New No-Frills, Budget-Conscious Produce Shop Coming to Fishtown
A few weeks back, I was reading a piece on Grub Street about what customers can expect from Whole Foods’ cheaper new spinoff store, 365, geared toward millennials. In it, they pointed out that produce at 365 won’t be sold out of the faux-rustic barrels you usually find at Whole Foods, but rather, produce will be sold “straight out of the boxes and crates in which it is delivered” in order to keep overhead costs lower and prices down. And while we don’t know when we’ll be getting a 365 here in Philly, what I can tell you is that a produce shop with a similar philosophy of setting aside the frills to keep the prices of fruits and veggies lower for customers will be setting up shop in Fishtown this summer. We’ll take it!
The shop will be a brick-and-mortar location for Riverwards Produce, a company started by Kensington resident Vincent Finazzo last July that distributes produce to a number of popular restaurants in Fishtown and Northern Liberties. Think: Standard Tap, Front Street Cafe, Good Spoon Soupery, and more. Finazzo, who actually worked in produce departments at a few Whole Foods locations in the Philly area before striking out on his own, originally planned to open a market but was set back by cost. That’s where the produce distribution service came in.
Now, Finazzo’s found a tiny space — and we mean tiny, at less than 500 square feet — at 1822 Tulip Street in Fishtown, where he plans to start selling produce to us non-restaurant industry folks. But don’t expect anything fancy. As he explains, “It seems like if you open a business in Fishtown right now, it has to be the biggest, best, greatest thing. That’s exactly the opposite of what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to keep the overhead as low as possible. I find that the biggest problem with markets nowadays is that a lot of people who open markets try to make them too boutique-y.” Adding that faux-rustic feel á la Whole Foods costs money, and you often see the price of that in the price of products, which, Finazzo says, can make produce unapproachable to a lot of people. “No one wants to pay $6 for a head of cauliflower. When you do that, you end up turning a lot of people away.” Just ask everyone who calls Whole Foods “Whole Paycheck.”
He goes on to say, “The way grocery stores are structured today is just completely wrong. The shitty food is really cheap and the produce department is really expensive, and it’s terrible. The waste level, speaking from experience, is way higher than it needs to be, and if prices were lower, that problem wouldn’t be as bad.”
Finazzo says the selection at Riverwards Produce, which will be open only on the weekends to start, will be comparable to your average grocery store’s produce department, with a wide range of fruits and vegetables, mostly local. When it comes to the produce that simply can’t be local (think: bananas), the idea is to still offer it at an affordable price. Because so much of the produce will be local, the offerings will change with the seasons, but there will always be a wide variety to choose from. And Finazzo says he’ll also specialize in produce you might not usually be able to find in the produce department at, say, Acme, like turmeric root or Indian eggplant.
And canners, rejoice! One really neat thing about Riverwards is that anyone will be able to order wholesale produce through them. So if, come tomato season, canning tomato jam for everyone in your life is your main hobby, you’ll be able to get your hands on a case of tomatoes at a discounted price.
Finazzo, who will continue with his wholesale business too, says the hope is to eventually be open around five days a week and to move into products like local grains, flours and dried fruits, to become more of a full-service market. The aim is to have the shop, which is being renovated right now, open in July. Until then, you can keep up with Riverwards Produce on Instagram. (Note: Their feed is the definition of produce porn.)
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