“Local. Local. Local.” This is the overriding theme at Fields Foods, according to Chris Goodson, who is partner with Jeff Randol Sr. of the new Lafayette Square neighborhood grocer.
With last month’s grand opening, Fields Foods’ first store is open for business, bringing rural to urban with products from more than 150 local farmers and vendors. “The idea for Fields Foods came about through the simple concept of development happening in sustainable neighborhoods—those that are growing and being renovated, like Lafayette Square, LaSalle and Soulard—and with all that density and activity, the next step in that natural progression is amenities. Well, one of the biggest amenities that everyone wants is a grocery store,” Goodson notes. “So when Jeff and I came together, we didn't just want to do a traditional store. We wanted something unique that offered healthy food choices to an area that had been a food desert for decades.” The two created a model that offers commercially produced food products like Diet Coke alongside a very substantial selection of organic products, which Goodson says has been very popular.
“Bringing in products from small to medium-sized farms from within a 125-mile radius of St. Louis really connects us with our neighborhood and the urban area,” Goodson explains. “It's nothing new under the sun: When you have an urban area that is filling up with people that you then supply with product from a rural area—it just makes sense. We've just tried to be a little different, including a décor inside our store that feels like local, neighborhood shops.”
Fields Foods is partnering with local urban businesses, as well, like Park Avenue Coffee and 33 Wine Shop & Tasting Bar. And the latter partnership works out especially well with another feature of the store: a wine and beer bar. “That's been a really cool concept,” Goodson says, “because you can come in and have a glass of wine or a really unique craft beer, and then do your shopping. Or, you can enjoy yourself at the bar while we do your shopping for you! This concept has really blossomed into a community area, where people are coming in, meeting and talking with each other. And especially now with it being winter, people are saying that they haven't seen each other in weeks because of the cold, and they're finding that this is a great place to run into and visit with each other.”
Fields Foods also is bringing in the local farmers and producers to demonstrate product and to answer questions that shoppers may have. “We really do a lot of hands-on work with these local farmers and vendors, helping them with UPC codes, guiding them through the insurance process and even setting them up with brokers so they can expand their lines—and that's been a great experience for us,” Goodson notes. “But, we also are inviting them in on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to set up a booth or kiosk and to talk about their products directly with the shoppers. And, people are really connecting with that—they get to see and hear about where things are made, who is making them and how they're made. That personal touch means a lot to St. Louisans.”
So what’s next for Fields Foods? More locations, according to Goodson. “We're looking at a couple more sites here in the metropolitan area, and also along highways 70 and 55,” he says. “The reason why those areas are important is because those are the areas where our partnerships with our farmers and vendors already are. We really are thinking conservatively and being prudent about it, but we’re probably looking at about six to 10 more stores in the next couple years. We're pretty excited about our future!”