Demand for local products is one of the most influential trends in the food industry right now. It helped propel the growth of farmers' markets, and lately it's been reshaping supermarket aisles throughout the nation.
So what's next? The answer appears to be “locally sourced” stores, which have started popping up across the country. Dedicated primarily to offering local products, these locations and the success they're enjoying so far are perhaps the strongest testimony yet to the power of local.
One example is Urban Rustic, located in the trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, N.Y. Open since December, the 2,600-square-foot space is part grocery store, part cafe. In addition to tall wooden shelves stacked with local goods, there's an elevated dining area, a juice-and-coffee bar as well as a salad bar. Most of the food comes from within a 100-mile radius of the store.
Dan Cipriani, co-owner of this hybrid retail outlet, said he and his team research every product to make sure it meets the standards of authenticity his customers demand.
“What we're trying to do that's different from other places is do the background checks, make the calls and check everything out to find out who they are and how they do it,” he said. “We're not just blindly going with the mega-organics in California just to have full shelves.”
Another small-format retailer that makes a point of selling local products is Green Grocer Chicago, located in the city's West Town neighborhood. Offerings there include Zota Soda, Tomato Mountain Farm salsas, Bennison's Bakery bread and other items sourced from the Midwest.
Not all of these local-focused stores are neighborhood boutiques. At 40,000 square feet in size, Napa, Calif.'s Oxbow Public Market is more indoor food bazaar than store, home to 35 local merchants — everything from The Fatted Calf charcuterie and butcher shop to Three Twins Organic Ice Cream. Company President Steve Carlin describes it as a sensory experience, more akin to a European street market than a conventional retailer.
“You're not going to take a first date to the supermarket,” said Carlin. “But you'll certainly take her to the public market, because at the public market it's all integrated. It's a living experience.”