Tag: grocery store

A CONVERSATION WITH IVAN ARGUELLO

Five Acre Farms
Ivan Arquello in market

Left to right: Ivan Arguello, Jr., Ivan Arguello, Sr., and Enrico Palazio, Jr.

IVAN ARGUELLO, a 30-year veteran of the grocery business, owns KEY FOOD MONTAGUE in Brooklyn Heights. Ivan’s family has operated the store, part of the cooperatively owned Key Food chain, since 1982. Today Ivan runs the store alongside his nephew Enrico Palazio, Jr. and his son Ivan Jr. Over breakfast recently, we talked about the longevity of their family business, our shared commitment to taking local food mainstream and where the super-market business is headed.

Tell us about your family’s history in the grocery business.

My father came to New York from Nicaragua in 1979, in the midst of the revolution there. He started working in construction out on Long Island, and then purchased the store in Brooklyn Heights in 1982. He found the right people to run it, and learned everything he needed to know about the supermarket world from them. My brother-in-law Enrico Palazio, Sr. and I took over the business when my father passed away in 1994.

Why Brooklyn Heights?

I’ve always felt at home here. It’s a great community that appreciates the value of having a quality supermarket in the neighborhood, and we have many loyal employees, some who have been with us for 30 years. We owned a second store, in the Bronx, for a while, but ultimately decided to focus all of our time and attention on making the Brooklyn Heights store the best it can be. My wife Mary Elizabeth and I live in New Jersey now, but I love Brooklyn Heights. The store is my second home.

How has your business changed over the years?

Consumers today are much more informed about food and demand higher levels of service, convenience and transparency from their sources and grocery stores than ever before. Their interest in local food continues to grow, and we dedicate ourselves to finding the best sources from around the region. That inspires our focus on quality, the products we offer in the store and how we present them. We work hard at getting that right. It means a lot to us that customers continue to support their local family-run supermarket.

How have you responded to these developments?

We talk with our customers all the time, ask for their input and anticipate broader consumer trends. It’s important to listen to the younger generations. I see that they’re eager to try new foods. Knowing how they shop has changed how we think about selling food. Enrico and Ivan Jr., our store’s third generation and younger consumers themselves, have helped with this. In 2015, we collaborated with a group of Fordham business school students to analyze consumer and market data and identify changes we needed to make to better serve our customers. Those adjustments, which we’ve implemented over the past couple of years, have been very successful.

What are some of those modifications?

We focused on product sourcing, store remodeling, and product presentation to ensure the best food and fit with our customer. We opened a new kitchen and hired a professional chef to develop recipes so we could offer a broader array of prepared foods. We now have a farm stand look that sets our produce department apart. Ivan Jr. has a knack for spotting trends, and he’s always out foraging for the tastiest, highest-quality local products. Enrico is involved in the deli and cheese departments and keeps the operations and finance side of things running smoothly.

How did you find FIVE ACRE FARMS?

I’m proud to have been among the first to discover and carry FIVE ACRE FARMS. Dan (Dan Horan, Five Acre Farms Founder & CEO) lives in the neighborhood and has long been part of the community. Like KEY FOOD MONTAGUE customers, I believe in your company’s mission and want to support the region’s outstanding farmers. I know from talking with our customers that they recognize that local farmers and businesses need our support to thrive and grow and want to do their part to make that happen.

What makes your partnership with FIVE ACRE FARMS work so well?

To me, the foundation of our productive working relationship is our shared belief in the vital role local food plays in building community and the local economy. FIVE ACRE FARMS really knows local food. You provide great-tasting, high-quality local products. You connect us to our farmers by telling us about them and where our food comes from. You show that you really care about our store. There aren’t many companies out there that offer your level of service, that send ambassadors into the store, like you do, to visit, talk with dairy managers and introduce your products to customers.

What do you like to eat at home?

I eat very well at home… steaks are definitely a favorite. We enjoy many cuisines from around the world. And my wife always asks me to bring home FIVE ACRE FARMS Maple Greek Yogurt. That’s what she serves when her friends come over for breakfast. They just love it!

