Above: The iconic Roxie Food Center storefront.
Siblings Tony, Simon, and Peter Tannous are the pillars of Roxie Food Center, an infamous sandwich hub near Balboa Park on San Jose Avenue. Roxie’s doors opened in 1975 and not even a pandemic can close them.
The Tannous family emigrated from Amman, Jordan to the Bay Area in 1972. Three years later, they bought a building that would soon carry the historic legacy and spirit of all things Roxie.
Roxie Food Center was named after a female Armenian business owner from the late 1800s. Before it became a food center, the building housed a country store with vintage shoes, clothes, olives, furniture, and other niche items.
Since then, the name’s been well-worn by its subsequent business owners. Roxie Food Center converted Roxie’s old country shop into a signature sandwich symposium. Based on Roxie Food Center’s longevity, one could assume history’s quite literally on their side.
The history of the building coupled with the Tannous family’s history birthed a sandwich-and-shopping hybrid. Who would’ve thought?
When asked how this dream began, Co-Owner Tony reflects on his family’s experience in grocery stores. Tony remembers that he and his brothers were always “independent…always loved to cook food. My parents were some of the best cooks around.”
Beyond knowing strong food, Tony has a strong work ethic and even stronger standards. His parents taught him, “If you won’t eat it, don’t serve it.” That’s why, when asked what makes his sandwiches different from anywhere else, he replies, “Comes outta the heart. Everything is good, only the best.” And he’s got 55 validating years to prove it.
Roxie Food Center Lives and Breathes Community
Since day one, Roxie Food Center relied on the community for loyal, word-of-mouth patrons. Today, the joint flies under the social media radar with full faith in the people to keep coming back.
Tony mentions that Roxie Food Center was “built for the neighbors. We’re there for them, that hasn’t changed.” He grew up knowing that “you respect your neighbors. You respect your elderly. Do whatever you have to do…” to keep serving. Tony’s proud of their local connections, including longstanding ties with the neighborhood Mission Terrace Association.
Community involvement during their formative years had a ripple effect. Tony explains how the Roxie crew got involved with local sports early on. “We supported lots of teams in the area. Football, soccer…high schools, softball, baseball…We started a softball team [and] bought shirts for them.
Having local support built the rapport everyone strives for in a business. That’s why Roxie Food Center’s exterior walls are tattooed with sports logo art and community emblems.
Sandwiching on in the Pandemic
Tony simplifies a booming sandwich shop down to connection. He raves that the San Francisco community’s full of “great people. Very respectful…very supportive. We’re honored to be here. It’s been a great experience.”
Amidst such an unbreakable community bond, it makes sense to Tony that Roxie Food Center’s trucking along through this pandemic. He states, “The pandemic…no problem…we’re careful…watch what we do, be safe, stay open. [Such a] great community, [it’s] supported us really well [and] we’re very appreciative.” Grab n’ go food has an advantage these days, so thank goodness the Roxie crew is here to make things easier.
Next time you’re out, pop into Roxie Food Center. History’s written in the food, as proven by their signature, family-named sandwiches: the Tony Tri-Tip Sandwich, the Simon Special, and the Roxie Special. Your time at Roxie Food Center will prove you’re not just experiencing history, you’re a part of it! Who knew a sandwich could mean so much?
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