Gourmet takeout markets and groceries are establishing themselves less as luxury than necessity
Austin Chronicle - Aug 19, 2005
What makes a neighborhood a community? There are as many answers as there are vibrant communities. Gathering places, accessible amenities, pedestrian-friendly thoroughfares. Things can make it difficult for communities to thrive, too: cul-de-sacs that lead to nowhere, goods and services that can only be accessed by cars, gates, and walls. Angela Atwood and Peg McCoy know a thing or two about communities and have spent the better part of their lives developing them. Angela has more than a dozen years' experience in development of housing and homeless services programs in Austin/Travis County and served as the senior director of community affairs for SafePlace. Peg worked with housing projects on the border and also served on the Homeless Task Force here in Austin. Their latest venture, Farm to Market Grocery, might seem at first like a severe departure from their activist roots, but the duo's commitment to building thriving communities is evident in their jewel of a grocery store. Housed on South Congress, a street that sees extensive foot traffic, Farm to Market embodies neighborliness in its wares as well as in its location. Atwood and McCoy are committed to working with local growers and producers and have stocked their shelves and refrigerators with a wide variety of Austin's goods. From the sweet baby squash and crisp apples to the jars of salsa, salad dressings, and other condiments, the best of Austin and the surrounding area is available. The needs of shoppers are also on their minds, and despite its petite size (fewer than 2,000 square feet), an enormous variety of staples and necessities is at hand. Out of tomatoes just when the pasta pot came to a boil? No sweat. Experiencing a cheese squeeze? Not to worry. Sunday morning, and you're short on milk, eggs, and bacon? They've got you covered. It's an ideal stop on your way home from work to pick up just about everything from wine to toilet paper. And every item is choice: Organics abound in every department, and foodie favorites fill the shelves. The discriminating palate of consultant Faye Greenberg (former buyer for Central Market) is evident in the fine selection. At every turn we marveled: "My salsa! My tortilla chips! My butter! My salad dressing!" While fresh meats are not offered, prepared meals from Gina's Kitchen, Tom's Tabooley, and others make grab-and-go meals an option, as do a number of high-quality frozen entrées. Farm to Market is a reflection of the women who run the place: their values, their aesthetics, their taste buds. Heaps of colorful flowers from local growers entice pedestrians from an outside table. Once inside, warm red walls make for a cheery environ. And shoppers are greeted and welcomed like the neighbors they are. Says Angela Atwood, "We wanted to do something different [from their previous social service work], but neighborhood- and community-based." Their goal is to be a resource for the community. They've succeeded in more than that; they've created a cornerstone for one.