Market and Noe Center (Image Source:
From Market at Noe street shopping center owner Kent Jeffrey via the San Francisco Business Times:

“Finally, after nearly three years with no anchor tenant, a huge mortgage, the building on the verge of being lost, resources exhausted, and hope fading, we are thrilled to report we have a new tenant for the former Tower Records space at the Market and Noe Center…It is a tenant that we feel will bring vitality and life to the community and at the same time provide a major convenience for all. It will be a welcome relief and a definite plus for the neighborhood, especially in today’s economy.”

And yes, said tenant is Trader Joe’s.
Trader Joe’s moving into Castro district [San Francisco Business Times]

38 thoughts on “Out With Tower Records (Three Years Ago), In With Trader Joe’s?”
  1. Yahoo! I promise I’ll walk there! I promise I’ll walk there! Thankfully that tiny handful of bitter, nasty NIMBY neighbors did not ruin this for the rest of us.

  2. I’ll believe it when I can stop and shop there while walking to a friend’s dinner party in the Castro.

  3. “I love TJ’s. What is this company’s secret though? Hiqh quality, low prices, and enthusiastic employees”
    I agree about the employees and lower prices – though not as low compared to the other supermarkets as they once were.
    Quality is another thing. Mostly its good but the fresh fruit does not last. I no longer buy fruit or vegetables from TJ’s. The rest of the products are good quality though.

  4. maybe the competition from TJs will put some pressure on Safeway to clean up their filthy location at Church & Market.

  5. Plate of shrimp — just a week ago my wife and I walked by this place and mused how it would make a great Trader Joe’s. This is an easy walk for me and would be an excellent addition to the neighborhood. But I’ll believe it when I see it. The NIMBYs and general pains in the butt who fight anything like this just because they can under this City’s ridiculous procedures will be out in force. I suggest the landlord and TJs tout the job-creation aspects to shut the gadflys up.

  6. Man, the LL is loosing about $1000/mo on the mortgage (per article). At. 3 years that’s over a million clams! If he can hold on and get TJ in there I’m sure he’ll cashflow like a mother-F*#{%! But loosing so much in the meantime, it shows you that even prime commercial RE can ruin you.
    I think I’ll stick with residential rentals or mixed use at best. That story and others I’ve heard are just too narly for me. If you’re dealing with CRE you better have significant reserves. Which means that’s tied up cash you can’t use to make additional acquisitions. So far I’m seeing more negatives than positives to CRM. Anyone think differently?

  7. “I think I’ll stick with residential rentals or mixed use at best. That story and others I’ve heard are just too narly for me. If you’re dealing with CRE you better have significant reserves. Which means that’s tied up cash you can’t use to make additional acquisitions. So far I’m seeing more negatives than positives to CRM. Anyone think differently?”
    I pretty much agree except for fully leased commercial medical office buildings. I went into one a while back in Ohio. It has a triple net lease, is fully leased for 15 years as an orthopedic center by a large local hospital – we plan on getting out in 6 years.
    Residential real estate in SF is a nightmare from what I’ve heard. Landlords are the bad guys and basically are guilty till proven innocent. Plus no cash flow.
    Dallas, Oklahoma City and places like that are where residential real estate makes most sense now. You can cash flow immediately and there is more upside potential due to strong job markets in those areas and the fact they did not experience a big real estate bubble.

  8. Good think I checked out the article before calling you on your bad math (1000/mo for 3 years = a million claims) but on reading the article I see it was just a typo on your part as it is 1000/day!

  9. Trader Joe’s is an outlier retailer in many ways. The stores are about a third the size and inventory count of what used to be considered a viable grocery store. Some items that are typically marketed in bulk get packaged to improve the flow of stocking and selling. They are also very aggressive about their sourcing which seems to work out, but can be hard on quality and fairness. How they manage people is a huge part of their success, but the relative small size and nimbleness are a feature of modern enterprises that are beating back the goliaths of the past.

  10. I second the comments about TJs fruit and produce. But I will say their dairy, meats and seafood are pretty good as are their dry goods, like cereals, nuts, etc. Plus, you can get good wine for under $10/btl (sorry, but Two Buck Chuck does suck).

  11. You are lucky to be living in Duffy’s District versus us living in “I-80” Daly’s District 6. We get buckus, zero, nada. Daly and his local warlords believe in status quo, hermetically sealed, nothing changing world view. The local corner markets here are like those NYC corner markets which sell last week’s produce today. As a consequence me and my neighbors have to either ride Muni (and risk our lives …did you read about the #9 incident?) or drive which is a pain. Daly and his warlords claim they want neighborhood serving services but because they do not want so called gentrification they get the worst of the worst instead. They only attract Regional Serving (tunnel and bridge kiddies) to the nightclubs and bars.

