Richmond District Yesteryear

“Richmond District Yesteryear”: The Unsolved Murder at the New California Market

By Peta Cooper

There are two different aspects I believe that make a San Francisco neighborhood unique: movie theaters and neighborhood markets.

But let’s face it, a majority of our theaters have been closed down and converted into overpriced and pretentious gyms. Thank goodness we still have the Balboa and the Four Star.

A local market to me, represents a sense of community. Unlike major supermarkets, the owner gets to know you, what you like to buy, what you tend to pass up. And if you have a good rapport with the owner, they would take the last box of your favorite cereal off the shelf and save it for you.

Some members of the “San Francisco Remembered” Facebook group shared some of their memories of their favorite markets.

April B: When we first moved to SF, I lived on 31st Avenue in the Richmond District. We used to go to a little store named Steve and Itchys. I went to Alamo Elementary from 1978 to 1983 on 22nd and Clement at the corner. They had a little market where we always got candy and our first-grade teacher, would buy us a box of cookies to share with the class on our birthday.

Katherine Alba: Ralph’s on California and 25th Avenue – the meat counter.

Coline Boudeville: My ‘early/first year in SF memory’\: the turkey sandwich lunch box from Arguello Market.

Rob Schaezlein: “Jack’s” store on the corner of 12th and Lake Street. Run by the Ayoob family, then the Faukuri’s, who all lived within a block of the store. Used to buy all kinds of things, from being sent there to pick up milk when we ran out to junk food when we hung out in Mountain Lake Park, like soft drinks, Doritos, Dolly Madison fruit pies, and It’s-It bars. When we got older, they refused to sell us beer, which I always secretly respected. There was a pay phone on the pole outside the door. We called it our Office, because the cell phone hadn’t been invented yet, and it was a place we could make and receive calls, away from our parents’ ears.

Two Richmond District markets come to mind from my childhood. There was Stop By Mart, on 19th and Clement. The owners would sell me stink and smoke bombs. New California Market was the place to be to play video games.

Every August, my mind often thinks about an unsolved murder in the Richmond District. We don’t get too many of those.

As I grew older, I causally got to know Lily the owner of New California Market. You see, I would run the 32nd and California steps after my workout at the YMCA. On my way back, I would stop for some water or a sports drink. It was a Friday, I picked up some water, I told Lily to have a nice weekend and that I would see her on Monday.

When Monday arrived, I walked past the New California Market and it was closed, which was unusual. There were flowers tied to the door handle. There were a few people standing around, talking amongst each other. I was told by one neighbor, Lily was shot and killed. That threw me for a loop, since I saw her on Friday, the shooting happened on Saturday, shortly after 5 p.m. in broad daylight. No witnesses.

Initially when she was found, the customer thought she might’ve had a heart attack, when the ambulance arrived, the paramedics discovered the gun wound. But it was too late.

About a week or so later, the police and Supervisor Jake McGoldrick hosted a meeting at the Richmond Recreation Center. As you can imagine, lots of neighbors were upset, many of them had been longtime customers of Lily’s for years.

I ran into my friend and longtime neighbor Alanna on Geary Street, I told her about the shooting and she was so shocked, she dropped her groceries. We were trying to think of the last time something like this happened in the Richmond District.

I remember when there was a robbery at the Walgreens, when it was on 18th and Geary in the early ’90s; the suspect had a gun. One of the clerks was injured, but survived. Another time was my third day as a freshman at GWHS, a student was shot during lunchtime by a 21-year-old man, but thankfully the student survived.

At the meeting, people were talking over each other, emotions were running high. Apparently there was no surveillance footage, the camera was broken. Which lead to more rumors and speculations. Lily’s husband was so overcome with grief, he moved back to South Korea with their children.

With no clues or witnesses, it looked like this would be a cold case. It’s crazy to think 14 years have gone by. It is owners like Lily who make these markets a special place in our neighborhood’s history.

If you would like to share your memories of New California Market or any local market in the Richmond District, leave a comment below or you can email me:

Peta Copper is a lifelong Richmond District resident, a 2001 graduate of George Washington High School and is currently a social media specialist for a film production company.

2 replies »

    • Hey Yasmine,

      Thanks for your comment! I love that market, my mom loves their turkey sandwiches too! It’s very handy to have, especially if you’re planning to spend a day in Golden Gate Park and you want put together a lunch for a reasonable price! I look forward to hearing from you again.

      Best wishes,


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