Meraki Market, a new, upscale grocery at a previously abandoned Post Street storefront, arrived last month promising high-quality produce and prepared foods for the Tenderloin/Nob Hill neighborhood. The market, a passion project from the flashy San Francisco events designer Stanlee Gatti, appears to be delivering the goods, but with a byproduct: billowing smoke from its wood-burning stove, which is proving unpopular with neighbors.
Initially, any smoke from the market was masked by the wine country wildfires, nearby neighbor Latasha Poindexter explains. But after smoke from those blazes cleared, more kept coming from the market. “Some days it’s not that bad, and some days, I can taste the burning smell in my mouth,” says Poindexter.
She and other neighbors have sounded the alarm, contacting the city health department and writing to area Supervisors Jane Kim and Aaron Peskin. But the city building office says the smoke-producing appliance — the stove — is up to code.
“We’re totally in the clear,” says Gatti, who spent years designing his store, which he considers “a great service to the neighborhood.”
“We have a double ventilation system on the roof — the environmental health inspector was just there,” he told Eater SF. Meraki’s chef typically roasts foods like pork and chicken over the stove, which requires a period of burning before it’s hot enough to use. “By the time the smoke travels about 20 feet into the air, it dissipates,” Gatti says. “The smell exists, for sure.”
The pungent smell is from mesquite wood, which Gatti chose specifically for its character. “We’re going the extra level, burning mesquite” says the proprietor, who notes that the smell gets compliments from many customers.
Neighbors like Alex Folsom are less enthusiastic about it. “The smell of wood smoke is strong,” he writes in a letter to supervisors Kim and Peskin. “I’m concerned about the health affects of this smoke exposure.” According to Folsom, the building height is partially to blame for the issue. The exhaust is on the roof of a one story building, but in the dense neighborhood, many on the block are several stories taller.
Gatti is proud of what he’s built at Meraki Market. “I can’t tell you how many times people come in to compliment that it’s just so nice to have it in the neighborhood,” he says. He’s apologetic to neighbors annoyed but the smell, but insists it doesn’t present a health risk.
Latasha Poindexter agrees, to an extent. “It’s a great concept, a high-end concept, ain’t nothing wrong with that,” she says. “But if it’s going to be for the neighborhood, make it for all the neighborhood, and not at the expense of the neighbors nearby.”