Word on Webster: In search of fresh fruit & vegetables on the West End
By Steve Gerstle
The West End is fortunate to be home to the Alameda Farmers’ Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Tuesday and Saturday, when dozens of farmers bring their fresh produce to Haight Avenue near Webster Street. But what about other times? Where can West End residents buy fresh produce without driving to other neighborhoods?
I surveyed groceries, discount stores and corner liquor stores west of Ninth Street and south of Atlantic Avenue. While not quite a fresh food desert, the West End suffers from a shortage of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The winners for greatest variety and freshness in the West End are Dave’s Liquor and Ralph’s Market. Dave’s has limited display space. Some items are displayed by the cash register, along with a listing of fruits and vegetables available. The store owner will then fetch the requested produce from the cooler in the back. There is a very good variety of produce and it appears to be of good quality. Dave’s Liquor is at 1401 Webster at the corner of Central.
Ralph’s Market, located at 801 Lincoln at the corner of Eighth, has a good variety of Asian vegetables including long beans, taro, bitter melon and bok choy. They also carry cabbage, tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers and spinach. Fruit is limited to bananas and lemons.
Discount City at 1440 Webster carries some vegetables in the cooler at the back of the store. Vegetables include carrots, onions, potatoes, parsley, peppers, celery and tomatoes. There are a few other stores that carry a limited selection of produce that does not need to be refrigerated like onions, potatoes and tomatoes. These are Aria Market, at the corner of Webster and Lincoln; Golden 7, at the corner of Lincoln and Fifth; and United Market and Flowers, at 1549 Webster Street.
In speaking with merchants as to why they do not carry more produce, the most frequent reasons stated were lack of space, the cost of coolers, the work involved in maintaining fresh produce, the lack of customer volume and a lack of profit. Still, merchants said that once customers find out that they carry produce, it will sell.
Potential shoppers need to find out that the fresh produce is available and then buy it in sufficient volume that the store owner finds it profitable to carry. When display space is limited, fresh produce is in competition with higher margin products. The initial investment in refrigeration equipment is also a hurdle for store owners.
While some local merchants want to carry fresh produce, they face barriers and obstacles that may require economic assistance for advertising and the purchase of equipment. The City of Alameda might also want to explore amending codes to allow sidewalk space for display of fresh produce. Chapter XXII of our municipal code prohibits the sidewalk sale of fresh produce except from pushcarts.
*The New Zealander is now having a Sunday brunch menu beginning at 10:00 a.m. They have also made some changes to their hours as noted on their website.
*U.S. Bank has put in some very nice landscaping at the entrance to their parking lot on Webster. Directly across the street, the new 99 Cents store near the Post Office has a fresh coat of paint.
*Work continues on the Frog & Fiddle at the site of the former Acquacotta. They are expected to open in time for the Webster Street Jam on September 11-12.
*Work continues as well on the site of the former Tillie’s. The new wood framed windows are being installed.
*The broken window on the site of the former pharmacy at Lincoln and Webster was recently replaced.