Noe Valley Voice September 2004

Letters to the Editor

New Slogan: "Real Food/Real Empty/Real Mad!"


It's been one year.

This Labor Day weekend marks a different sort of anniversary in Noe Valley. One year ago Labor Day weekend, Noe Valley shoppers arrived at the Real Food store on 24th Street and found it locked for "remodeling" with no prior notice. Even the vendors were caught unaware. Days after the sudden closure they continued making deliveries to the store. Yet according to the parent company--vitamin conglomerate Nutraceutical Corporation/ Fresh Organics, Inc.--an extensive renovation had been planned well in advance.

No one was more perplexed about the abrupt and unceremonious closure than the nearly 30 employees who were fired without notice the night before. (We wonder: Did Nutraceutical executives consciously choose Labor Day weekend to send a message to unionizing workers?) The National Labor Relations Board certainly felt the matter was worth looking into, and we expect a decision by the board soon.

In addition to the firing of workers, equally galling is the effect the closure has had on local business. Since the closing of Real Food, several merchants on 24th Street between Sanchez and Noe have experienced a dramatic and even fatal drop-off in sales due to reduced foot traffic.

We are indignant. Many of us who live and work in Noe Valley had shopped at Real Food for up to 30 years. We are also among the 2,000 Noe Valleyans who signed a petition expressing outrage over Nutraceutical's disrespectful conduct. Our community expects to live in a neighborhood where workers are treated ethically, with concern for their well-being, and where merchants and landlords relate to the greater community with consideration and respect.

Yet Nutraceutical never responds in an authentic way. Instead, our appeals are met with cynical and superficial corporate-speak about "product mix" and "enhancing the shopping experience." It's remarkable: Despite hundreds of letters, e-mails, petitions, and phone calls from concerned neighbors, the company has done nothing to correct, let alone address, its misdeeds. Even more stunning is that over the past few months, our district supervisor, Bevan Dufty, has called Nutraceutical CEO Bill Gay on almost a daily basis. Bevan has yet to receive even a return phone call.

Frustrating as well is that when we appeal to Real Food's original owners and landlords, Jane and Kimball Allen, we're told they won't discuss the matter for legal reasons. Even when several merchants have expressed interest in opening a high-quality food store--including Bi-Rite on 18th Street--the Allens have said, in essence, "No comment."

The one positive outcome of our outrage is the Noe Valley Farmers' Market, which developed out of community meetings held soon after the store closed. Every week for four hours, we celebrate our community, local farmers, healthy food, good neighbors, and down-home music. By supporting our neighborhood farmers' market we say a most emphatic no! to corporations like Nutraceutical, which usurp the very meaning of locally grown organic food that nurtures and sustains people in the most wholesome way.

So, here we are, one year later, with a thriving farmers' market and a gutted health food store. Although we've heard rumors of an agreement between the Allens and Nutraceutical, without direct communication from either party the information resembles similar rumors we heard last spring about an imminent reopening. In fact, as of Aug. 24, there are no permits, applications, or building plans on file with the city.

In effect, both the Allens and Nutraceutical continue to ignore the concerns of the neighbors, workers, and local merchants, while, for a full year, we've been held hostage by out-of-town business interests based far from Noe Valley (Nutraceutical Corporation in Utah and the Allens in Marin). The silent stalemate between Nutraceutical and the Allens has reflected a lack of accountability to the people who live and work in Noe Valley.

Do we really want a business in our neighborhood that has caused so much damage? Again, our answer is no.

We want to mark this anniversary by reiterating our position: We will work toward creating a neighborhood where employees are treated ethically, with concern for their well-being, and where merchants relate to the greater community -- and their potential customers--with consideration and respect.

We invite all Noe Valleyans affected by the yearlong closure of Real Food to join us on Labor Day weekend, Saturday, Sept. 4. At 11:45 a.m., we will meet at the farmers' market (located on 24th Street between Vicksburg and Sanchez) and move on to a rally at the Real Food store. On the same day, we will announce a new campaign, one that calls for a boycott of Nutraceutical products and urges Nutraceutical to leave our neighborhood and allow a more ethically minded local business to move in.

It's been one year, and no, we haven't forgotten. And if you--Nutraceutical Corporation and the Allens--don't believe us, read our new button: Real Food/Real Empty/Read Mad!

Vanessa Barrington, Paula Benton,
Lisa Brinker, Leslie Crawford,
John Foley, John Friedman,
Peter Gabel, Richard Hildreth,
P. Rachel Levin, Patrick Monk,
Steve Powell, Kim Rohrbach,
Mary Schieb, Erica Sweetman,
Carrie Varoquiers, Eric Viscito

Reaps Shoots and Leaves


Of all the wonderful articles written about the Conservatory of Flowers in the past year, I think I enjoyed yours ("An Afternoon Idyll at the Conservatory of Flowers," by Rosie Ruley Atkins, July/August 2004 Voice) most of all. You certainly captured the adventure of visiting our city's great glasshouse, in ways that frequently made me smile.

We hope you will visit again and often, and that you'll bring your family and friends with you. We can promise you'll see something new and different every time. After all, it's a jungle in here! Appreciatively,

Scot Medbury

Director, Conservatory of Flowers

Golden Gate Park

Howl If Your House Is Haunted

Dear Noe Valley Neighbors,

We at Cover to Cover are hoping some of you may be able to come forward with some information regarding those ghoulies and ghosties and other things that go "bump" in the Noe Valley night. We have been delving into the darker regions of our friends' consciouses to track down the locations of hauntings, haunted houses, and various and sundry other creepy tales.

We hope we can put together a Halloween tour of the 'hood, so anything you can tell us about places to see, historical happenstances, or great stories you've heard about local goings-on would be a much appreciated boon.

Call us at the store at 282-8080 or e-mail us at Thanks.

The Staff at Cover to Cover

Cover to Cover Booksellers

1307 Castro Street, S.F., CA 94114

THE VOICE welcomes your letters to the editor. Write the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. Or e-mail Please include your name, address, and phone number. (Anonymous letters will not be considered for publication.) Be aware that letters may be edited for brevity or clarity. We look forward to hearing from you.