Part of eating like no one else is finding sources for great food. I like to encourage people to check out any local, independent or small chain grocery stores in their area. In these kinds of places you can find products that you would never find at the big chain mega marts. Smaller food stores tend to focus on quality food. One example of a store like this in the Produce Station. They have been in business on State Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan since July 1986. I recently had the opportunity to speak with their General Manager, Andrew Gorsuch. He explained to me what the mission of Produce Station is and how the food they get ends up on store shelves. Here are some of the highlights from that talk.
1. What is your position at Produce Station?
Andrew is the general manager. He oversees a lot of things, including training and instructing of 60-80 employees, researching and buying products for the store, forming relationships with vendors and farmers, and human resources tasks.
2. How long have you worked at Produce Station?
Andrew spent his college years working at the Produce Station. He then went off to teach for 5 years, before realizing he was missing his old college job. So five years ago he came back.
3. What would you say is the mission or goal of Produce Station?
The Produce Stations strives to “turn people onto good food”.
4. What makes this store unique?
Tastes comes before dollar signs. They pick carefully everything they sell. They taste the products themselves before they enter the store. Most big chain grocery stores will pick whatever pockets them more money without taste being in the picture.
5. What is the process for selecting what’s in the store?
Produce Station gets their food through multiple means. One of their main sources is the Eastern Market in Detroit. They have a buyer who goes there early in the morning each day to select items for the store. Sometimes these items come from what is good from vendors across the country and the world. Other times it’s dealing directly with farmers that they have a relationship with. For example, they will contact a farmer before hand saying they are in need of such and such a product in a certain amount. When produce is in season, they try to deal directly with the local farms in Michigan. They will cut deals with them directly. They also will make trips to different parts of the state, looking for the best produce. For example, they may go to the western part of the state, where there are many blueberries farms. They will taste the blueberries and select the best ones for their store. They will also search through catalog and attend trade shows in order to acquire new products.
6. What did you discover on your recent buying trip to Balitmore?
Andrew recently went on a buying trip to Baltimore. This trip was not a fruitful one. He said the show he went to was for a lot of corporate stuff that Produce Station is not interested in carrying.
7. What areas is Produce Station growing in?
They are building up their catering business currently, and looking to add more events, like waste tastings, and other methods to engage the community.
The careful selection of food and a dedication to good service with a knowledgeable staff is what makes Produce Station and stores like it a great place to shop. Try to find one of these gems in your community.
For more information about the Produce Station including current hours and product updates, visit their website.