Months before Whole Foods closed the SF store, the man there died of an overdose

Seven months before Whole Foods abruptly closed at Trinity Place in San Francisco’s troubled Mid-Market neighborhood, a man overdosed on fentanyl and methamphetamine and died in the grocery store’s bathroom, The Chronicle has learned.

The 30-year-old man died on the evening of September 20, 2022 from the fatal combination of drugs, according to the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office. Doctors tried unsuccessfully to revive him and he was pronounced dead at the scene, the police department said.

Whole Foods cited the safety of workers as the reason for the temporary closure, but the company has not provided details of incidents and did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who lives in the neighborhood and shopped at the store, has said it was plagued by “drug-related retail theft, adjacent drug markets and the many security issues associated with them.”[ads1]; The store is directly across the street from UN Plaza, where drug dealing and use is common.

The move comes as downtown businesses generally struggle from reduced foot traffic and revenue due to the slow return of commuter workers to offices. Whole Foods’ closure came as a particular shock since it opened just a year ago after years of planning and development, and was the company’s flagship location in the city, with an estimated price tag of $12 million.

For the city, the shutdown dealt another financial and psychological blow as it grapples with a pandemic recovery and high-profile public safety challenges.

Customers interviewed Wednesday had mixed reactions from surprise to resignation, though all were disappointed to lose a valuable amenity in a part of the city that has seen more than its share of hardships.

Sebastian Luke, a regular shopper at the store at 1185 Market St., said he saw a body in a sheet being carried out of the bathroom on Sept. 20.

Luke said he also witnessed a number of disturbing incidents and was not surprised by the store’s temporary closure on Monday, which was done to protect staff. About a month ago, Luke said a man started urinating in the store, scaring an employee who told him to leave. The man replied that he wasn’t done, Luke said.

Another time, a woman walked around the store barefoot. Luke said she told the security guards, “if you touch me, I will sue you.” He also saw people using their hands to grab from the food stations, which made him stop eating from them.

In an apparent response to crime, the store cut its opening hours, closing at 19.00 instead of 21.00. It also started requiring a proof of purchase to use the bathroom, Luke said.

Despite the negative experiences, Luke said he continued to shop there because it was close to his home in the Civic Center and, as the city’s largest Whole Foods, offered a “one-stop” shopping experience superior to the chain’s other locations.

“I love Whole Foods,” he said.

Trinity, the owner and manager of the 1,900-apartment complex that includes Whole Foods, issued a brief statement: “We were disappointed to learn of Whole Foods’ plan to close the Mid-Market store on a temporary basis and hope to see the store reopen soon again.”

Kazuko Morgan, a Cushman & Wakefield realtor who represented Trinity in the Whole Foods lease, said the closing was a setback for the area at Market and Eighth streets, which she believed would become safer with new residents and new investment. The store’s modern finish and ample parking made it more attractive than the other eight Whole Foods in town, she said, a position echoed by five shoppers who spoke to The Chronicle on Wednesday.

With the closure, “there’s definitely a void,” she said.

Patrick Glenn, a Civic Center resident who visited the store about 10 times, said a “small army” of security guards would often ask people to remove products from their pockets.

“Every single time I was there, security had some sort of confrontation with a homeless person or someone who appeared to be crazy,” he said.

Glenn said he didn’t feel personally threatened and Whole Foods had better products than other nearby options, so he continued to shop there.

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