The Early Years: Gustave Draeger's Delicatessen and First Post-Repeal Liquor Stores
Draeger's was founded by Gustave Draeger, who came to this country from Stettin, Prussia (now a part of Poland) in 1903. The 14-year old Gustave first worked as a farmhand in Montana. After moving to San Francisco, he was employed as a taxi driver, delivery truck driver, and as a waiter. The industrious young man was able to put aside a small savings fund and, with the help of a loan from the Bank of Italy (now the Bank of America), he opened his own business known as Draeger's Delicatessen. This first store was located at the corner of 7th and Clement in the newly developed Richmond District of San Francisco. Through hard work and a close attention to quality, the business prospered. When Gustave's five-year lease was up, he opened a larger deli a few blocks away at 16th and Geary.
Gustave's continued success with his deli encouraged him to expand into the adjoining store and develop a full-service market. With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the quick-thinking Gustave was able to obtain liquor license number one from the county of San Francisco. In the space next to his store, he immediately opened the city's first post-repeal liquor store. His business thrived and Gustave was soon able to build four liquor stores in the city.
Mid 1900s: San Francisco's First Supermarket and the Emergence of Frank Draeger
Deciding to retire in 1943, Gustave sold the business and invested a portion of the funds in a vacant property at 40th and Taraval in San Francisco's Sunset district. In 1945, Gustave couldn't resist developing this prime property and built the largest market in San Francisco at the time. This was perhaps the Bay Area's first "supermarket."
Gustave leased his newly built store to his sons Frank and Gustave, Jr. who operated the business with much success. In 1949, they ventured out of the city into the rapidly developing town of San Mateo where they opened and jointly operated a second store. Six years later, Frank bought out his brother and continued the expansion of the business by developing a new store near the corner of Santa Cruz Avenue and University in Menlo Park. This location remains in operation today. In 1959, Frank accepted a very strong, unsolicited offer for the San Francisco store. In 1964, the San Mateo store was sold because of its limited size. This enabled Frank to concentrate all of his energies into creating what is now one of the nation's finest food stores.
As an experienced and talented chef, Frank worked tirelessly to refine recipes and stock shelves with the finest in specialty foods, produce, meat and liquor. At the same time, he had a team of ten children at home who he trained daily to understand the food business. Frank's goal was to pass on his love of the food business through daily tasting and regular entertaining. He often discussed how food wasn't just about the taste, but all about the experience. He and his wife, Mary, shared a passion for cooking and entertaining and were always committed to being the consummate hosts. Their recipes live on in the stores today.
1970s to Early 90s: New Locations and the First "Marketplace" Concept
As the Draeger family matured, the third generation began entering the business in the 1970s and 80s. Ultimately 7 of Frank's 10 children would become involved in the operations of the business, and expansion became part of the plan. The Draeger family purchased the Whitecliff Market in Los Altos in September of 1986. After a complete remodel, this store remains the current Draeger's Los Altos location.
After eight years of research and careful planning, the Menlo Park store was also completely remodeled in 1991 to reflect a new concept in grocery shopping. Much more than a grocery store, Draeger's Menlo Park introduced the "marketplace" concept that focused on the experience of food, rather than just the food itself. The store was the first to feature a second story with a coffee bar, cooking school and party goods. The party goods section quickly transitioned to a full offering of home goods and chefs' tools. In addition, a full-service bakery and floral department were added downstairs.
1990s to Present: A New Flagship Marketplace and Expansion to the East Bay
The success of the Los Altos and Menlo Park locations spurred a renewed desire to expand the business. In 1997, Frank and the Draeger family opened what would become the company's "flagship" location in downtown San Mateo. This state-of-the-art facility enabled Draeger's to enhance its already famous culinary services by adding a sausage kitchen and smokehouse; fully equipped bakery; enlarged deli kitchens; advanced wine storage facilities; a nationally known cooking school; a complete cookware, party goods, cookbook and home goods department; a full-service floral department; and, for the first time, a full-service, high-end restaurant called Viognier, located on the second story of its 60,000-square-foot marketplace.
As the marketplace concept grew in popularity, the Draeger family looked to further expand the business, and opened its Blackhawk location in 2007.
Never content to rest, the Draeger family is committed to constantly improving the products and services which they offer their discriminating clientele. To this end, they encourage their buyers to seek the finest specialty food products, their cooks to produce the best food possible, and their clerks to offer the friendliest service. From its humble beginnings as a store front deli to its proud new environment, Draeger's has never lost sight of its mission to provide the best in food, wine, and service.