Specialty Food Magazine


Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 103 of 139

Curated Provisions to Take Home In addition to carrying products served on-site, the packaged foods inventory includes a variety of snacks and meal starters, including Rustic Bakery crackers, Savory Choice instant pho, Flour Craft Bakery granola, McClure's potato chips and bloody mary mix, NaGo miso dressings, Sfoglina pasta, and Marlo's Bake Shop biscotti, as well as extra-virgin olive oil, meat rubs, canned tomatoes, and tonic water. A reach-in refrigerator stocks a quirky assortment—Cowgirl Creamery fromage blanc, Sierra Nevada butter, and Emmy's dill spears—and will soon add Straus organic milk, grass-fed steaks from Marin Sun Farms, pastured eggs, and Mary's Free Range Chicken, a popular brand locally. It's not a fully stocked store by any means, but curated provisions will appeal to sustainably minded foodies with lots of money, a little cooking knowledge, and limited time. "You're not going to come here to do your full grocery shop- ping," Esopenko says. He's counting instead on the neighborhood's many young professionals who don't think about dinner until dinnertime. Then it's "let's just grab a couple of steaks and some wine and cheese," he explains. Because a small corner grocery across the street carries fresh produce, Esopenko and Gugni chose not to. "Our customers are probably 25 to 55 years old and moderately aff luent," says the merchant. "That's Russian Hill. Probably not a lot of blue collars." By his estimation, the Union Larder clientele is about 80 percent from the neighborhood and 20 percent tourist. The ratio of sales consumed on the premises versus sales to go is roughly 80/20 as well. That proportion may shift with growth in the couple's catering business—largely sandwiches and cheese and charcuterie platters for customer pickup. A Work in Progress The store debuted with limited hours—5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday—but have expanded to an 11:30 a.m. opening Wednesday through Saturday. (Sunday hours are now 5 to 9 p.m.) Interviewed in mid-October, Esopenko said the staff was working on expanding the menu to three salads and five sandwich options, including a different grab- and-go sandwich daily. With its prime location near mass-transit lines and its relaxed vibe, Union Larder might also draw morning crowds if the menu included coffee and pastries. The owners are going slow initially but considering longer hours for 2015. The shop's growing pains, if any, may revolve around staff- ing. Knowledgeable cheesemongers are in high demand in the Bay Area, due to the large number of cheese counters per capita and the proliferation of Whole Foods Market. At presstime, the enterprise operates with a nightly staff of six: server, bartender, cheesemon- ger, dishwasher, and two cooks. Esopenko estimates the shop will eventually require eight fulltime and four part-time workers, not counting the two owners. The crew could have used better training, admits the mer- chant, but opening delays chewed up the budget. "We needed to get open; I had to pay rent," Esopenko explains. "We were understaffed at first because we didn't expect that kind of sheer volume. So we just threw everyone into the fire, and they did great. It's a good problem, but it doesn't give you room to learn." It's not a fully stocked store, but the curated provisions will appeal to sustainably minded foodies with lots of money, a little cooking knowledge, and limited time. Janet Fletcher writes the e-mail newsletter "Planet Cheese" and is the author of Cheese & Wine and Cheese & Beer. PHOTO: 8INC WINTER 2015 101

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