  12. As they are going to be taking over the parking garage on top, they should set up a system where you can reserve a parking space online or by phone. That way you can be sure and get a space and you won’t have to wait for it. Otherwise there will be a line of cars to get in that will make everybody crazy.

  13. I’m not convinced the parking issue will be as bad as everyone thinks. It’s bad at Masonic for two reasons – there are no TJ’s around it for miles, and it’s located in a pedestrian-hostile area. This place will have a lot more people arriving by foot (and Muni for that matter). If parking is really a huge chore, people will figure that out quickly, and if they need to drive they’ll go to the one in SOMA which isn’t really that far away (by car). There isn’t a whole lot of parking at the North Beach store, and that hasn’t created any problems (because it’s in a much more pedestrian-friendly location and gets a lot of foot traffic).

  14. Perhaps they can wait and see if there’s a problem. But I think the issue is that people know there’s a parking lot, so they’ll come and hope to use it. If there was no parking at all people would know go to one of the other stores that has parking. Maybe instead of actually reserving a space, you can actually check on google maps if there is a space like you do traffic conditions, or an Iphone app where you can check the waiting time for space!

  15. ^There’s a parking lot (well, garage) at the North Beach store too, but it doesn’t really have that problem.

  16. I would also add that I think most people who live even slightly south/southwest of the Castro will probably keep driving down to the Trader Joe’s locations at either Stonestown or Westlake (Daly City), which have ample parking. I live in Diamond Heights which means this new location will be my closest, and I’ll definitely shop there when I’m on foot or down in the Castro, which is quite often. But if I’m making a dedicated TJ’s trip I’m more likely to still go to one of the ones with more parking. I don’t anticipate much of a parking nightmare; we’re big growed up San Franciscans and we don’t expect to be able to find spaces right in front of Cafe Flore on demand.

  17. While I find them a bit packaging-heavy, I do love my Trader Joe’s. If this really happens I can take my ol’ lady rolly-cart to do my grocery shopping on foot. As it is, I take a car trip to the Masonic or 9th St. one at least 3x/month. But I don’t buy produce there – Golden Produce on Church is great for that. And second those comments on the Safeway — despite their Whole Foodsy redecoration, that store is one helluva buzz kill: lines, weirdos, dogs, runs out of sale items…

  18. Great news – I do like TJs.
    However, I would agree with that article awhile back that the Chron had – about how it seems that TJs gets a ‘free pass’ when it comes to critics. After reading that article, I can’t help but see a lot of their offerings are not very green (packaging wise…or shipped from far away…etc.). I also never hear anyone say ‘oh, it’s a chain – yuck’, like they do of other places (thinking of Whole Foods, etc.).
    Anyway, I like them…just interesting.

  19. I’d like to see a show of hands. How many people believe this statement (from the SF Business Times article)?
    “Jeffrey told the Business Times in June 2009 that Staples and Office Depot both walked away from the site for fear of community opposition.”
    Seriously…. Staples and Office Depot walked away because of fear of community opposition? Ha! That would be the LAST location I would expect a huge office supply store to thrive. As if the neighbors would drop by to check out what latest paper is in season or what card files are on sale….
    As far as TJ’s…. Probably the best choice building owner Kent Jeffrey could find at the moment considering the economy. Though I’m not sure how it would affect the much more preferable Harvest Market across the street. The extra traffic TJ’s brings to the building will be good for other businesses. I hope they don’t encounter community opposition.
    Speaking of chain stores…. There’s a plethora of Walgreen’s in this city. I can walk from Kearny and Montgomery to SF Center and pass something like four of the suckers. Has anyone else noticed that Walgreens stores are almost as prevalent as Starbucks in this city? If any chain store deserves to be boycotted, it’s Walgreens. Don’t get me wrong.. I like Walgreens. However I don’t like the fact that they’re stifling competition from other stores.

  20. StockBoy: It’s a bit late to be complaining about Wallgreen’s. They have already put Merrill’s out of business.
    I find it hard to believe the last part of the Business Times article that says the dry cleaners and chiropracter have suffered from the lack of an anchor tenant in the building. As if people went to Tower to buy CDs and then on the way out decided to drop off their shirts to be cleaned and get their spine adjusted.

  21. Dunno Stockboy, I’d love to have a Staples or Office Depot on Market. As it is, I have to go to Patrick and Co further up Market (absurdly expensive) or take a long Muni or bike ride somewhere for printer cartridges and pens and stuff. I think a TJ’s fits better here (and I’d use it more often), but I think Market (perhaps across the street in a newly built Safeway/residential/other stores proper mixed use building fronting the street) location for O Po or Staples would be great. It seems weird that a pet food store does well on Market, but that location of Pet Food Express is one of their highest volume stores.

