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Mar-8-2013

Haig’s Delicacies closing after 57 years; wholesale business to continue

We’ve received emails this week from readers who are saddened by the news that Clement Street’s Haig’s Delicacies, a veritable neighborhood institution, is closing its doors after 57 years in business.

The family run business is known for their selection of foods from Europe, Southeast Asia, India, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East, including rare and unique spices, teas, coffees, and gifts. They’re especially well known for their Mediterranean foods, many of which are available in retail grocery stores throughout the Bay Area.

My memory of Haig’s from when I was growing up was going in with my mom to pick up their Aram sandwiches (in fact she might have double parked and made me run in!). She used to serve them at parties. To this day, the spicy smell of Haig’s when I walk in brings back memories.

We stopped by the store this afternoon where everything is 50% off until it closes later this month. We couldn’t resist picking up some black licorice. The shelves are emptying quickly.

But the mood in the store was somber, as customers entered and learned the news that one of their favorite neighborhood stores would be disappearing.

Haig’s has a healthy wholesale business for their line of Mediterranean products, including hummus, babaganoush, tsatziki and more, which will continue after the store closes. Their products used to be made and distributed from the Clement Street location, but the operation moved to Hayward in 2009. Their website lists hundreds of grocery stores in the Bay Area where their products can be purchased including Whole Foods, Bi-Rite Market, and Real Foods.

Haig’s has a letter posted on the front of the store, which includes this thanks to its customers:

Our retail store of Haig’s Delicacies has had a wonderful run since its inception in 1956, having garnered the attention of James Beard in the early days, and the love of a multitude of cookbook authors, food enthusiasts, and locals over the years. The company is still owned and operated by our family, and we’re so proud and happy to have served this community and to have the retail store be considered a place to visit when walking along Clement St. in the Inner Richmond.

The store was opened in 1956 by Haig, an Armenian immigrant from Istanbul, Turkey. It was one of the few places in the city where you could find a falafel sandwich, and Haig’s quickly attracted attention from food lovers and chefs for their unique selection of international foods.

From what we’ve been told, the closing is not due to any rent issues, but more because the family has decided it’s time to close this part of the business and focus solely on the wholesale side.

To find out more about Haig’s and keep up with their business even after they close their 642 Clement Street location, visit their website, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

What will you miss most about Haig’s? Leave a comment to let us know. Thank you to Haig’s for being such a great part of the Richmond District community!

Sarah B.

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1:04 pm | Posted under Business | 21 comments
  1. Marc said (03/8/13; 1:33 pm):

    This is terribly sad. I’ve been eating there since 1996. I wish I could say I eat there regularly — regularly enough to have helped with the bottom line, but I haven’t.

  2. kayvaan said (03/8/13; 2:27 pm):

    Bummer. I go there to get spices I can’t find elsewhere.

  3. Elias said (03/8/13; 4:19 pm):

    The owner, the son of the original owner, died a couple of years ago. You could find the at the store often. Since then I believe his son has been in charge, but lives across the bay and does not work at the store. The store has been managed by their staff since the passing away of the owner and it would appear his son finally decided to close it down and concentrate on the wholesale business.

    Its quite sad. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for over a decade now, just around the corner from Haigh’s, and I eat at the shop at least once every two weeks. They will be missed.

  4. 4thGenRichmond said (03/8/13; 5:23 pm):

    Nooooo! This means an end to my home-canned plum sauce and chutneys made with the apples in my back yard as I cannot get some of the spices needed elsewhere.

  5. alyxandr said (03/8/13; 5:49 pm):

    At least we’ve got the internet now; Haig’s was the only place I knew of to find *powdered* Fenugreek — whole Fenugreeks (?) are impossibly hard. Also proper Cadbury, not the fake Hershey kind.

    Flat Plastic Sound, Albatross II, London Fish & Chips, Churchill’s, and now Haig’s — at least we’ve still got the Plough & Stars, Green Apple, and Hamburger Haven. (And, admittedly, some nice recent additions, though I’m not enormously thrilled with Sacramento St.’s expansion into upper Clement.)

  6. Peter said (03/8/13; 6:30 pm):

    Oh no!
    I first went in there in 1965. I learned about eastern mediterranean food by way of Haig’s. What I will miss most… another physical connection to my childhood, a Clement street landmark.
    On the other hand I guess its not too surprising. Haig’s store just didn’t seem to be doing much business, and the shop felt old fashioned and musty and pretty much unchanged since my childhood.

