Findlay Market’s Fresh Table owners Meredith Trombly and Louis Snowden met at a grocery store. And that meeting is about to come full circle as they look forward to opening an urban grocer, The Epicurean Mercantile Company, with business partner Dan Jensen later this year.
There’s a significant build-out ahead on the space, which is located just a few feet north and across the street from the Findlay Market streetcar stop on Race Street. The large street-level space is part of a full block of rehab work being done by the Model Group. Besides the streetcar access, there’s ample lot parking.
Trombly and Snowden have thought about this venture for years and had considered other spaces, but when Bobby Maly from the Model Group approached them about 1818 Race St., it met a key goal: It’s uniquely positioned to complement Findlay Market.
“There’s no way we’re trying to replace the market,” Snowden assures. “In fact, Fresh Table will stay open in the market house. The store will extend the market’s hours and services and will be a real resource for Over-the-Rhine.”
The Epicurean Mercantile plans to be open from 8 a.m. until 8 or 9 p.m., past Findlay Market’s 6 p.m. closing time. They’ll also be open on Mondays, the market’s day off. And, importantly, they want to serve the entire community, at all price points. As an example, the laundry aisle will be stocked with a big name brand like Tide, an eco-friendly brand and a budget brand — something for every buyer. The store will have a blog where they hope to get feedback from shoppers to keep their stock responsive to the community. They will participate in SNAP and EBT programs.
But what they hope will really set Epicurean Mercantile apart is The Counter, an in-house eatery with small plates and entrées available all day.
“We’ll be cooking just a foot away from the customers,” Jensen says. “When you come into the store, you’ll be able to see right back to the restaurant, and it’ll draw you in.”
Catching Jensen at the stove could be a real attraction. As a senior at the University of Cincinnati in 2011, the 6-foot-8 pitcher was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds and played for three seasons in the minor leagues. After a life-changing accident during a tonsillectomy, he traded his baseball mitt for an oven mitt and is now an all-star at the market. Trombly and Snowden rave about his food and the contribution he’s making to their team.
Trombly, who met Snowden while she was the organic foods buyer for Biggs and he was their corporate chef, champions the eco-friendly opportunities for the new operation. They will still use compostable carry-out containers, but they’ll also be able to reduce shrinkage in their produce stock by cooking wholesome vegetables as they approach their expiration dates, and piggybacking on Findlay Market’s composting program. They’re also planning a “living wall” where they can grow fresh herbs in-house.
Although they’ll stay green in spirit, they’re not planning to carry their signature color scheme across the street.
“We’re going with creams and grays; a more industrial feel,” Trombly says. “Metro wire shelves, for the way they look, but also for the flexibility they’ll give us in rearranging things as we see how it all works over time.”
The store will carry grocery staples and personal products, and probably beer and wine. They’re currently awaiting approval on the carryout permit but believe that approval is likely. There won’t be a butcher counter or a deli, since Findlay Market offers both. They are planning to carry packaged meats, charcuterie and cheeses, again hoping to meet as many price points as possible.
“We’re part of the big, inclusive Over-the-Rhine community,” Snowden says, “and we want to serve all of that community.”
Isn’t that what the Vine Street Kroger is for? Well, he pauses; they’re trying.
“A big chain like that can’t scale down to the unique needs of a diverse community like this,” he says. “We’ve been here at the market for five years, learning about people, their likes and dislikes, their dietary restrictions, their budgets. We’ve got all that experience and knowledge to move forward.”
For updates on THE EPICUREAN MERCANTILE COMPANY, visit freshtable.biz.