  22. As a consequence me and my neighbors have to either ride Muni (and risk our lives …did you read about the #9 incident?) or drive which is a pain.
    Of course, your life is much more at risk in your car than riding Muni. Fatality per mile is 3X in a private automobile and injury per mile is 10X. But the car fetishists continue in the magical belief that they are “safer” in their autos.

  23. “It seems weird that a pet food store does well on Market, but that location of Pet Food Express is one of their highest volume stores.”
    Estimate the frequency and volume of cat litter and dog and cat food purchases, versus ink cartridge purchases (which are much cheaper via Amazon) and it doesn’t seem weird to me. Add in the fact that the dogs love going to that store as well, and you’ve got a very well located business.

  24. ^It’s MUCH cheaper to buy big bags of dog food and cat litter online too, so I’m not sure that’s a huge point for Pet Food Express.

  25. anon @ 9:54AM on 10/11 — don’t shipping costs of dog food and cat litter eviscerate any money you’d save? At the least, I’ve noticed that places like and don’t allow free shipping for dog food, cat food, and cat litter, among other heavy items.

  26. Almost 60% of vehicle deaths are from “rural” road use
    This data lacks break-outs for pure-urban driving (important here), but it is probably a source for “driving is x times more harmful than riding a bus”.
    I’ve seen data “proving” bicycling is much more dangerous than driving, but bikes are supposed to be universally adored. Ditto motorcycles. I’ve got friends who’d rather ride their bike than suffer through muni. They don’t think they will be killed on muni (lol), but muni is so awful they are willing to lay their life on the line riding their bike 🙂
    There are many epsilon risks in life, like driving, riding bikes, taking muni, snowboarding, eating shellfish, running a marathon, and putting anti-Obama stickers on your car in SF. And while I’d never risk the last one, most reasonable people might risk the others from time to time. The minimal risks we take say more about our personality and style than anything else.
    Maybe we should all walk around with football pads and helmets! Come to think of it, that might help on muni 🙂

  27. Per mile, auto travel is about 9X as risky, but this understates the true risk because auto users travel much more.
    Your lifetime risk of dying in an automobile accident is 1 in 40 according to Halperin. My calculations put it more like 1 in 100, but in any case this is a huge number.
    As far as I know, no one who rides a motorcycle does so because they believe it to be “safer” than driving a car. But plenty of car drivers are secure in fetishistic notion that they are safer in their car than on a bus. The oddest case of this is worried parents who move to the suburbs because they are “safe” and unwittingly expose their children to a greater chance of death and injury on the roads than they ever would have experienced from crime in the city!
    Bicycling is undoubtedly more dangerous per mile traveled, but that has to be balanced with the health benefits. The reduced mortality due to the increased exercise more than offsets accident risk, particularly if you are over 40. Of course the safest thing to do is sit in front of your TV and ride your exercycle, but not everyone has the luxury of that option.

  28. “Bicycling is undoubtedly more dangerous per mile traveled, but that has to be balanced with the health benefits”
    What good is a healthy cardio workout if you crack your head open while riding your bike? The two are (presumably) independent events, so your modeling is faulty if you claim health/safety considerations alone guide you.
    But it’s not faulty if you admit you are balancing danger with other benefits (combining a very risky mode of transportation with a cardio workout, to save time, or simply because you enjoy it).
    We do this in every low-risk activity. Driving versus bus riding (to save time), snowboarding versus hanging in the lodge, eating foods that are bad for us, not walking around with football padding and helmets, etc.
    Also, the second link you posted is incomprehensible to me (citing tables in the document which don’t exist). There may be good data there, but I can’t tell quickly. The first link does not appear to distinguish local driving at all, and is heavily politicized.
    It’s hard to figure out from a quick reading how much more dangerous occasional local driving really is. It’s a very politicized question, which suggests the additional risk is no big deal, if you recognize benefits doing it.

  29. I see (from yesterday while walking around) the reactionary screaming has begun. You can see the butcher sheets slapped up on Harvest Market. Apparently the anti-Dufty wing of the neighborhood doesn’t want TJs at the old Tower space. Too bad so sad.
    TJs would be one of the best things to happen to the rabidly anti business, dirty gay slum that used to be the Castro. Great products, very reasonable prices, and they treat their workers very well. Parking? Duh – it is an issue everywhere in this city. I live in Hayes Valley and I will just walk to the Market TJs. Safer than biking (a little) and fun most days. As far as the screaming about who owns TJs, it is owned by a trust established by the German billionaire Theo Albrecht. I should care why? I suggest the screamers review everything in their home that was Made In China before they get too uptight about TJs.

  30. In theory, its nice to think that, if we kept national retailers out of the neighborhoods, local mom and pops would pick up the slack. However, most mom and pop corner stores in these districts don’t come close to competing on service, price or selection. Don’t get me started on curb appeal or interior ambiance.
    Trader Joe’s will be a huge success, proving all the protectionists/isolationists wrong.

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