganza. I can’t wait to see their other offerings as well.

  4. Now if we can just get the additional 4K for the parklet! Come on citizens of Bernalwood!!!

  5. HH is one of the of the best places to buy produce in town, it’ll be cool to see what they can do with a larger space.

  6. Good, hopefully the cockroaches will all be gone too. I’ve seen them crawling on the counter of that place, it was disgusting!!!

  7. I knew that the $3.25 liverwurst sandwiches wouldn’t last in the new gentrified Bernal. I assume that if new sandwiches are offered the minimum price would be $6.99 and there will never be lumpia or adobo on Cortland anymore. Filipino food is just too…too…downscale for Bernal Heights because it hasn’t been approved by the Food Network.

    Jeezzz…keep this up and I’ll have no reason to buy anything on Cortland. How long before the Hunan Chef goes away,?” I’ll always remember the review they had posted in the window for years, “Hunan Chef Doesn’t Suck”. With chutzpah to post that kind of review in their window I just HAD to go visit.

    Well, there’s still Wild Side West….or did I just jinx them?

  8. I love the sign, I hope she keeps it! I remember moving here and thinking that sign was so charming. The inside of that place was decidedly not charming. I’m looking forward to her store opening. (I do hope those ugly gates come down, they are so unwelcoming)

    On a side-note, there are always so many nay-sayers! Just relax – a new store on Cortland is exciting. And I think the previous owners retired. Isn’t a new produce store better than a vacant storefront?

    • Yes, please loose the ugly gates ! If the Bof A can go with out gates or bars i think the produce will be safe. Also a coat of paint on the outside is in order i hope and a good steamclean on the gross sidewalks infont . The Filipino place was DIRTY inside and out glad someone will take good care of the new space ! Her store down the street is so clean inside and out love it ! Maybe even plant some trees around the building with Friends of The Urban Forest . Best of luck to you !

  9. Great news! I like Harvest Market, and Cortland is much more convenient. Like another poster above, I hope they’ll offer Panorama breads. Also hope it won’t be too precious, either in atmosphere or pricing.

    • Harvest Hills is quite price competitive with Good Life. In face, for a lot of things they’re much cheaper than Good Life. And their stuff is usually fresher than Good Life’s!

      I would love it if they had a good deli section in the new store. I’d love to get freshly-sliced deli meats right on Cortland!

  10. Huge improvement over what is there now. Now if only something can be done about the remaining schlock on Cortland. I am amazed that the Mexican restaurant is still in business. That place looks like it has major heath/food/code violations.

    • Oh Pamela, I am so sorry you find “That” Mexican restaurant so distasteful. I kind of like it, nice friendly family run place. May your ever so tasteful vision of Cortland never come to fruition!

    • The “schlock” is basic working class values. Tacos Los Altos happens to be an excellent Mexican restaurant; I’ve been there many times with friends. Again, it’s not a “gourmet” restaurant, but why does everything have to be that way? Why not just simple food for simple tastes? SHEESH! You want gourmet Mexican, go to Papalote.

      • David, you seem convinced that everyone wants ‘gourmet’ and expensive food. I won’t speak for all, but all I want is a decent, clean and tasty restaurant. I don’t frequent either Hunan Chef or Los Altos because there are far better local options for both cheap chinese and taquerias. The options I go to are not ‘gourmet’ or any more expensive than Hunan Chef or Los Altos, but they are much cleaner and much better tasting. That’s what I’d like to see on Cortland.

    • Yes, you are correct about that Mexican resturant on Cortland ! DIRTY ,DIRTY AND MORE DIRTY ! My neighbor who is a chef got so so sick from eating at that dirty place he had to be rushed to St. Lukes ! Was sick for days after eating. How do they stay in business ????

    • I agree with Palela !! If only something can be done about the remaining schlock ! Sure glad they did not turn it into a hair or nail salon. How many more could one small street have ? I would love to see one of the nail salons leave or one of the run down corner markets and someone open a frozen yougert shop ! Or what about men and womans shoe or clothing store. Not sure where people of Bernal buy from but from the looks of some they really can use some new shoes and clothes !

    • I’d like to see the Mexican place get a facelift. Their food is decent, would love to see them spice the place up (much like what El Metate did on Bryant) and make it much more inviting. They should also add a taco bar 🙂

  11. HH is awesome. I love the selection and the quirky pricing. My only complaint is that they don’t always list the origin of their produce. Easy to do. Would love to know what’s local(ish) and what isn’t.

  12. I shop at Harvest Hills all the time, my only suggestion for the new store is to keep the ice cream freezers plugged in even when they’re closed. I have yet to buy ice cream at HH that wasn’t refrozen, and I am a big dumb animal who doesn’t learn so it has been several times. w

    • I had no idea they did this but always wondered why the ice cream is how it is. Wonder what else they do to fatten their wallet.. I will never shop here again!

      • Freezers never get unplugged. Once in a while someone may drop a half gallon of Mitchell’s that leaves a door open and may cause a melting problem. If you ever get a product that is not up to your expectation bring it back for a refund or new one that is perfect. The ice cream freezers are all new in the last year. They work well and are monitored each hour.

  13. Way to go Gina and Michael, Hannah when do your parents sleep!!!??? they are so busy making things better for the hood.

  14. A new shop in Bernal that gets the middle/upper class contingent excited? Orlando’s father must be dizzy this week from all of the rolling over he’s been doing in his grave.

    • Their Folsom st. store’s produce is cheaper than Safeway’s. I think he’d only have to do a quarter turn in his grave to check the sign.

  15. Yes, leave it the Bernalwood to get the story out before we intended. We knew the city may take a while to do all the certifications and such. We are basically waiting on them. We cleaned it really hard and put in the applications. We will bring Panorama there. We hope to make our own ice cream there next year. We hope to have gluten free bakers on board by winter. We will move slow but we will continue to improve this store. I don’t see a reason to paint the artwork up top. We will of course be bringing back produce to this store that once had it. Last week we had 80 cases of 25 cent organic strawberries so you never know when we’ll get a deal in and Gina will pass it on at her cost.

    If you ever get an ice cream that was refrozen bring it back for a refund. We have new freezers and we never turn them off so it would be the manufacturer or trucking companies fault. We have had a freezer fail but we usually throw away the ice cream or mark it way down and tell you it was soft at one time. Always just let us know if you have a problem. Our people will do their best to make it right.

    Let’s hope we can make the fire department happy when they decide to visit and certify us. It’s been three months waiting on them…

  16. Pingback: New Creamery on Cortland Has a Name, but No Opening Date (Yet) | Bernalwood

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