LOCAL FOOD MEETS THE MAINSTREAM: A CONVERSATION WITH FOUNDER & CEO DAN HORAN

LOCAL FOOD MEETS THE MAINSTREAM:

A CONVERSATION WITH FOUNDER & CEO DAN HORAN


DAN HORAN founded FIVE ACRE FARMS in 2010 to keep farmers farming and expand access to the region’s best local food. In this interview, he offers his perspective on the company’s mission, its work to bring local food into the mainstream and what it means to be Positively Local®.

How does Five Acre Farms define local food?

The way we look at it, local is about more than just distance. Local means knowing where our food comes from and what practices and processes were used along the way. It means paying farmers fairly to support their responsible farming and business practices. Local means growing the region’s economy and actively participating in the community. It means restoring the connection between farmer and consumer. We like to call this being “Positively Local®”.

What distance is considered local? Is it 50 miles—or 500?

Some people say 50 miles. Others say 500. Under the federal food safety law, local food is produced within 275 miles of where it’s sold. We think that makes sense for the Northeast, though to us, mileage is just one aspect of local. So much goes into growing, processing and distributing food that it’s more realistic to think of that effort as regional rather than going on only within the borders of your own state.

How do you select your participating farmers?

We travel around the Northeast, meeting with farmers and introducing ourselves, FIVE ACRE FARMS and how we work. Once we identify a prospective partner, we make a number of farm visits and learn about their farming practices and processes. We take our time to make sure that we have the shared vision and goals needed for a successful partnership.

Isn’t the farmers’ market the place to buy local food?

I love farmers’ markets. Having started my career as an organic farmer, I learned my first lessons in sales at farmers’ markets and always encourage people to buy directly from farmers. I also believe in keeping farmers farming by making their products more broadly available to consumers. FIVE ACRE FARMS helps farmers get into the mainstream, beginning at the supermarket—where Americans spend the most time food shopping.

Is it possible to buy local food year-round?

While it can be a challenge to buy local all year long, you should be able to get local milk and eggs throughout the year regardless of where you live. Take advantage of that to buy the freshest milk and eggs you can get your hands on. You’ll taste the difference. Other possibilities will vary by region. In the Northeast, where I live, I can buy local apples and root vegetables year-round.

How can I make sure that my neighborhood supermarket carries local food?

Hopefully, you’re noticing more and more local tags and labels in your store. If not, ask the store manager to buy local. Be sure to mention specific local items that you and your family like. Give the store leads by telling them about your favorite area farms. In my experience, grocery stores appreciate and respond quickly to this kind of input. If your store already has a local buying program, applaud its efforts, help spread the word and offer feedback.

There are so many products and claims out there. What’s your advice for making good choices when shopping local in the grocery store?

The key is to know your sources as much as possible. Start with a couple of items, and learn where they come from, who makes them and exactly how they’re handled. If you know the farmer, then you’re well on your way to being able to make a good decision. Sometimes information about the source is purposely hidden from you, and you’ll be able to tell when that’s the case. Knowing that we all lead busy lives, FIVE ACRE FARMS tries to make things simple. When you see our label, you know where your food comes from. You know that it’s local, delicious and healthy. You know that, because we vet our farms carefully, the farmers who produced it treat their animals properly, care for their farmland and groundwater and conserve energy. We do the legwork for you.

Where can I find Five Acre Farms outside the grocery store?

Our focus has always been, as we sometimes put it, bringing the farmers market to the supermarket. We’re also finding a wealth of opportunities to build on that focus by being the local solution in other places as well—like, for example, coffee shops and restaurants, including the new Kellogg’s NYC cereal café in Times Square. We even have local flying at 35,000 feet, where our products are used by UNION SQUARE EVENTS in creating in-flight menus for DELTA. We’re bringing local food into the mainstream where it should be, making it part of our everyday lives.