Update, 11.24.15: Grand Fare Market owners Doug Washington and Freya Prowe posted a note on the market’s Facebook page Monday about the closure. It reads: “Grand Fare Market is closed until further notice. We are so grateful to our guests, vendors and employees who made it all possible. Unfortunately, the market’s current incarnation simply required too much cost to keep up basic operations and we couldn’t keep it going. We hope that everyone will accept our most sincere apologies and deepest regrets for the troubles. We hope to re-envision the space and concept in a more workable iteration in the new year. Thank you for all your support! ~Doug Washington & Freya Prowe.”
Original story: Grand Fare Market, which opened less than two months ago on Grand Avenue in Oakland, closed abruptly last week. A sign affixed to the door reads: “Grand Fare will be closed until further notice. Our apologies.” A note was also posted on the food establishment’s website. An employee said she was told Friday not to come into work, but she did not know more.
It appears the reason may be financial difficulties. Owners Doug Washington and Freya Prowe told Eater SF, in a statement released through a publicist, that operation costs had been “simply too much” to keep it going. Washington also told Inside Scoop SF via email that, “There are some parts to Grand Fare that were wildly successful and other parts that were not.” When asked if the food market and restaurant would be re-opening in one form or another, Washington said: “We plan to spend some time figuring that out.”
Grand Fare is known to owe money to at least one supplier. A person with knowledge of the situation who asked to remain anonymous said Petaluma-based Little Organic Farm had six outstanding invoices for Grand Fare, amounting to more than $1,000. “This happens way more often than one would think,” she added.
Grand Fare was certainly an ambitious project requiring, one would have to assume, significant investment. With its beautifully designed food market, and elegant, wine-country-style outdoor eating courtyard, it made an immediate impression when it opened in an increasingly food-focused neighborhood.
The project included an oyster bar, wine shop, the Brother and Sisters florist (run by Prowe), a bakery and rotisserie. Customers could order prepared foods such as salads served in stainless-steel Tiffin boxes and gourmet sandwiches from food stations in the market, then eat them on the patio, which offered heaters and lambskins on individual chairs for chilly nights.
Also outside, a sleek 1946 Spartan Mansion trailer served Linea coffee and Humphry Slocombe ice cream. The produce and prepared foods were touted as being of the highest quality, using organic and locally sourced ingredients. Just last week on Facebook, Grand Fare posted about snagging some organic heritage breed Willie Bird turkeys from Sonoma for its Thanksgiving menu.
Washington, who is co-owner and operator of four restaurants — Town Hall, Salt House and Anchor & Hope in San Francisco, and Irving Street Kitchen in Portland, Oregon — spent a long time developing Grand Fare. The space was a straightforward coffee shop for about two years before it underwent its transformation.
Washington told Nosh last month that he wanted Grand Fare “to go beyond the standard restaurant experience defined by conventional table service.” He said he wanted to create a place for conversation, community and conviviality that takes dining beyond the standard server/customer interaction.
His original idea had been for a smaller-scale project however — comprising just charcuterie, the oyster bar, and a pop-up flower shop run by Prowe.
Washington had not responded to a request for information by press time.
Grand Fare prompted many positive reviews on Yelp, with most visitors singing the praises of the food, the beautiful décor — it was designed by Emeryville-based Fink Architecture — and the friendly staff. As MaiTaiT wrote on Oct. 22: “As far as decor and design goes, I love the look and feel of this place. The outdoor dinning area is gorgeous both day and evening. The staff are wonderful and very accommodating so kudos for the great training because attention to customers will keep people coming in.”
Others complained of high prices, however. On Nov. 3, Christian G. said $19 for a piri piri rotisserie chicken was too much — “I can get an average rotisserie chicken up the street at Safeway for $8,” he wrote.
But even those who found fault expressed the hope that the place could iron out any wrinkles and thrive. “In the end it needs a little time and a little structure and it’ll be a fine edition [sic] to the area. It’s a beautiful space with passionate people and that’s always a great start,” wrote Joco F. on Oct. 23.
At least two other East Bay restaurants have recently closed ostensibly due to financial pressures. Perdition Smokehouse, a barbecue and beer spot on University Avenue in downtown Berkeley shuttered suddenly last month. A source close to the business speculated that the owners were facing facing financial issues. And Build Pizzeria, also in downtown Berkeley, closed earlier this year. David Shapiro confirmed with Berkeleyside last month that he and the restaurant and nightclub’s co-owner Lisa Holt, had been forced to declare bankruptcy.
We will monitor developments at Grand Fare Market and keep readers posted.
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