2023 Lifetime Achievement award winner

Sam Mogannam

Bi-Rite Family of Businesses
Lifetime Achievement

“Lead with love” is one of three core values of Bi-Rite Market, San Francisco. Owner Sam Mogannam, 55, believes that has been the secret sauce behind the success of his company, which operates two specialty food markets, a creamery, and a catering commissary.

“We strive to follow our values with our community, our employees, and our suppliers,” says Mogannam. “Remaining consistent across all of the people that we serve is the core of what has made Bi-Rite successful.”

Restaurateur Turned Retailer

Bi-Rite Market opened on 18th Street in the Mission District in 1940. It was acquired by the Mogannam family in 1964, and operated as a friendly, neighborhood grocery store.

Mogannam worked in the store as a teenager. But he soon left the family business, learning to cook in Switzerland and at Oakland’s Market Hall. In 1991, he opened his own restaurant, Rendezvous Du Monde. He fell in love with the power of food and the intimacy that is created in a restaurant. “There is a level of connection that happens in a restaurant,” he says. “I wanted to bring that to the retail environment.”

Partnering with his brother Raph, Mogannam reinvented and introduced the new Bi-Rite in 1998. The market glorified the bounty of California and the many specialty food entrepreneurs that had built a vibrant food community there. “We wanted our customers to learn and appreciate where their food comes from,” says Sam.

The 2,000-square-foot store was accepted by the community, which had been transforming from a rough-and-tumble neighborhood to a highly desired place to live. Bi-Rite and nearby Delfina restaurant helped fuel that transformation. In 2006, Bi-Rite Creamery opened under the leadership of Anne Walker and Kris Hoogerhyde. In 2013, Bi-Rite opened its second market, a 3,000-square-footer in the Divisadero.

Core Values and the Community

Bi-Rite is known for the quality of its food. But when you talk with Sam, it is the largess of its heart which he most prides himself on. That started with the opening of 18 Reasons in 2008, a cooking school and event space that is integral to the community.

Along with “Lead with Love”, the other core values are “Pursue with Passion” and “Act with Integrity.” These values are engrained in the company’s 275 employees, some of which have been there for nearly 25 years. Bi-Rite became a Certified B Corporation in 2015.

Sam believes in community service. He has been on the Specialty Food Association’s Board of Directors and also the Board of the Specialty Food Foundation. He was a driving force behind the Good Food  Foundation and the Good Food Merchants Guild. He also serves on many San Francisco-based groups that focus on community resources and inclusion.

Bi Rite’s Service Mission states, “We care for each and every member of our community as a guest in our home. We serve seamlessly; we inspire; we feed; and are fed.”

A recent initiative, called Cooking Matters, is teaching pre-natal and post-natal mothers about nutrition, cooking, and the importance of good food. Most classes are conducted in black and brown communities. Those who take the class receive free produce from Bi-Rite.

Sam is a one-of-a-kind leader that has and will continue to inspire the specialty food industry.