Sam Mogannam isn't in his own San Francisco store; he's at someone else's market in Brooklyn and spots a shopper nearby. "Have you tried that pasta yet?" he calls out before approaching the woman. "It's amazing. The vermicelli's cool, it's nice and thin, but the spaghetti? It's out of control." He rifles through the shelf, then places a $9 pasta in her basket. "That's my favorite cut. I use it all day long at home."
Bi-Rite is a single family-owned market with sales per square foot that exceed $4,000—Apple Stores stand alone in generating more than $5,000—and everyone from Walmart to Whole Foods has tried to learn from him. The lesson: "We've got this crazy rule for employees," Mogannam says. "If a guest is 10 feet away, make eye contact with them. If they're 4 feet away, engage them in conversation." And also, stay small. "The joke is that it's impossible to be more than 10 feet away from anyone in Bi-Rite," which has just 1,500 square feet of customer space.
The encounter in Brooklyn takes less than 20 seconds, but the shopper is enthused. Mogannam walks back, half shrugs, and says, "We love feeding people, man. We love teaching people how to feed themselves."
Starts working at Bi-Rite at the age of 6, taking the streetcar by myself to get there
Gets a prep cook job in a restaurant and falls in love with cooking
Graduates from hotel/restaurant school and moves to Basel, Switzerland where he lives and cooks at a two-star restaurant for a year and solidifies his passion for food and cooking
At 23 opens his first business—a small bistro in downtown San Francisco called Rendezvous Du Monde.
Meets future business partner Calvin Tsay while working for Joie de Vivre Hospitality Group
Closes Rendezvous Du Monde and reopens Bi-Rite under his direction with help from his brother Raphael
Marries an old friend, Anne Walker
Daughter Zoe is born
Buys his brother out and becomes sole owner of Bi Rite; opens Bi-Rite Creamery with his wife and partner Kris Hoogerhyde
His second daughter Olive is born; starts Bi-Rite Farms in Sonoma, CA
Founds 18 Reasons, his non-profit community food education space
Signs a lease for a second Bi-Rite Market and Bi-Rite Creamery to open in the Western addition in 2012
Publishes his first book, Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food