October 30, 2009

The Campaign to Save Drewes Brothers Meats


A flurry of email, blog posts and even a Facebook page hit the net this week to save Drewes. The general tenor is that Whole Foods is sucking the life out of the 120-year-old meat purveyor at 1760 Church St.

Here's the email that apparently started the latest campaign:
For those of us who eat meat and live in Upper Noe Valley, I want to let you know about the plight of Drew's Bros Butchers. They have been decimated in the past three weeks by the opening of Whole Foods. They have had to cut back on staff hours and things are not looking good. While I am highly supportive of Whole Foods as a good addition to the neighborhood, (I really think we needed a grocery store in our neighborhood and...I am from Austin, although I am appalled at the founder's stance on healthcare), I hate to see that come at the expense of a SF institution like Drews. Did you know that they have been in SF for over a 100 years!!!?? They carry a wider variety of grass fed meets, local eggs, milk etc. Anyway, if you are a current fan of Drew's, please try to still support them, otherwise, we may lose one of the last real butchers in this city! It's cliche, but unfortunately true, "use it or lose it."
Yes, many Noe Valleyeans are concerned about this. But a quick search on the Web shows many stories about Drewes on the verge of going out of business - including this one from 1998: "Drewes Meat Market on Last Legs."

Here's the rub: If it's local, organic, etc, we're there. But we still can't get into Drewes. Maybe it's the rough service, PO Boxes, and notary public on the premises. Or maybe it's that the slightly more expensive but wonderful meats at the farmer's market are more local, more sustainable and taste better. (Can't make the farmer's market? Check out Avedano's, a short walk from Upper Noe.)

So support Drewe's and other local merchants if you believe in them (like the email says, "use it or lose it"). But we have a hard time with the idea that WF is solely responsible for Drewe's demise.

30 comments:

Nelson said...

The new Whole Foods is pretty good, but the butcher counter can't hold a candle to Drewe's. It's also a long walk between the two. Is there really so much competition?

The place I worry about is the cheese shop on 24th. My secret hope is they renovate the shop to make it brighter and get the staff to be more friendly.

Anonymous said...

Drewe's can compete effectively against Safeway. I feel they will have a more uphill battle competing against WF. Avedano's has a stronger "local butcher" concept, although their pricing is not sustainable in my opinion, so they might not last, either.

The best thing Drewe's could do would be to re-brand themselves as being the exclusive place for local, sustainably raised meats and stick to that concept. Create some cachet for the place, do more butchering on-site (the old-fashioned way) and they will be OK. People now need an even better reason to go out of their way for Drewe's with WF, Canyon Market and Avedano's creating a competitive noose for our friends on Church St.

Meat Head Stu said...

Q: Would Prather Ranch do well in Drewe's space? I think they would -

Nicole said...

I love Drewe's Brothers, but I kind of doubt that "Spring" (if that's her real name) had all the information. No one seems to have talked to the Drewe's guys. (This level of reporting is appropriate for this blog because it's by and for neighbors. But come on, SF Weekly and SFist. Pick up the g.d. phone and call someone at Drewe's to confirm or deny.)

Are their sales back to the Bell Market days? Or just down from the no-Noe-supermarket summer? Of course when the residents actually have a supermarket, they're going to go to Drewe's and Church St. Produce less often.

Casa Mexicana is selling fewer super veggie tacos now that WF is open and I'm cooking more. Maybe I should campaign on their behalf.

Anonymous said...

I think people need to bear in mind the timing of all this - whole foods has been open only 3 weeks. In the near term, it is typical for a new business to do well because of the hype, newness factor, and so on. Also, I find it hard to believe that any business would be on the brink of closing after only a couple of slow weeks. Whole Foods hype will slow down, and Drewe's will be fine.

Elizabeth K said...

The folks at Drewe's will order what you want - and provide advice as to portion sizes (they've frequently talked me into buying smaller cuts than a recipe called for), and cooking suggestions.
Whole Foods can have a good meat counter, but I buy my sustainably-raised meat and special holiday orders from Drewe's. Does it mean an extra stop if you think you could get the same thing at Whole Foods? Yes, but please don't make the advent of Whole Foods in Noe turn into the equivalent of the arrival of Walmart in a small town.

Food Crusader said...

Some of Drewe's customers may interpret the dusty antique meat hooks, the cluttered office area crammed into the front window, the funny smells and the surly attitude as proof of unpretentious local charm. And for them, Drewe's owners should be grateful, because they've been the ones keeping their doors open in spite of a lack of attention to the customer experience.

