Posted On: 05/01/2008
Back in 2006, Patrick Horine and his wife, Jenny Ryan, founded the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market. Now they, along with co-owner Maddie Earnest, are expanding their Local Harvest Grocery, opening a café and starting a food-business incubator. Just two short years later. Demand for clean, green and local foods is driving this growth. “Our philosophy is that we will use local first, organic second and conventional as a last resort,” Horine said. “When we try to find solutions to problems, we go back in time, basically. Instead of plastic bags, we’re going to use Ball jars. We’ll charge a small deposit for the jar and people can bring them back and we’ll reuse them. It’s so basic. Look back a hundred years, and you’ll probably find a good solution to your challenge.”
How do you anticipate this year's market being different?
The economy is a tricky question – it’s the wild card this year – because it’s going to drive up food prices … but we expect turnout to increase. Our first year, we averaged 1,200 people per Saturday at the market. Last year, we averaged 1,800 people. The grocery store, last year we had it running the entire season and we still had a 50 percent increase in our attendance at the market. The thing about St. Louis is that there is definitely more demand for local foods than there is supply.
But Missouri supposedly has one of the highest numbers of family farms in the country.
Western Missouri is packed with farms. Eastern Missouri, the St. Louis region, for some reason, has a lack of farmers. There are one or two coming on each year, and maybe that will increase in the future, but it’s not enough to keep up with demand.
Which is why you guys are expanding.
We are going to have a grocery store across the street [from the new café]. Right now we have our deli, bakery, coffee and grocery all in one space. We are moving the bakery, the deli and the coffee across the street and we’re keeping the grocery in the old space. We’ll have about 33 percent more space for grocery there. And we’ll have more refrigerated space. We have 1,100 square feet in the café that will be for our deli, bakery and coffee.
Are you going to be cooking in the café?
Yes. We’ll be offering a lot more prepared foods and hot foods. The menu will be pretty basic with a set sandwich menu, a set salad menu and a soup menu. And then we’ll have daily specials that will be driven by what’s in season. We anticipate, within a few months of opening, starting breakfast on weekends and a brunch. Like we do in the grocery store, 50 percent of our ingredients will be local products. We like to make things very simple because the ingredients are very high quality so we like to keep our recipes very simple.
And you’re curing your own meats – how did you get into that?
I always want to learn new things, and I had never cured bacon before, but [I] sampled some recipes and tested some different smoking woods [and] came up with a recipe that worked. It’s a combination of using a naturally and locally raised pork belly and we don’t use any MSG or corn syrup; we don’t pack it in water. Usually, if you’ve bought it in the store, you’ve bought it at least within a couple days of smoking.
How long does it take to make?
The curing process is about a week and then the smoking process is about a day. Besides the bacon, I [also] make a couple of different sausages – breakfast sausage and an Italian sausage. With the new space, we’ll definitely be expanding our offerings. We could get into, initially, the easier things like pancetta and Canadian bacons, and we’re going to start stuffing our own sausages, bratwurst and that sort of thing. Eventually, we want to get into curing meats that take much more time, different salamis. But those take months and special equipment.
You’ve created a food-business incubator. What impact do you hope it will have?
A lot of our vendors at the farmers’ market work with the city at [its] enterprise center, which is a kitchen incubator, and they were telling me that there’s a wait list of about 20 businesses at any given time. We hope that by bringing these business in and helping them get started, offering them an outlet to sell their product in the store and at the farmers’ market, that they will be able to grow and create good jobs for city residents. That’s our hope – to bring high-quality food and high-quality jobs.
Your first, Mark Sanfilippo’s Salume Bedu, creates what you love: cured meats.
And he’s trained and really good at it. We’ll be incubating two businesses at a time, and we have our two for this year. We will also rent the kitchen space out and we already have inquires into that. In addition to Salume Bedu, we have a woman who’s going to be doing frozen cookie dough. It will be in balls, ready to be put on the sheet and bake. It’s going to be all natural ingredients, organic grains, as much local product as possible.
With the addition of the café, how will you split up duties?
[Co-owner] Maddie [Earnest] will run the store and I’ll still have a hand in it, but I’ll be over there much less. I’m going to run the café [and catering] with Clara Moore.
Did you anticipate when you started the market that this is where you would be?
No. I’m a graphic designer and art director by trade. But this is more fun and more rewarding.
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