For Stanlee Gatti, San Francisco's renowned event designer, opening a market later this year on the edge of the Tenderloin isn't about making money, expanding his empire or diversifying his assets. It's about making a statement, he says.
Gatti was raised in a small, 6,500-person town in New Mexico. One block up and two blocks down from his home was the Little Store, he vividly recalls. His family regularly walked to the tiny market for fresh produce and home supplies, as did every family in his neighborhood. And every nearby neighborhood had a similar market that residents could walk to.
It wasn't until he arrived in San Francisco after college—and landed his first apartment at 940 Post St., right across from SF Party—that he realized how unique that was. Sure, the Tendernob has no shortage of corner stores, but they "didn't feel the same," he said.
Years later, Gatti and his business partner Bill Gryzwacz are bringing those fond memories back to life in the form of a highly curated fresh food market named "Meraki"—a Greek word meaning the "soul, heart or passion put into something that you do" as in "made with Meraki," Gatti explained.
Meraki will be small—1,000 square feet. Boasting a full kitchen, it'll focus on offering meals "made today, for today," Gatti said. But, like the Little Market of his childhood, they're striving to offer all of the staples a home could need—including fresh produce and pantry basics as well as products for cleaning and bathing.
However, "...it won't be a regular market," Gatti assured. "I'm opening it, so it couldn't be a regular market."
Reminiscing on the impact of Walmart on small businesses and Americans' shopping habits back in the '90s, Gatti says Meraki will only offer the very best—meaning that when it comes to choosing an olive oil, vinegar or apples, there will be just one or two favorites varieties to choose from.
Construction on the market is actually complete, Gatti says, but he expects it'll take another six months to finish researching, testing and sourcing the local, responsible products they'll endorse.
While some may have concerns about the cost of shopping at such a highly curated market, Gatti says it won't cost more than the city's existing high-end grocery stores. And they won't be marking up prices on any products just because they think they can.
"For me, I'm not doing this for money. I'm doing this because I want to make a statement about food ... slow cooking ... preparing food at home ..." he assured.
The decision to open Meraki in the Tendernob is also more of a statement than a well-researched business decision.
Gatti's first two apartments in San Francisco were located on Post Street, and he and Gryzwacz later realized that they both resided on the same floor at 940 Post St. at the same time, he said.
"I've always loved the Tenderloin," Gatti added, noting that it's home to the "nicest buildings in town." As soon as he had the means to begin buying property, he looked to the Tenderloin, where he focused on purchasing any small old building he could afford and one day restore.
In his opinion, developers are tearing down "beautiful landmarks" to build poorly-constructed residences that they then rent or sell at high prices just because they can. Anything that's well-built should stay, he said, so in addition to buying and restoring beautiful buildings around the neighborhood himself, he says he's constantly urging anyone with means to do the same—and maybe even donate them to the city once they've been renewed.
Stay tuned for more on Meraki and Gatti's efforts in the Tenderloin as the market's opening date nears later this year.
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