Rumor Report: Gourmet Food Store Coming to Former Red Hill Books Space


A nosy curious Bernal neighbor heard some innnnnnteresting things about what’s planned for the former (and much-lamented) Red Hill/Badger Books space on Cortland at Bennington:

I caught Matt locking up the old Red Hill Books and asked if I could be nosy and ask what he’s planning…

He was sweet, said it’s not a secret. The corner of Cortland and Bennington will become The Epicurean Trader — gourmet and local packaged goods. He’s hoping that locals will tell them what’s missing from the other nearby shops so he can keep us all stocked in fav products (not compete with Good Life or Avedanos). They also plan to invite local purveyors to present and so on and such  I think he also mentioned selling wine and beer too, but not positive.

Hmmmmmm. Bernalwood reached out to the owner of the building for comment, but we have not yet received a response.

Treat this as a rumor for now, although in the last few days several other Cortland merchants and curious neighbors have also told Bernalwood more-or-less the same thing about the plan for this storefront. Stay tuned…

PHOTO: via Google Maps

38 thoughts on “Rumor Report: Gourmet Food Store Coming to Former Red Hill Books Space

  1. We need another gourmet grocery on the hill like we need another nail salon or corner liquor store.

    How is this not going to compete with Avedanos? Between Avedanos and 331, I think we have our “local purveyor” needs pretty well met.

    If there’s something you’re lacking, why not ask one of the existing local shops to stock it? Avedano’s has always been super responsive about stocking locally made foodstuffs when we (nicely) pointed out a local alternative to the imported stuff they’d been carrying.

    • Dunno, the other stores have been pretty unresponsive at requests to stock more vegan items. GL has some things like tofu and faux sausage, but we’ve come a long way since 1990, and it’d be cool if there was somewhere nearer than Rainbow to shop for those choice bits (e.g. Miyoko Schinner’s cultured vegan cheeses that, right now, you can only get in Berkeley).

      That said, I can’t think of many other grocery needs up here.

      • Alemany farmers market is vegan. This will sound snarky but I am still reeling from countless brow beatings from a so called friend and vegan who only ate vegan hot dogs and all sorts of processed crap. I ate more veggies than she did. And i sure cooked more too.

  2. So the tentative plans for the arts center at that space are officially dead? That is sad to hear. Seemed pretty ambitious to have it there, though, with the market as it is.

  3. We need another gourmet grocery on the hill like we need another nail salon or corner liquor store.

    If it makes money, then the answer is yes, it’s filling an unmet need. I’m not taking the risk of opening, the business owner is.

    When the art center idea was being bandied about, my thought was this would only work if it was it up like Pixie Hall Studios in Noe Valley. They have art classes and events, but also have an art-based preschool. So they have several streams of revenue coming in at different times of the day.

    When I was trying to think of what could generate income in that space, I was wondering if a Preschool might work. There certainly seems to be a lot of demand locally, but it might need some work on the space to get permit sign off.

  4. Well, at least it isn’t another coffee shop!!!
    Wondering what the status is of Harvest HIlls on the corner of Cortland & Ellsworth…..

    • They are in permitting purgatory, apparently. I check in with them regularly.

      Seriously, it is difficult to overstate how byzantine and awful the permitting process is for new, food-oriented businesses. Yes, the merchants know this when they set out to open a business… but even when they know it, they often don’t fully know the magnitude of it. The bureaucracy completely sucks.

  5. I’m all for it and frankly both Avedano’s and Good Life have gotten tired and are just showing up to work and doing the minimum these days. Compare Avedano’s with Olivier’s in Dogpatch…there really is no comparison, and people come from all over the city to Olivier’s. Avedano’s has ended up more like Drewes on Church St. was (I think they finally keeled over), stuff just gets old in the case. Good Life could be a bigger better Bi-rite but they don’t have the competitive level of taste. Whole Foods is getting the pick of the crop and even things that were Good Life exclusives like Dwelley Farms corn is now stacked to the rafters at WFM. Harvest Hills is a bit too small and a bit too inconsistent.

    So enough of this anti-customer politeness. If you’re going to do it do it right. Compete and create a destination gourmet shop that attracts foodies from around the city. You can get exotic preserves and Calabrian chile pepper at Rainbow already. I doubt they have the space to do competitive prepared foods (which is a Bi-Rite advantage) but maybe with an off-site kitchen they can. But what can really turn heads is fresher and higher quality basic ingredients for people who actually cook. Look at Bryan’s in Laurel Heights for instance.

    Oh well pipe dream.

    • Drewes is still there, presumably with the same snarky service as ever.

      I was an Avedano’s skeptic when they opened — I got an earful of snootiness on my first visit — but they have definitely won me over. The selection of meat isn’t always broad, but I’m consistently pleased with the quality. And the current crop of folks who work there (at least at the times when I visit) are lovely.

      • Good prepared food like they have at Canyon Market is a niche that could do well in Bernal that we don’t currently have. Other than that, I think Good Life is fine (though could use a makeover outside LOL)

  6. Found the store that should go in the space:

    Flotsam General Store
    A Post-Structural Online Shopping Experience

    From a rocky perch, a figure stands watching the waves crash in eternal repetition. Is he looking for something or is he waiting for something he has already found? For a lifetime of looking, maybe nothing will come and for a lifetime of waiting, maybe nothing returns. Flotsam is dedicated to the principle that sometimes, what we seek can eventually find us. Our goal is to never know.
    Flotsam offers three sacs of hand-chosen items that are hand-hewn by machines in America and are shipped directly to you. What you receive depends on what we choose for you in the moment. In this way, a symbiotic chain is created between producer and consumer. Our mission is to always build on that chain, until that chain enwraps all of us and we are thusly bound together, chained.

