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Best Produce Store 

Farmer Joe's

Meet Joe Tam, the man behind the best produce in the East Bay. You can find him and his wife, Diana, almost any day of the week at their store, Farmer Joe's, in the Laurel district. At this modest corner market, shoppers can regularly find morel and shiitake mushrooms, Manila mangoes, and purple Hawaiian yams. Want a pear? Joe carries six kinds. He sells this wide variety of organic and commercial produce for prices that often beat and even bury those of the chains. Three-for-a-buck avocados are a common bargain, and recently when chains peddled lettuce at $1.50, Joe offered green, red leaf, butter, and romaine lettuce, all for 49 cents a head. Located at 35th and MacArthur, this market shares the intersection with a liquor store, a Taco Bell, and a vacant lot -- hardly the land of Piedmont Grocery or Berkeley Bowl, but that's yet another reason to love Joe's. In an age when even independent markets are starting to resemble Costco or have become hippie-laden traffic jams, Joe's has flourished without compromising its neighborhood quality. This mom-and-pop is a success story almost as refreshing as an orange flash melon.

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