By: Sam Mogannam, Owner, Bi-Rite Family of Businesses
September marked the 75th anniversary of Bi-Rite’s original market in the Mission, which my family has owned for more than 50 years. The anniversary presented us with an important moment to reflect on our history, celebrate our accomplishments, and thank the community that helped us achieve our mission of Creating Community Through Food.
In honor of National Hunger Action and Awareness Month, we felt that cooking and serving a meal with our longtime friends at GLIDE, who share our values, was the perfect opportunity to reflect and give back. We set a goal of 75 hours of service, an hour for each year we’ve been in business. On Tuesday, September 29th, 23 Bi-Rite staff collectively served those 75 hours, by providing the dinner meal and service at GLIDE.
However, the work began long before arriving at GLIDE’s doors for our service day. We started rallying the troops at Bi-Rite more than a month in advance, and the response was immediate and enthusiastic.
First, our Bi-Rite Catering team worked to craft a menu that both showcased Bi-Rite’s commitment to wholesome, delicious, sustainable ingredients, and fit the needs of serving GLIDE’s 500 – 700 dinner guests. Beyond the logistical challenges of coming up with a meal that was easy to transport and serve, we also realized that this meal was the biggest event we’d ever catered! Even as a food business that feeds tens of thousands of people every day, at the GLIDE dinner, we served more people than we had ever cooked a single meal service for before.
Our Butcher team, headed by our Meat, Poultry & Seafood Buyer, Chile Montes, also quickly leapt into gear, reaching out to our longtime friend and partner David Pitman of Pitman Family Farms, the committed chicken ranchers behind Mary’s Chickens. David generously donated 8 cases of Mary’s natural free range chicken to provide the centerpiece for the GLIDE meal.
Our friends and neighbors Tartine also contributed, baking bread to accompany the meal. As always, Tartine went above and beyond: personally delivering fresh bread straight out of the oven shortly before the meal was served.
For our staff who joined us for the day of service, it was an opportunity to fulfill our mission of creating community through food outside the four walls of our stores. We arrived at 2:45 for orientation and prep, served dinner from 4 to 6PM, cleaned up, and shared a post-service meal and conversation with GLIDE staff.
Reflecting upon the experience, staff were particularly blown away by the level of efficiency and organization required to serve almost 550 meals in 1.5 hours. Perhaps better than many, we know pulling off such a seamless operation for such a large number of guests isn’t easy. We were impressed and inspired by the amazing amount of trust, love, and teamwork exemplified by GLIDE staff. They live their values of radical inclusivity and universal love through how they communicate and facilitate an incredibly complex food service operation.
These values were also reinforced by all who came through the GLIDE doors. We loved the incredibly kind and heartwarming expressions of gratitude from so many guests. They thanked us, applauded and cheered us, made us feel welcome, and complimented our food. It was incredibly rewarding to feel so appreciated and welcomed by everyone we met.
Volunteering at GLIDE for Bi-Rite’s 75th anniversary also had a personal draw; for me and my family, serving at GLIDE is about coming full circle. When my father and uncle first arrived in San Francisco from Palestine, they landed their first jobs at a grocery store owned by a cousin, at the corner of Eddy and Jones. After work, my father would come home and talk to me about the homeless and hungry he would encounter during his day. They worked in the Tenderloin for two years before taking over Bi-Rite Market on 18th street.
More than 50 years later, the Tenderloin is a historic neighborhood that still needs our help. This is the neighborhood that got my family off the ground, and helped them build their new lives in San Francisco. Bi-Rite’s service day at GLIDE was a reminder of our roots, and our collective responsibility to continue fighting for radical inclusivity and just communities for everyone.
A huge thank you to GLIDE for helping us celebrate 75 years with 75 hours of service. We’re already looking forward to joining you once more on Thanksgiving morning!