"I think people want to have a human connection with grocery shopping, and with food," says Chappell. After thirty years in the business, Abe Saba of Cole Valley’s Alpha Market has announced his retirement. With it comes the news that local grocery delivery company, Luke’s Local, will be taking over the grocery store, which serves as the primary shopping source for many of the neighborhood’s residents.
After a recent operation, Saba decided to sell the business to focus on recovery, but this wouldn’t be San Francisco if there wasn’t a lengthy discussion about it, and Cole Valley’s neighbors have been busy ensuring that the local favorite won’t be erased by an up-and-comer. Luckily for them, Luke Chappell, the founder of Luke’s Local, has been working directly with outgoing owner Saba to make sure that the needs of the ‘hood are accounted for, while working to offer his own specialty prepared foods, local produce, fresh flowers, and pantry items. In fact, everything currently available online will be offered at the store, plus additional items recommended by Saba.
"I want to continue to carry the torch of being part of the community and serving the community," says Chappell. "For us, it’s an evolution of our business, but I want to be very conscious that we’re answering questions from the neighborhood."
Besides the changeover of a three-decades-old, family-owned operation, the opening of Luke’s Local sets it apart as one of the few online delivery companies to make the transition to a retail-facing operation. Competitors in the fresh food delivery space, like Good Eggs, Sprig, and Munchery are all still delivery-driven. And unlike those companies, Luke's has been more deliberate in its growth strategy, taking time to establish connections with farmers and focus on the products— something which apparently paid off, following a massive downsizing of Good Eggs last summer.
Chappell says he sees the future as a combination of providing the option to shop in person, and the flexibility to have it delivered.
"I think people want to have a human connection with grocery shopping, and with food."
"We want to service people and allow human interaction but still be flexible and able to deliver it to them," says Chappell. And as a bonus to neighborhood residents within a set radius, they’ll be able to place orders for delivery and receive them in just a couple of hours, rather than placing orders ahead of time.
Though Chappell says he’s been working on making this transition for over a year, it all came together when he connected with Saba. "He definitely wanted to pick the right person for the neighborhood," says Chappell. The ABC license will be transferred in the next four months, during which time Saba will help make the transition. Stay tuned for more details along the way.