There are socially conscientious people here in Noe Valley - people who get a warm smug glow from giving dollars to a local business. But that glow isn't mutually exclusive of the pleasant feeling that clean floors, eye contact and a cordial greeting provides. Those apparently elusive merchandising 'tricks' are cheap and easy to do, and in the retail game, should be table stakes for truly local businesses, who have every right to emphasize their claim to authenticity. Avedano's has figured it out, and they stage their shop beautifully - it's an emotional offset to their high prices, and it works.

But if Drewe's doesn't figure it out, they deserve to be replaced. Being local doesn't grant automatic entitlement to success. It's heart-breaking that Whole Foods could be that replacement - but if their recent arrival in the neighborhood hasn't woken up the little guys and inspired them to clean up their act, what will?

MM said...

I think Drewe's really did need a wake up call on service. I shop at Church produce at least twice a week and it would be very easy for me to get my meat at the same time as I am generally parked on that block. But after two visits where I went away fuming at the incredibly poor treatment I recieved, I happily will drive to Avedano's for my meat or Mission Market for my poultry and fish. I don't expect fawning service just some sort of aknowledgement that I exist and it is not a hassle to have to serve me rather than staring out into the empty shop. The first time I chalked up as a bad day but after the second time...

Anonymous said...

I regularly shop at Drewe's and I agree their customer service is horrible. The owner is always on his phone headset and hardly acknowledges his customers while he chats away on the phone.

Last week when I went in there were 3 staff members and 2 customers waiting to be served. I was shocked to find the entire staff chatting with a delivery person while the customers waited for them to be finished. Sorry Drewes but if you guys are so in need of our business try paying attention to your customers. A good scrub down wouldn't hurt either - nothing like a dusty, dingy butcher shop to get you thinking about quality.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I often have to brace myself to face Drewe's. Part of it may be the high counter. I'm 5'4" and the countertop acts like a wall to communication. I feel very cut off from the person helping me.
And yeah, there is a lot of attitude going on.
I do brave it though because we love the meatloaf and stuffed pork chops!
I'd be sorry to see them go.

Anonymous said...

i've never been a fan of WH, i'll admit it, i've step foot inside the store to check it out, but i still prefer the mom-pop shops (church produce, drew's, 24th st cheese). as for the "rudeness", i'm reading about, i personally have not encountered it at any of the places.

these small shops are what made NV the neighborhood that it is...

i still can't believe WH is on 24th st?!

-angela

Chenery Street said...

Their meat is amazing and I always find the butchers to be helpful. No attitude problems in my book.

rocky's dad said...

I dont get why citizens in the neighborhood or the city for that matter should try to "save" Drewes. A business will thrive or fail depending on many factors, including customer service, prices, overall image and quality. Let the market determine this.

Didn't they "almost fail" a few years ago anyway? so much for that drama.

Godot said...

Yes, Drewes and Stelling's had to combine space to survive back around the turn of the century.

Tamagosan said...

Love Drewes. Always have, ever since I was a little kid and they used to give me bologna and American cheese when my mom was purchasing her goods. I go there to get most all of the meat I eat.

It's old school and I never need anything that they don't have. I have always gotten excellent advice about how to cook things,
too. I'm glad that Stellings is there; I liked the stand-alone store, but with Veteran's gone, it's great to be able to get the emergency six-pack.

I am also just generally distrustful of getting all my groceries in one place (plus, Whole Foods means that money goes whizzzzing out of the local economy), but that was my years in France perhaps. I guess that may explain why I can patiently take real-life service (with its flaws) instead of highly polished fake smiles.

Between Drewes, 30th St Produce, Canyon Market, The Cheese Boutique, Alemany Farmers Market, Rainbow, I don't see why you would have to go to a corporate grocery store.

kitchen bitch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I drop into Drewe's once a month or so. But I agree with comments on rudeness. There is a definite "lack of greeting" there.
Why not go to a "corporate" store if the friendly neighborhood store is unfriendly?
Also a bit of cleaning is definitely in order.

Anonymous said...

I'm in there pretty often and always have a great experience. I'm really getting tired of the comments on here that attack a local gem that most neighborhoods would die to have. I've always been treated very well. Also, I did some research on the SF Health Website and found that Drewes has a score of 94! Pretty damn good if you ask me..so where it counts they are clean. Much better scores than many restaurants in the hood.

Resident on 26th Street

rocky's dad said...

local gem?? I dont think so...you seem to be feeling very nostalgic today..let's bring back the horse and buggy too.

Anonymous said...

