Grand Fare Market courtyard. Photo: Michael David Rose
The original back patio at Grand Fare Market. Photo: Michael David Rose

The second time was not the charm for Oakland’s Grand Fare Market. As of this week, the market and café on Grand Avenue has closed, again.

“We tried many things over a two-year period to make it viable, but in the end, [the model] wasn’t financially sustainable,” co-owner Doug Washington told Nosh in an email.

That model was a novel one, with Grand Fare providing takeaway meals, coffee, pastries, flowers, specialty groceries and a seasonally influenced eat-in menu in a market-like hall with an attractive patio.

“It was our dream to have a place like this with a team like we had — serving this community,” said Washington. “It killed us to have to close it after trying for two years through two openings.”

Photo: Grand Fare
Grand Fare 2.0: a more streamlined operation, but one that also ultimately failed. Photo: Grand Fare

Washington and his wife and business parter, Freya Prowe, originally opened the large, light-filled market and restaurant last fall, but closed in November 2015 the first incarnation of the space after just two months. The concept was too ambitious and operating costs had proved untenable, they said. Washington and Prowe said they would “re-envision the space and concept in a more workable iteration in the new year.”

That second version opened in July, and it was, indeed more streamlined than the original market, which along with everything else had an oyster bar, wine bar, coffee trailer and a very complex ordering system. Grand Fare 2.0 had a more centralized system and more items at a lower price point.

Washington had hired Chris Fernandez (Oliveto, Poggio and Terrapin Crossroads) to handle the kitchen, and he made use of the market’s rotisserie to turn out whole chickens, ribs and roasted vegetables to serve alongside items like fresh pastas, ragu and polenta, meatballs, and soups and stews.

Grand Fare 2.0 seemed to be poised for greater success, but Washington said, “as busy as it was, it is simply not a viable model.”

However, Prowe is planning to keep her flower shop, Brother and Sisters, open Tuesdays through Sundays. Washington plans to take a break and “hang out with our kids more.”

He added: “Maybe I’ll buy a Dutch bike and deliver my wife’s flowers. She has promised me a (seemingly small) cut of the sales if I deliver flowers without wiping out on the bike.”

As to the future of the rest of the space, that remains to be seen.

Washington seemed upbeat Wednesday, given the circumstances. “We have no regrets,” he said. “We met so many amazing people and Freya will continue to flourish with her flowers in the shop.”

Brother & Sisters Flower Shop is at is at 3265 Grand Ave., Oakland. Connect with the shop on Facebook and Instagram.

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Kate Williams has been writing about food since 2009. After spending two years developing recipes for cookbooks at America’s Test Kitchen, she moved to Berkeley and began work as a freelance writer and...