The new movie theater, offices, apartments and retail that rose in gleaming stories around The Milk Pail Market didn’t bring it down. But after surviving years of construction disruption and uncertainty from its quirky perch on the edge of the massive Village at San Antonio Center redevelopment, The Milk Pail now faces a more certain closure.
The Rasmussen family, which has operated the market since 1974, announced last week plans to permanently shutter the business later this spring.
Known for its bake-at-home croissants, steeply discounted and wildly varied produce – and a treasure trove of European and domestic cheeses – the market was a regional institution, feeding students, families and seniors shopping for world palates on tight budgets. In the 1970s, a drive-thru dairy operated from the location at 2585 California St., providing the market’s name. Steve Rasmussen purchased the enterprise and built it into the produce-centric, partially open-air market it is today. The market dealt directly with farmers and distributors able to bring overstock directly to consumers in an ever-changing seasonal assortment of abundance priced to sell quickly.
When Rasmussen family members revealed on Facebook last week that they planned to close the business “within the next few months,” they listed three primary reasons behind the decision: a failure to rebound after three years of construction at San Antonio Center that impeded parking; the 2014 loss of a “one-of-a-kind” manager, James Liu, whose negotiating tactics for produce were unmatchable; and the readiness of Steve and Lian Rasmussen to retire after running a family business for “16,000 continuous days.”
“The Milk Pail has been not just a business, but a community relationship,” the Rasmussens wrote. “To our loyal customers, we will miss you.”