Shop Talk: A Destination for the Modern Forager—Foragers Present

You know the excitement you get in the dollar section at Target? That was exactly how I felt when I walked into Foragers Present.

Looking at all of their artisanal products which fill the shelves from top to bottom got me so excited that I couldn’t help but touch, grab, smell, and test out everything they had. And yes, I did say artisanal. Foragers Present prides itself on selling only the best products made from the best quality. Although they may have a wide range of culinary items from drinks to utensils to your everyday kitchen needs, they are not a grocery store. I talked to the founder, Cynthia Solis, and learned that the dedication Foragers Present has to quality products is much bigger and more meaningful than a simple bodega. Foragers Present is a culinary lifestyle boutique & cafe with a variety of home goods (and delicious bites!) 

Q

What inspired Foragers Present to sell only the best quality products?

A

So a few things—the Mission in particular has a lot of really great food brands that have grown. Like Boba Guys started out with a pop up here, Dandelion now has its own factory. And so I felt like if we were going to be on Valencia Street, we had to be at a certain standard of San Francisco Bay Area food. Honestly, it’s a foodie town. We really wanted to differentiate ourselves. We’re not a grocery store. We’re something special and we definitely want it to be the go-to place for that kind of quality. You know that if you’re getting it here, chances are it’s small batch, it’s artisanal, it’s better than a lot of other things – very high quality. 

Q

What is the benefit of sourcing from smaller producers? 

A

A lot of these producers are not producing in mass. They don’t have economies of scale and they’re staying very true to their brands. I do feel like that’s important. A lot of things these days are about “how many stores can I get into?” There comes a point when you just cannot produce 10,000 things a week and have it stay at that good quality. So I want to support local small businesses. Usually they have a certain amount of passion for what they’re doing and if we start to notice that the distribution is almost too high, we will just put it on sale and move on to the next up-and-coming up brand. Hence, you know, “forager.” We’re trying to forage – we’re trying to find these guys before they blow up. 


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Q

So are your products only sourced locally? 

A

We source worldwide. So we have ramen base from Japan, market bags from France, chocolates from Seattle, candles from New York. One of our very popular products is Seedlip non-alcoholic spirits, and those are actually from the United Kingdom. We have potato chips from Spain that have these amazing flavors. We didn’t want to just limit it to only the Bay Area. 

Q

Are there any small artisan producers that you specifically stay loyal to?

A

Yeah, one in particular is the Truffle Shuffle Salt company. They are actually a group of chefs that came out of French laundry. They have a truffle business and are all about truffle transparency because they realized that you usually don’t really know if what you think you’re getting is what you’re really getting. They wanted to make sure to cut through that. We have a lot of products from them. They’re based out of Oakland and they source the salts from Bali. They source the truffles from various places around the world and so that to me felt like the right story for us. Whatever is in here [our store] we like to have be the unique standalone product and then the customer decides. There are things in here that people just love and we can’t keep in stock. There’s a soda company out of Berkeley. They make sodas out of wine grapes and I mean right now we’re just waiting for them to come up with their next batch. They’re super popular. 


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Q

What boxes do these products need to check off in order to be one your store shelves?

A

The first initial box is “do I have a reaction to this?” A lot of times I react to the story behind the company. We have a brand in here that’s a doll brand and the proceeds go towards anti-bullying. We have another company called Bloom and Give that does throws and kitchen towels. They’re very on top of their labor practices because they make overseas in Asia and India but they’re also about girls education and a portion of the proceeds goes to that. So I’ll ask myself, “Is this brand is trying to do something here?” Sometimes there’s a physical reaction. The first time I tasted Seedlip, I was with friends and I didn’t feel like drinking, but I didn’t want to just have a soda. I wanted to have something that felt like a cocktail. I saw Seedlip on the menu, tried it, and I was like “Oh my goodness. This is so great.” You don’t get a buzz but you feel like you’re participating socially without just having a Sprite. Other times you know maybe something is just cool or fun like Snoop Dog’s cookbook or you know we have things that are just practical like kitchen teasers, cheese knives, boards. There’s definitely some thought behind whether or not the customer is really going to like a product. 

Q

How do you acquire these products? Do you reach out to people and tell them that you want their products in your store? Or do you get people reaching out to you?

A

It’s definitely both. I’ll go to industry trade shows. I have a background in retail, so a lot of the non-food items are from people I’ve known in the past that I knew should have some of their things in the store. Sometimes I’ve tried it and I’ve just been like, “We need to have this,” so I’ll get through how ever many layers of people to get ahold of them. I literally reached out to Seedlip because their product is awesome and I’ve never seen anything like it before. I’m always keeping an eye out. I wanted to make sure that we didn’t have things that other people had. I get people calling all the time and reaching out to me and we love requests like that. So yeah, it’s a little of everything.

Q

What has been the community’s reaction to your store and products? 

A

Actually, it’s interesting. A lot of Valencia Street is female owned, which I didn’t realize until I got here. So we’re female owned, Scarlet Sage is female owned, Needles & Pens is female owned, Love and Lux, TigerLily, all of those are female owners. A friend of mine has an art gallery on 22nd, that’s another one that’s female owned, and she introduced me to some people as a welcome to the neighborhood and it was amazing. But the overall reaction to the space has been great. So far we’ve felt very welcomed by people. Some people walking by will just come in and say hello and they seem very happy to have a place with the things that we have. It can also be an office space for some people. This is just a very beautiful place and it does feel very welcoming. 

// Check out Foragers Present for some artisanal goods and bites or just stop in to say hello! Foragers Present is located at 1186 Valencia St, Mission District. foragerspresent.com; photography by Peter Salcido.


Shop Talk: A Destination for the Modern Forager—Foragers Present
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