“The bees have been pretty successful,” says Alex Omran, a co-owner of Le Beau Market on the corner of Leavenworth and Clay streets. He ticks off the fruits, herbs, and vegetables the 33-year-old, family-owned grocery store grows on its roof: tomatoes, rosemary, lemons, lavender, and adds, “Some of the stuff we sell in the store. We use the rest in the deli.”
A resident of the Mission, Omran runs Le Beau with his father, having inherited it from two uncles. It’s full but not cramped, with a LaCroix display for Halloween that looks as though a skeleton died of thirst just before reaching its favorite zero-carb pamplemousse water. A sign at the grill includes this maxim: “Your stomach is important to us.”
Sally Kuchar, Cities Director for Curbed SF and a former Nob Hill resident, says that Le Beau is a “huge part of the community.”
“I don’t even have a word to describe them,” she says. “They’re the only real grocery store in the neighborhood. Trader Joe’s is past California, so it’s not Nob Hill.”
Small and somewhat upscale, Le Beau is basically a cross between Trader’s and Whole Foods, but it has the same independent spirit you find at Bi-Rite Market. Murals on the north- and east-facing exterior walls vary considerably. The Clay Street side depicts a motley crew that could be the cast to the early Tales of the City books, while the Leavenworth facade has slightly anthropomorphic bees that have barcodes on them. (Indonesian artists affiliated with the Clarion Alley Mural Project painted it around 2003, Omran says.)
Because Le Beau has an older clientele, and because mobility on the neighborhood’s steep streets is challenging, the store does deliveries and allows people run up tabs — just like an old-school market. And even if Amazon Whole Foods came a-knockin’, Omran says he’s not inclined to sell.
“We would never,” he says. “I love what we do, and I don’t know what else I would do. I would like, one day, to open another location — if I could ever peel myself away from here. I feel like this is my first home, and I live somewhere else.”
Le Beau Market, 1263 Leavenworth St., 415-885-3030 or lebeaumarket.com
Check out more stories in our feature on Nob Hill here:
Lights, Camera, Action at the Fairmont Hotel
With more than 10 major films shot at the Nob Hill site, Hollywood has designated it San Francisco’s reigning cinematic hotel.
A Slow But Steady Thieving
Four bronze tortoises regularly disappear from Huntington Park’s fountain.
The Ascent to Jones
Scaling Nob Hill in pursuit of its flattest blocks.
The Gardens of Fairmont
The Nob Hill hotel has a picturesque rooftop park open to locals.
Don’t Miss the AIDS Memorial Quilt Exhibit at Grace Cathedral
By bathing 15 panels of the quilt in light, the stained glass windows sanctify the 20,000 San Franciscans who died in the modern plague.
Infinite Appetite, Finite Budget: Nob Hill
From the House of Prime Rib to Buffalo Theory, Nob Hill’s food scene might be more diverse than you think.