  7. As much as Cortland Avenue has improved the past 10+ years, it still has a ways to go. Between the liquor stores, nail/hair salons there’s really not much for browsing. I rarely go there other than for a meal at one of the cafes; at least the food choices have upgraded. Something different needs to go in. Too bad the arts center will not happen; it was such a good idea, especially with so many new families buying homes in the neighborhood. I go to Olivier’s a lot, as well as other shops all across SF due to the variety, service, uniqueness [i.e. Dandelion Gift Shop]. Most of them are in places that are very far flung, yet all thriving, non-stop. Hopefully, too, Harvest Hills will be able to open soon. The permit process in SF is never ending.

  8. Today my kid asked for a specific book and I was reminded of Red Hill’s demise. I’m STILL in mourning for my Iocal bookstore.

  9. People who want local bookstores should SHOP at local bookstores, not browse the stores then buy online from Amazon. You booklovers have done it to yourselves. What needs to go into a small retail space is something where the experience can’t be duplicated online. A gourmet food store fits that bill because smelling the fresh basil and the cured ham and whatever cannot be duplicated via the web. Other options might be a daycare center, a ceramics studio (like that one that was on 24th for many years where people came in and made their own ceramic art), or perhaps a marijuana store. But manufactured goods such as books, toys, even shoes simply can’t be sold cost-effectively vie retail shops anymore.

  10. The building’s being painted (grey) as I type this. Just walked by while getting lunch, and it was already half done.

  11. I heard it’s going to be more of a deli & we really need a good one up here because GL is really stale. I wish they measured up to Canyon Market with a real Bakery & real Butchers and exciting deli items but they’re closer to Safeway.

  12. Hmm, I wish them well but I would have been more excited if you told us the rumor was more along the lines of a veterinary clinic for all the beasts in bernal or say a family dentist for kids etc or even perhaps a good kids hairdresser w possible kids shoes store and such like. I was pondering what may work well as a sucessful business venture for the spot as it’s prime location on cortland- I’d like to see a new business do really well and not close up shop in a year or 2 – but I hope I’m
    Wrong in that. Cheesemonger could be interesting if wine is involved though ..hmm perhaps I’m coming around to the idea afterall 🙂

  13. I’d love a good Italian deli like Lucca’s on Valencia and 22nd. Lots of meats, cheeses, Italian products, drued mushrooms, wines, fresh pasta and ravioli, bread from Green Gulch, plus Italian cooking classes . . . any kind of cooking classes would be great!

  14. Whatever it is, one thing is certain: the next Handout, er, Kickstarter campaign will soon be announced.

  15. 28 comments. 19 Different ideas about what would work in the space.

    Business owners in SF are like the worms that live on the boiling sulfuric vents on the ocean floor: they are these fascinating, exotic creatures that see a harsh, impossibly difficult environment and say “Yes, please!”

    I can’t begin to understand them; I can only admire their tenacity from a distance and wish them well.

  16. A good deli (Lucca’s I will grudgingly accept as a decent Italian deli) can work, but a GOOD deli. It would arguably compete with Moonlight which is NOT a good deli. Shame it doesn’t have enough room for tables outside but we could get another parklet I guess. The emphasis then would be on prepared foods. With something like Lucca or AG Ferrari at least you know there’s a minimum level of competence that they were able to open more than one location, but you lose the opportunity for the individual proprietor to exceed that.

    To address comments above, Canyon Market is a decent store and better than Good Life, but their prepared foods are quite mediocre, the selection and quality of produce a bit spotty. I want to add that Bryan’s is as good as it is because of withering competition with Cal-mart/Viglizzo’s not just in the same hood but in the same exact row of shops there 200 yards away on California…competition is good for business (and best for the customer) and Bryan’s had to do everything it could to stay alive with such direct competition. That helps everyone as the less sophisticated customer can putter around Cal-mart and Cal-mart has to serve them as well as it can or else they will abandon class conformance and shop up.

    The funky colors the Red Hill store was painted was its most redeeming quality and it’s a very bad sign that the deli would rather the store be gray. I’m sure the cold cuts will taste gray too then. They will probably just mail it in after six months of wilting enthusiasm and slice crummy Columbus/Diestel industrial pre-packs with rubber rolls and clumsy two-day old potato salad. But hey they could surprise me. For people who think Trader Joe’s is edible and a good deal (was last true maybe 10 years ago) they will do a thriving business I’m sure, they have a prime location there.

    And yes the people at Avedano’s are absolutely lovely and I adore them. But Olivier’s is providing exactly what people want, and that is an authentic steakhouse-quality dry-aged rib-eye, cut to order. With that ingredient anyone can come home and look like a genius at the grill. I don’t care that much about the personalities of the people serving me, just that the product is worth the price. And I will reward those who can pull that off with my custom. If you think you’re good enough to compete selling food in food-obsessed San Francisco, you better be real good and compete every hour.

  17. As a former employee of Badger Books, I’m really glad there’s SOMETHING in this space now. It’s such a lovely space. But I can say that the owner isn’t ignoring the query, she’s just a little eccentric. Anyway, she also owns Alley Cat down the hill and it’s an excellent bookstore.

  18. and one more thing about what’s killing bookstores – it’s not lack of customers, it’s high rent

    • Revisiting this article since I noticed the Epicurean Trader is looking near complete, and I thank you for your honest insight. Cheers, and good luck to whatever is paying the bills for ya now Chris!

  19. Personally I don’t see what all the negativity is for. They seem like they are offering some very interesting small batch items, as well as quality cheese and wine (which personally I don’t think you can get reliably from the Good Life or elsewhere in Bernal), so I am very excited for this shop to open. Plus the store looks amazing, so no doubt they have put as much thought into the products as they have the fit out.

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