  7. Rachel said (03/8/13; 6:45 pm):

    Devastating! Haig’s has always been one of my favorite places to shop and I’ll miss the friendly guys who work there…

  8. Derek said (03/9/13; 10:54 am):

    *WHERE* am I going to go when I have a craving for falafel!!??

  9. Tammy A. said (03/9/13; 6:35 pm):

    This is so sad. My parents frequented Haig’s quite often when Haig (HIGHG, not HAYG as their radio ads pronounce!) was behind the counter and they would exchange gossip during the process of buying a feta brick, Greek coffee, lavosh and baklava. Although I no longer live in SF, I’d stop in every so often to buy fennel tea (found nowhere else locally — off to the internet, I guess) and other Middle Eastern goodies. But what Peter said is true about the store not modernizing. Bet all the fennel tea will be gone by the time I get up there later this week. : (

  10. Matt said (03/10/13; 6:29 am):

    Noooo! I just discovered this place and the delicious food and selection!

  11. Sue said (03/10/13; 8:29 am):

    I lived in the city from 1976-1992 and frequented Haig’s during that time. Haig’s will remain indelibly etched in my memory as part of the San Francisco experience that made Clement Street so charming. The falafel were the best and I always enjoyed the conversations with the friendly gentleman owner when I visited the store. Wonderful food and wonderful memories…farewell my beloved Haig’s!

  12. Joe J. said (03/11/13; 6:32 pm):

    Bummer. Haig’s will be missed.

  13. Jan said (03/11/13; 9:16 pm):

    Noooooo! My family has been going there for as long as I can remember–it’s hard to find the big jars of grape leaves to make our sarma–other places we go to, their jars have mold! I am so very sorry to see this store close….

  14. J said (03/12/13; 11:00 am):

    This is quite sad. They often had dried hot peppers of multiple varieties, which I would then throw into a coffee grinder and turn into my own dried chile powder. Where can I go to get these now?

    I can get dried chipotles pretty much anywhere, but does anyone know where I can go to get
    1) dried habeneros
    2) dried African bird chiles
    3) dried mulato chiles

  15. Stef said (03/12/13; 3:56 pm):

    Such a shame. It is the only place I have found frozen manti and huge bags of sumac. We’ll miss you!

  16. Joseph said (03/12/13; 4:59 pm):

    What a bummer. I met Haig himself in 1965 when I moved to S.F. I enjoyed going there and conversing with him about our country of origin, Turkey. I enjoyed buying feta cheese, baklava, halvah, Turkish sausage and pastrami, raki, leblebi, greek olives, kadayif, pismaniye, kaskaval among many many other delicacies from Middle East. Where can I get these now???????

    They will be much missed.

  17. Linda said (03/17/13; 5:19 pm):

    I am very sad abut the closing. I love the hummus, the cheese and the reasonably -priced spices. I will definitely look for the products they create in the future.

  18. geri de stefano said (03/20/13; 9:01 pm):

    So many years ago my biggest treat of the week was to walk down Clement St and head for Haig’s. I was a single, welfare mom. . .and a cup of dark, strong coffee, a piece of flaky baklava, some hummus to take home were a feast for the senses. The Elder man who waited on me for so many years, his smile. I will never forget. And when I finally had the courage to learn how to cook the fine Mid-Eastern delicacies myself. . . .again, I would head over to Haig’s. . .
    I no longer live in San Francisco but my daughter, Ananda, went this week to say good-bye. For her and me!! She’s 40 now. I used to push her in her stroller. . .and I think hummus was one of her first foods!!
    Love you all!!

  19. JG said (03/23/13; 7:26 pm):

    I just heard the sad news. I can’t imagine Clement Street without Haig’s. The thought of it is really kind of breaking my heart. I hope the Haig family reads this blog: thank you for years of combo plates, coffee, dolma, feta, muhammara, friendly conversation at the counter… I’m gonna cry!

  20. Sandra Sanders said (07/6/13; 8:35 pm):

    So sad to see that Haig’s is gone. I feel like I have lost an old friend. Haig ‘s always gave me a travel fix when I had a travel lust. I remember when they carried the hand made filo dough by local Armenia baker. I asked the long-time manager to promise that they would never close. I wish he had kept that promise!

  21. Dorothy Reinhardt said (07/27/13; 9:25 am):

    I lived on Clement St. near Haig’s when I first moved to SF in the mid 70s. Haig’s was one of my favorite places. I used to buy coffee and tea and falafels there. I learned about Mediterranean foods by browsing the aisles of Haig’s. So sorry to see it go.

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