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Hyperlocal Food Markets Find Niche in Small Communities

Local Provisions in Fox Chapel

It’s been decades since Millvale residents had an independent grocery store. The lack of a local place to shop was frustrating but largely tolerated by locals who didn’t know how to solve the problem. All that changed on January 29 with the grand opening of Millvale Market at 524 Grant Ave.

The brainchild of business partners Jen Saffron and Derek Dumont, Millvale Market was created to fill a longstanding void. The duo worked with other Millvale business owners, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations to bring their idea to fruition.

More than a year in the making, the market offers hyperlocal choices for fresh produce, dairy, and other locally produced products that are meant to shift the mindset toward small grocery. “It’s about offering the best local products at the best price,” said Saffron. “We’re not supporting big box; we’re supporting our neighbors.”

Saffron and Dumont met during the early days of COVID, when Saffron was exploring how to shift her on-site dining for Sprezzatura Catering + Café into a pandemic-proof alternative. She began selling her food through Harvie, a service that delivers locally produced and sustainably sourced groceries and prepared foods direct to homes.

It was there she met Dumont, who was a buyer for Harvie and Paragon Food. He had extensive experience in the grocery and market industry in California and New Orleans before returning to Pittsburgh in 2020.

They began exploring options to combine their knowledge to benefit the residents of Millvale and surrounding communities. Eventually, they landed on the concept for Millvale Market. It was modeled after Bi-Rite, a small chain of local grocery stores in San Francisco.

“We had this whole conversation about why Pittsburgh doesn’t have something like this,” she said. “We began talking about how we could bring quality foods to a community that doesn’t have it.”

Dumont and Saffron shared their idea with the Millvale Community Development Corporation, which provided the building where the market now operates. “They gave us the space we needed to build a true corner market,” said Saffron. “The results have been really fantastic. People are shopping in the market and it’s serving the community.”

Millvale Market is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Saffron said the market is gearing up to offer prepared foods, made-to-order sandwiches and salads. They have a coffee bar and plan on outdoor seating once the weather is warmer.

“We’re growing in product selection every day,” she said. “For a small footprint, we have a range of products that include gluten-free and vegan options.”

The majority of the products in the store are locally sourced to fulfill the market’s intent to support local growers and producers. “We want to close the loop of the local food ecosystem,” said Saffron. “The market is meant to inspire healthy, affordable options in a community that’s really been lacking that for quite some time.”

Millvale isn’t the only local community with a hyperlocal market for residents. In Fox Chapel, Brian and Jessica Pekarcik opened Local Provisions in October 2022. The market offers seasonal produce, specialty grocery items and a café that serves casual fare daily. There’s also beer and wine to go, along with a full bar and cocktail menu.

Like Millvale Market, the idea for Local Provisions was born out of necessity during the pandemic. Pittsburgh native Brian Pekarcik has worked as a local chef for 28 years. One of his most recent notable endeavors was Spoon in East Liberty. Jessica Pekarcik has more than 30 years of food industry experience.

When COVID hit, the couple needed to find a way to use their experience during a time when eat-in dining was restricted. “We closed Spoon and pivoted to a meal delivery service,” said Jessica Pekarcik. “We really tapped into the prepared foods and started growing with the idea.”

They were sold on the idea of a hyperlocal food market and café until they toured the space where Local Provisions currently operates. Their landlord suggested that they turn the 4,000 sq. ft. area into its current iteration. “Right now, it’s a dual concept between market and café, but we’re really hoping to expand our catering arm,” said Pekarcik.

So far, the community reception has been amazing. “It’s almost humbling on a day-to-day basis how many people have stopped us to say they’re so happy we’re here,” said Pekarcik. “They’re happy and relieved to have an outlet to find locally sourced products in one convenient space.”

Among the vendors Local Provisions carries include Crisp & Co., Gryphon’s Tea, Wise County Biscuits, Pittsburgh Spice Company and Pittsburgh Honey. They frequently receive requests from local companies to distribute their products. “We usually don’t say no to many people,” said Pekarcik. “We’ll buy a small stock and see if it sells before we invest more into it.”

In addition to their market items, Local Provisions offers a grab-and-go section featuring heat-and-serve meals prepared in-house by the market’s chefs. “You can take them home, reheat, and have dinner on your table in less than 20 minutes,” said Pekarcik.

For the more adventurous types, Local Provisions sells food kits that require a little more preparation before eating. They come with instructions for final preparation that are easy to follow.

An eat-in café accommodates up to 50 diners, and customers can shop from the full wine and beer selections, plus order them with meals if dining in-house. The café opens at 9 a.m. with a light breakfast menu before transitioning to a full menu starting at 11 a.m.

The hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. Local Provisions is located at 1111 Freeport Road.

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