Rocky's dad....I think you need to take your bull.... and shove it. Have you ever heard of the saying if you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all. Nostalgic....I don't really think so...simply was adding my two sense worth to a local blog about local items that people seem to hate on a local business that the likes of you never go into and seem to have a chip on their shoulder....like yourself.

Anonymous said...

so cut the bull. And find something better to do with your time...I know I will.

Nelson said...

Mmmm, Anonymous flames on blog comments. Lovely.

I think the problem we're discussing is apparently our neighbourhood is not "dying to have" Drewe's, and many of the folks talking here do not find it "a local gem". Which is a shame. Hopefully the Drewe's folks are listening.

rocky's dad said...

LOL..anonymous is really quite funny..and a bit touchy perhaps..

and yes, I do hope the Drewes folks are listening. I suspect that one of them wrote the latest anon comment anyway...If you dont maintain a good product, a good store with nice employees, you will not survive. bottom line. good luck.

Anonymous said...

If Drewe's isn't reading this blog that could explain a lot of the problems.
I'd like to see them spiff up a bit.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone at Drewes read blogs. Someone better send them a wire so they can twirl their waxed moustaches, jump on their horse and buggy and ride post-haste to the nearest Gates's Marvelous Calculating Machine (PC).

I'm not a big fan of Drewes. But in a city that pretty much recycles its population every 8 years or so, it's an achievement even to last a decade, let alone 120 years. Most "residents" of this city live only a few years (I consider them "guests for an extended stay"), so they could care less about stores becoming little local landmarks just by the virtue of hanging in there for so long.

But I feel that's what makes SF such a shallow city compared to NYC. NYC has history everywhere. SF only keeps the ones its upwardly mobile segment considers "pretty".

Drewes definitely is not "pretty". They don't have the corporate kool-aid smile down. And their seafood section is tiny. But they have endured this long, and I think we should give them that much, at least.

Christopher said...

Hmmm. Some interesting comments. I like the last person "Anonymous 12:57 pm". Sort of a mixed review but left some food for thought... I just want to put in my vote for Drewes. Yes, they don't have the "cool-aid smile" (i like that line) but I have found them to be real and authentic! They are always really sweet with my dog and slip him snacks. They are professional with me and my girlfriend. No, it is not like going into Cheers bar and everyone saying "Hi Norm" but.... when I buy meat/fish here it tends to be delicious! And personally, I love the PO boxes in the butcher shop... how weird and old school. This is not a boutique experience but a small business that does different things to survive, has a good product, has a professional and authentic staff... and they feed my dog scraps. So, I plan on going back! PS: Did anyone else see the Drewes' butcher in Dwell Magazine as the expert opinion on butcher knives. (couple years back now) Pretty cool.

Anonymous said...

I am all for local shops and am willing to go out of my way for them. We don't eat a lot of meat, but when we do, I take the walk from my house (literally half a block from Whole Foods) to Drewe's. But tonight has changed that.

I need to pick up some duck breasts for our Christmas dinner. Because I'm literally "pregnant out to here", I did my due diligence and checked their website for opening hours and, since it's the week of Christmas, called to be sure. According to their website, they are open until 8 pm. According to their answering machine, they are open until 7:30. I left my house at 5 pm sharp. Given a little extra time to waddle down to Drewes, I estimate that I arrived at 5:20, only to find a store full of people, but a door shut with a closed sign on it. They wouldn't let me in, even though I explained that I had just called to confirm they are open, that I am eight months pregnant and had walked the whole way.

I can overlook a lot of things, but if you expect a little compassion from your neighbors in these tough economic times, it seems to me it would be nice to start by acting compassionate to your neighborhood patrons that have gone out of their way to bring you business.

Drewe's couldn't be doing too poorly if they are willing to close the door in the face of a good neighborhood patron. I am buying my duck breast at Whole Foods tomorrow because I just can't waddle my way down to the other end of Noe.

Marianne H. said...

I like Drewes. And we don't need another large empty space on Church and 29th Streets.
The campaign to support Drewes is a grant program offered by Living Social and Chase. They could be awarded $250,000 to renovate the store. Anyone for a mini Bi-Rite?
Just go here and vote for Drewes but hurry the voting ends at midnight tomorrow night 6/30.
https://www.missionsmallbusiness.com

Anonymous said...

Drewes will never be a "mini Bi-Rite" no matter how much money they get. Bi-Rite has a vision. Bi-Rite has goals. Bi-Rite has a clean store.

Drewes lacks all of the above.

Anonymous said...

Bi-Rite SUCKS, WF is now a major corporation, low paid staff and over priced BAD food.

Drewes is good, honest and yes, they ae busy. WholeFoods is GROSS