Amanda Millsap Owen of Homegrown Food in the Rountree neighborhood is one of two proprietors to recently open stores featuring locally raised foods.
Niche grocers offer alternative to supermarkets
A pair of new stores in Springfield selling products raised by local farmers could signify a trend among consumers toward buying local.
Homegrown Food LLC opened May 31 at 601 S. Pickwick Ave., and O’Day Market opened in mid-April at 3315 W. Sunshine St.
Both stores sell meat, dairy products, eggs, produce and dry goods produced by area farmers.
“I have an interest in the environment and things that are good for my family and the community,” said Amanda Millsap Owen, Homegrown Food co-owner. “It’s high time we had something like this.”
Owen said her store provides an alternative to Springfield’s farmers markets.
“The farmers market is great – a lot of the same vendors are supplying to us,” Owen said. “It’s hard for people, especially professionals, to get to the farmers market, so we just thought (to) provide a way for people to shop at their convenience.”
Owen said her Rountree neighborhood store has been supported by residents.
“They’re turning out in droves, and we need more suppliers,” Owen said.
Owen, who borrowed $200,000 from Metropolitan National Bank to fund Homegrown Food’s startup, is no stranger to community-supported agriculture, which partners consumers with farmers. One brother, Curtis Millsap, operates Millsap Farm north of Springfield, and another, Adam Millsap owns and operates Urban Roots Farm in central Springfield.
The concept of community-supported agriculture, which has been gaining ground in America the last 20 years, according to www.localharvest.org, allows consumers to buy shares from farmers and in return get the specified harvested products.
The farms engage in the concept’s practices and have embraced the stores, using them as another tool to sell their goods.
One vendor already is seeing benefits from selling his bread in one of the markets. Jack Dueck, owner of Fair Grove-based Old Mill Bagel Co., sells his specialty breads at Homegrown Food.
“The challenge is, in my case, the people who would normally buy from me on a Tuesday, the only place they would find me is at Battlefield Mall,” Dueck said, referring to the farmers market. “For many reasons, they can’t do it. Those people never even know that our shop even exists.”
Across town in a building that used to house a Brown Derby store, Barbara Carroll opened O’Day Market with her daughter, Aubra Carroll. Her reasons for the venture are similar to Owen’s.
“I think the need is local sustainability,” Carroll said. “The more we spend in our community, the more money stays in our community. It’s healthier and financially better for the community.”
O’Day Market offers free-range chicken, eggs, milk, buffalo, Angus beef and pork raised by local farmers.
Carroll dipped into her 401(k) savings for the $25,000 she needed to start the business and still works for AT&T as a technician. She was approved for a Small Business Administration-guaranteed loan but opted not to borrow.
“I didn’t want to be beholden to the government. The funds came from me and time spent there comes from her,” Carroll said, referring to her daughter, who runs the store. “We’re both making sacrifices.”
Owen said another reason for markets that buy and sell homegrown foods is to provide farmers a fair price.
“We’re interested in environmental sustainability and social sustainability,” Owen said. Dueck said he sold English muffins at local supermarket Harter House, but stopped selling there because he believed his product got lost on the shelf.
Dueck doesn’t have to worry about that at the 500-square-foot Homegrown Food.
“I’m selling 10 times the volume at just that little Homegrown Food store,” Dueck said.[[In-content Ad]]