By Jennifer Pund
When heading to the high country, or just heading home to a mountain town, there is always something that didn’t make it into the cooler or grocery bag. The Georgetown Market is the solution. Offering typical snack options like a convenience store, the newly reopened store and gas station provides many grocery staples including fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy.
After years of sitting unused, its new owners spent months giving the 4,000 square foot building and facilities a complete overhaul. The floors have been re-done, new shelving was brought in and the two small bathrooms were merged into one larger, modern, state-of-the-art restroom.
“The property needed a lot of work,” Store Manager George Marlin said. “It had been years before any meaningful changes were made to the building. We made some infrastructure investments to be able to deal with some of the bigger food distributors, which was something holding back the old store in this location. And, it’s been fun getting regular comments about the quality of our new restroom.”
Aside from the facilities, customers also enjoy the new fresh fruit and vegetable selection, which is regularly stocked with bananas, lemons, onion, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, lettuce, mushrooms artichokes, cucumbers, fresh seasonal items and more. The shelves are also lined with items needed for everyday home cooking or vacation needs. “In addition to always having the staples and basics, we are constantly bringing in new items to keep the experience fresh,” Marlin said.
Georgetown has been described as a “food desert” without the market according to the manager. “There’s no access to fresh food. By fresh, I mean meat that’s not overly processed or frozen and fresh produce,” he explained. “We really feel the market can be a success, the community support is there. We think the traffic is there and frankly we are excited to offer… healthy, local food options while supporting the community with our commitment to lower food waste. We listen to the customers for guidance in purchasing decisions and that’s what creates our version of variety.”
One of the many values the Georgetown Market adheres to is transparency. Marlin explains the store’s management is available to the customer to provide information about food options. “We are not an all-organic store, but we are not a totally-conventional store either. We are here to provide options and credible information about those options,” Marlin said. “A lot of food industry businesses are in the habit of trying to obscure the source of their food and we are not into that. I will tell you exactly where my stuff comes from and exactly how we made it and what’s in it.”
As a recent graduate in economic studies, Marlin pursued the degree because he was interested in the growing number of sustainability issues and looking at them from an economic perspective. “It’s been really fun to hear from different food suppliers about their animal welfare policies, their food production practices and learn about their pricing,” he said. “I’ve had these conversations with our suppliers, so I welcome questions from our customers.”
The Georgetown Market has creative ways to tackle one of the industries largest issues: food waste. “We don’t throw away food at the Georgetown Market,” he said. The deli staff, headed by Missy Smith, takes items that are not “as pretty” and puts them to use. “Our deli staff just loves it because they come in everyday and see what’s available and make something delicious. There’s always different things coming out of the deli and no one knows what it’s going to be, not even me,” Marlin said. “But it’s always yummy and it sells really fast. So if you don’t come by every couple days you could miss out on something that was really good and creative.”
Smith makes sweet pepper relishes, pickled items and mustards when the right ingredients are available. Recently she created a strawberry and pineapple salsa that sold so fast, it has become a permanent item in rotation. The Georgetown Market’s deli makes a great meal option with the soup or sandwich and a soda deal, and don’t forget about the homemade breakfast burritos on hand daily. Samples are always available, so don’t be shy and ask. “We know people don’t want to blindly purchase something without having tried it, and we have a lot of unique stuff,” he said, “so we are always happy to sample from our deli items and produce.”
Marlin keeps waste to a minimum and likes to take things full-circle. Food scraps created from cooking are collected and donated to the local chicken farmers in town. In time, the market hopes to sell organic local eggs from these chickens. “I think it is economically viable, and in terms of the legal framework, is doable,” Marlin said. Other grocery items are removed from the shelves and frozen before they go out of date and donated to Loaves and Fishes in Idaho Springs, the only food bank in the county set up to handle perishable food. “This has been a great partnership, and we feel people have enjoyed having these items available to them.”
The Georgetown Market has a different take on carrying a “variety” of items, due to space constraints and commitment to the customer’s requests. “Because we are not that large, not every option is going to be there every time. The staples that sell well will stay and other items, when we are through the case, it’s gone. We are constantly rotating different items in and out,” Marlin said. “We try to do our ordering in the different departments so there are interesting meal options.
The consumers really do have a say in what products the Georgetown Market offers. “We are plenty big enough to supply what people need, but it’s a small enough population, one person can single handedly influence our purchasing decisions,” Marlin explained. “It’s been really cool to see. If you are into voting with your dollar, you have a lot more influence at the Georgetown Market.”
Although the fuel need was something currently met in Georgetown, the market has received some feedback. “There’s a lot of Shell brand loyalty. I also hear from locals and passers-by they are excited they can buy gas here, and by doing so support a locally-owned business which is meeting the needs of the people in the community.” Some tension has been heard about the additional fuel stop, “but it’s part of the world, and we are going to sell fuel,” he said. “We are excited we can use proceeds from gasoline to make sure we can be suppliers of other good things.”
The Georgetown Market, like many other businesses in town, is proudly locally owned and supports other local businesses when they can. Mountain Girl Bakery owner, Kristin Wheelock finds with the ebb and flow of the tourist traffic, she can’t always be open for retail sales in the off season. “We are ecstatic we can provide her products to people to help her continue to be viable in the winter, and we are excited our customers buy it as fast as we can bring it in.”
The Georgetown market has several new ideas for the future including a dinner special of the week. “We want to bring on a weekly special where if you get a few specific items and follow a certain recipe, you will have a healthy meal. When the items are purchased together, we will give a discount.”
As the market finds a balance between grocery and convenience, organic and conventional, the main goal will continue to be to offer wide array of food options, at affordable prices to satisfy the grab-and-go culture of locals and travelers in Georgetown.
The Georgetown Market is located at 1204 Argentine Street in Georgetown. Call 303-569-2464 for more information. Keep up on specials and new items at http://www.facebook.com/GeorgetownMarketCO.
Originally published in the April 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly