MADISON, Wis. — Fresh Madison Market opened its doors near the heart of the University of Wisconsin's campus here in January, and the store is already developing a reputation for having a great selection of local products.
Selections include 12 different doughnuts and other sweet goods from Greenbush Bakery, a local kosher baker on nearby Regent St.; coffee beans from local roaster Just Coffee; frozen bagels from Madison's Bagels Forever; fresh salsa in the deli case made by Madison's Pasqual's Restaurant; and Mediterranean delicacies from au Bon appétit, a caterer in Milwaukee. They even offer fresh, hand-rolled pastas from RP Pasta, a small local supplier based just a couple of miles away.
But in Wisconsin, cheese has always been a big local star, and Fresh Madison owner Jeff Maurer this month purchased a new refrigerated case to highlight cheeses produce by dairies from all over the state.
“We were adding more and more local products, and we found ourselves in a situation where we were putting some in the deli case, some back in the dairy department,” Maurer told SN. “So, we moved some things around, installed an outlet in the floor and then purchased this case to segregate all of these cheeses so they're in one convenient location for our customers to shop.”
The new case is located near the front of the store, between the deli department and the checkout area, and Maurer said that since Wisconsin cheeses were segregated into the case earlier this month, sales on the products have doubled.
Maurer said that he and his staff have been getting lots of requests for local products since the store opened. And the products tend to do very well, partly because of the store's location in a part of downtown frequented by both students and tourists.
“Because of our location in a downtown market, there's a lot of tourism, a lot of people come to the campus,” he said. “As well as being the state capitol, which also brings a lot of people to the area. And we've really wanted to provide an opportunity for our customers to see all of these great products that Wisconsin companies produce.”
Also, many of the university's students are fans of the Slow Food movement and prefer to buy local items whenever possible, Maurer noted. Other students, who come to the university from different parts of the state, are just happy to find products that were produced in or near their hometowns.
These efforts to showcase cheeses and other Wisconsin-produced foods helped Fresh Madison Market draw a visit from Cheryl O'Brien, the state's 62nd “Alice in Dairyland,” earlier this month. Serving as an ambassador for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, O'Brien has been touring the state to promote her “Spend 10 in 2010” campaign, which points out that Wisconsin residents currently only spend about 1% of their food budgets on products produced in-state. The goal for O'Brien is to see that percentage grow to 10%.
“My ‘Spend 10 in 2010’ campaign has been all about making consumers aware of the variety of products that come from Wisconsin,” O'Brien said in a release. “Buying Wisconsin grown and produced items helps support our local farmers, producers, communities, economies, and all Wisconsin agriculture.”
Maurer promoted the event primarily by using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, where Fresh Madison Market is already building a following. And, prior to Alice in Dairyland's visit, the Wisconsin State Journal wrote a story about the upcoming event.
This word-of-mouth marketing has proven to be a good fit for the growing business, and will likely continue to be as Maurer builds up new relationships with local growers, local cheese makers and other local food producers.
“Marketing is a whole different story when you're in a downtown environment and on a college campus,” he said. “Finding ways to communicate with our customers cost-effectively — whether they're students or non-students — has been a challenge. Facebook and Twitter has done very well for us. Facebook in particular has been driving a lot of hits to our website. When we announce new offerings, we definitely see a jump in traffic on the website.”