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A new old market: New owner revamps old Oak Grove Market with gourmet selections
October 12, 2013, 05:00 AM By Kerry Chan Daily Journal

Kerry Chan/Daily Journal
The Oak Grove Market is transforming into a neighborhood-serving market with fresh produce, seafood and local and gourmet items.

Victoria Lama, a junior from Burlingame High School, visits the market with her friends after school to buy their favorite snacks.

Inside the Oak Grove Market in Burlingame, owner Steve Rich chats with a customer about the changes he has made to the 50-year-old neighborhood store.

“It has definitely improved from what it was before,” said Charles Chavez, from Burlingame. “It’s convenient and it sure beats a 7-Eleven.”

After multiple changes in ownership, the Oak Grove Market was going downhill and eventually became a place mostly for high school students to hang out and get their chips and drinks after school.

“When I got here, it was dreadful. The previous owner just sort of gave up,” said Rich. “It’s about bringing back a corner neighborhood store.”

Rich moved to the Bay Area from Chicago in 2002 and went to work for Bi-Rite Market, a popular grocery store with two locations in San Francisco. He was impressed with Bi-Rite’s commitment to offer local, gourmet and quality produce to its customers and he wanted to get into that same business.

After looking at more than 100 locations, Rich found himself in the Oak Grove Manor neighborhood with a corner store that needed a lot of attention.

“I had to pump money in, to rebuild equipment and purchase inventory,” said Rich.

He made gradual changes to improve the aesthetics of the store at 1000 Oak Grove Ave. and started stocking the shelves by adding gourmet foods, local and organic produce and artisanal snacks. Some items are customer recommendations that Rich encourages them to write down on a clipboard next to the cash register.

Desha Nardecchia, director of Adult Fitness and Special Programs at the nearby Burlingame Aquatic Club, said she comes to the market every day to get custom-made sandwiches, snacks and drinks.

“I feel comfortable here and I like the level of wholesome choices,” Nardecchia said.

Last month, Steve Rich partnered with Fish Bank, a company that sells fresh seafood at various farmers’ markets in the Bay Area. Fish Bank owner, Danny Eng, had a business selling flash frozen fish to residents of Burlingame by knocking on doors, four years ago.

Now, Eng focuses on sourcing locally caught or fresh seafood to fill his first retail location, which occupies a corner space inside the Oak Grove Market.

“As a longtime resident of San Mateo, I admire Danny’s and Steve’s enterprise in supporting and supplying good food to the local community,” said Gretchen Warner, of San Mateo.

It has been an uphill battle for Rich, who said he works well over 90 hours a week to keep things afloat.

“Were still not raking in the money but the revenues are steadily increasing,” said Rich.

In the meantime, both Steve and Danny offer samples for people to come and try. On Sept. 7, they hosted an event and served complimentary tastings of grilled halibut, salmon, shrimp and scallops provided by Fish Bank. At the event, the Oak Grove Market staff served salami, cheese and other fancy snacks.

They will be hosting a Neighborhood Party noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12.



Tags: market, grove, store,

Other stories from today:

San Mateo County police reports
Water district worker charged with embezzlement: District Attorney’s Office awaited lengthy forensic audit of Mid-Peninsula Water District
A new old market: New owner revamps old Oak Grove Market with gourmet selections

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