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By Corrie M. Anders
Convenience and variety may be wanting, and prices may be higher, but Noe Valley residents will still be able to find groceries in the neighborhood during the expected six-month wait for Whole Foods to remodel Bell Market. (See story at left.)
Several corner stores, delis, and specialty shops in Noe Valley are busy stocking up or expanding delivery services, in hopes of enticing Bell's former customers. In addition, neighborhood groups are cooking up ideas, such as adding an extra day to the farmers' market on 24th Street or running a shuttle to nearby supermarkets.
Two well-known Noe Valley businesses already have taken steps to fill the gap after Bell Market ceases operations Feb. 15.
"That's one of the reasons we've upgraded our store and changed equipment," said George Sepetis, owner of Church Produce at Church and 30th streets.
Sepetis said he plans to provide more organic fruits and vegetables and widen the range of imported cheeses. The new items will complement the fresh breads, organic cereals, canned goods, and small deli section that Sepetis already offers.
Shufat Goes Organic
Likewise, Shufat Market said it plans to add organic milk, cheese, and fruit to its inventory at 3807 24th Street near Church Street.
"Everybody now is into organic stuff," said James Abu-Nie, who owns the convenience grocery.
Abu-Nie said he'll also update and enlarge Shufat's deli service to include kosher sandwiches and other "kosher stuff for the Jewish community."
Abu-Nie said he expects to spend February bringing in new vegetable coolers and setting up the enlarged operation, and to have it in full swing for customers starting in early March.
Chuck Rafidi, who owns Chuck's Sun Valley Dairy at 28th and Church, said he already has a "good variety of things" at his convenience market.
"Maybe I'll just increase the amount of orders to keep up with increased demand," Rafidi said. He added that "if people request things, I'll try to get them."
Italian Delis Making Meals
Two Diamond Street operations that provide a wide array of Italian and American deli foods said they are prepared to handle an influx of new customers.
"We're probably going to be doubling our orders for Acme and Grace breads. And we may have to up our orders for coffee and crackers," said Gene Ginsberg, who with his wife Joanie Basso-Ginsberg owns PastaGina at 741 Diamond Street.
Ginsberg said patrons can go home with any of eight types of freshly homemade pastas, 20 different sauces, eight chicken dishes, and a dozen kinds of organic and other salads.
"If they're frustrated [without Bell], we want them to know they can get everything they need for a meal," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's for four people or eight people, if they can boil water, they can make a meal at PastaGina."
A few doors away, co-owners Danny Forchione and Tom Di Serio said they can easily accommodate an increase in traffic at Andiamo Gourmet Deli, their Italian-style store at 649 Diamond Street.
Forchione, who learned to cook at his grandmother's apron, daily prepares a variety of dishes that run from lasagna and rigatoni to meatball or sausage sandwiches.
"They can get better sandwiches here than at Bell," he promised.
Ask About Home Delivery
Shufat Market plans to expand the free delivery service it now offers to longtime customers, mostly seniors, who make at least a $15 purchase. The store will deliver to any customers in Noe Valley who meet the minimum purchase requirement.
Drewes Brothers Meats recently expanded its offerings to include products such as mustards and marinades, as well as wine and beer. Now, owner Josh Epple said he too is pondering beefing up home delivery service.
"We offer delivery for a select few," such as the "elderly who can't get out," Epple said. Broadening deliveries might help Drewes draw in shoppers "who normally would have gone to Bell."
Epple noted that shoppers sometimes can't easily find parking near his Church Street store, and home delivery would be "a nice option to have."
Supermarket Shuttle Proposed
With only a few stores offering such services, Supervisor Bevan Dufty and others have called on Whole Foods and a Castro District supermarket to consider setting up a shuttle service while Noe Valley is without a full-service grocery.
He said vans could take shoppers to Whole Foods' Potrero Hill store at 450 Rhode Island Street less than two miles from Noe Valley, or to DeLano's IGA Market, the former Cala Market, at 4201 18th Street. No decisions had been reached in late January.
Midweek Farmers' Market?
Noe Valley's acclaimed Farmers' Market, which sells organic fruits and vegetables on Saturdays each week, is "looking into the possibility of running a midweek market" until Whole Foods opens, says 24th Street resident Leslie Crawford, one of the market's organizers.
Crawford said a scaled-down Tuesday or Wednesday operation, which would run from 3 to 7 p.m., is under consideration.
However, there are no plans to add to the 17 vendors who sell their goods at the Saturday market, which runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 3861 24th Street, between Sanchez and Vicksburg streets.
"We're really packed at the market, and we can't add any more vendors," said Crawford.