Whole Foods Brings Brooklyn Foodies Market to Manhattan

Discussion
Oct 29, 2012

Beginning October 22, select vendors from Brooklyn Flea’s popular Smorgasburg outdoor foodies markets began setting up shop for month-long pop-ups in Whole Foods’ Bowery store.

In a review last year by The New York Times, Smorgasburg was described as the "Woodstock of Eating" akin to "a summer rock festival for food: exciting, overwhelming, sweaty, hot. You’ll hit your limit, and then you’ll want more."

Launched in May 2011, the all-food market in Williamsburg features over 75 vendors — including a few new, underground restaurants and food trucks but mostly upstart culinary entrepreneurs. Opened every Saturday except for the cold months, a second location opened on Sundays in September in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) underneath the Brooklyn Bridge.

Food vendors are packed side-by-side, many featuring long lines for their handheld, ready-to-eat foods. Attendees discover many arcane delicacies from Asia, South America, the rural U.S. South and elsewhere while also taking in interesting twists on standard foodie grub, such as BBQ, lobster rolls, tacos, dumplings and donuts. Part of the charm is that the market is held outside with people often eating while standing up or holding an impromptu picnic at a nearby public square.

The first three joining "Smorgasburg at Whole Foods Market Bowery" at the stores just-renovated cafe are Danny Lyu’s Cemitas, known for their 10-layer Mexican sandwiches, followed in late November by Keith Klein’s Milk Truck Grilled Cheese and then Hugh Mangum’s Mighty Quinn’s, specializing in smoked meats.

In early 2013, a Smorgasburg "Snack Bar" will open at Whole Foods Bowery location selling Smorgasburg’s "packaged and retail-ready purveyors," as other vendor partners already selling exclusively to the chain.

For the food vendors, the venture provides a chance to move from market booth to brick & mortar restaurant, said Eric Demby, co-founder of Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg in a statement. "It really positions our markets and Whole Foods Market as true incubators, creating a pipeline to professionalism that we can usher the finest of our family into."

Many vendors will also find a space during colder months to sell their fare.

Whole Foods benefits from attaching its name to a popular foodie event attracting a younger crowd.

"We have a specific goal to discover and develop up-and-coming local producers as well as continue to find unique ways to celebrate them with our shoppers," said Whole Foods’ Local Forager for the Tri-State area, Elly Truesdell.

Should grocers be aligning themselves more with local foodie movements? What do you think of Whole Foods’ partnership with the Smorgasburg food market? In what other ways should grocers tap into local foodie communities?

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12 Comments on "Whole Foods Brings Brooklyn Foodies Market to Manhattan"


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Anne Howe
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

This is a truly shopper-centric idea, with many residual benefits for the vendors and for Whole Foods. Win-win-win. I love that it gives the local foodie entrepreneurs a way to make a sustainable income source year-round.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

The answer — as always — is it will work for some grocers, in some markets assuming they pick the right partners.

For Whole Foods there is the added challenge of making sure their partners are playing by the organic rules. What happens the first time the press discovers the “secret ingredient” in Gonzo Greg’s Global Gorditas is Velveeta?

Diana McHenry
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

This concept seems to be a win for everyone — customers, local growers/entrepreneurs and Whole Foods. This adds to the experience in the stores and blurs the lines with a growing and popular avenue for meals and groceries.

Debbie Hauss
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Grocers absolutely should be providing products sourced from local farms and markets. This is a great way to help the local community and offer shoppers fresh, sometimes organic, items they might not be able to find otherwise.

That said, chains must be aware of some inherent challenges with this approach, such as product quality control and supply chain issues. Additionally, will sales of local items take market share from regular suppliers of similar products?

Cathy Hotka
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

This is downright exciting. For an idea of how successful this could be, check out your local Asian market, which is probably full of non-Asians eager for new flavors. America has become a nation of foodies….

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Taking advantage of a popular local activity is a great strategy. Should all Whole Foods stores or all retailers incorporate space for local foodie movements? Absolutely not. Each retailer and each store needs to examine food activities in their local market and determine which, if any, activities are popular with their consumers and fit with their mission. Those are the activities that might be partners.

Martin Mehalchin
Guest
Martin Mehalchin
9 years 6 months ago

Whole Foods is playing to their strength here, they were one of the pioneers of grocery stores as a shopping experience and this is a natural for that strategy. Those who seek to compete with Whole Foods would be wise to look into being a fast-follower of this offering.

PS: An old classmate of mine is a vendor at Smorgasburg. Excellent Paella, or so I hear!

Lee Kent
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

This is a fantastic move for all concerned. It shows Whole Foods’ support of local foods and creates some additional loyalty to the brand. This concept could go a long way!

Joan Treistman
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

It makes sense to me that retailers stay in touch with the tastes and preferences of their local markets. Partnering with the Smorgasbord food market is a way for Whole Foods stay in the forefront of their customers’ tastes and provides an experience that engenders loyalty.

Lee Peterson
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

This is what we would call a “duh.” Yes, yes, yes! Many grocers do it now, for things like pizza, but mostly, traditional grocers will go with ‘chains’ they can align with. Like the Donato’s/Kroger relationship in Central Ohio.

It is risky to an extent in that smaller businesses will go in and out quickly, but I think the risk is well worth taking as the allure of someone new and great could be a major reason to pick your store for regular shopping over the guy down the street.

Let’s hope we see much more of this going forward … it’s a win/win consumer/retailer.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Certainly this will work in many locales. It works now at Art Festivals. It is a great way to advertise your menu and get paid for it at the same time. The more festival occassions, the more the popularity for this will grow.

Kai Clarke
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Yes. Local is good. It reflects the needs and desires of the community and their focus. Retailers should be using Whole Foods as an example when they are looking at local and regional purchasing and retailing.

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