Grit Grocery is working to bring a community based shopping experience to Houstonians
After a successful six-month beta run to validate the business model, Dustin and Kelly Windham -- founders of mobile food market Grit Grocery -- have launched a crowdfunding campaign to bring locally sourced groceries to neighborhoods across Houston.
The idea for Grit Grocery was first planted when Dustin and his wife/business partner, Kelly, spent two years in Azerbaijan serving in the Peace Corp. During their time abroad, they were exposed to a unique relationship with food -- different from what they experienced growing up Texas.
"In Azerbaijan, we ate local and unprocessed foods - not because it was trendy, but because that's the way you eat in a truly, locally-based food system. There's no industry profiting from shelf-stability, so there's no pressure - or demand - for highly processed goods. We shopped more often at specialized markets within blocks of our home - a fruit and veggie stand, a bakery, a butcher shop,” Kelly explained.
They adopted local customs for buying, preparing and consuming their meals to better connect with their host community.
“We learned to cook from scratch, we understood where our food was coming from, and we connected with our neighbors and our grocers. Our bodies evolved in the process - eating a local and unprocessed diet changed the way we functioned and felt," she continued.
Upon their return, they sought to replicate the Azerbaijani lifestyle and diet they had embraced, in Houston. Their efforts turned out to be fruitless.
"Coming home, we knew we had stumbled upon something that was crucial to our well being, but out of comfort and 'convenience', we fell into old habits. We ended up right back where we'd started before the Peace Corps - feeling lethargic and unsatisfied. In the US, healthy is hard. It takes time - time that we often don't have - to hunt down and prepare quality ingredients. It's enough to make you give up,” Dustin confessed.
They gave other options a try, but were still left with much to be desired.
“We tried the alternatives - the on-line meal kit delivery route - but the cost and the complexity of the recipes was just too much. They sell convenience, but at what cost? There was something so unnatural about opening a box, delivered by the mailman and peeling plastic off of food we should have been brushing dirt from. Grit Grocery was born out of that frustrated inspiration that something so essential to our health shouldn't be so difficult," Dustin explained.
Dustin and Kelly decided to address the lack of locally sourced food options themselves. They explored the local food scene and met producers from all over the Houston metro-area that shared their passion for a Real Food Revolution. As a result, Grit Grocery's key innovation is the development of a truly local supply chain that did not exist before. Using a prototype mobile market instead of inflexible and expensive real estate, they bring the goods right to the consumer. They carry a curated line of products ranging from Gulf seafood and local cheeses to fresh baked breads and produce. In addition to an a-la-cart grocery, they bundle ingredients and include simple recipes for customers looking for a pre-planned options.
"We tested the concept over a 6-month period in four Houston neighborhoods. We developed a strong customer base and realized that this concept has legs. We learned that the flexible model using the trucks allowed for customization in each neighborhood we served, making Grit a solution for a broad range of food access issues facing Houston and so many fast-growing cities like it." Kelly said.
Now, Grit Grocery has launched a crowdfunding campaign to create a fleet of mobile grocery trucks and and grow their serviceable areas.
"We've partnered with Wefunder to bring the concept, as well as the opportunity to invest, to a greater audience. Grit Grocery is a community-based business, and we believe that financial investment equates to more than literal 'buy in.' It creates a culture of community that Grit wants to foster in all aspects of its business,” Dustin said.
“Station has been instrumental in this mission - providing a space for synergy and a spotlight for Houston's movers and shakers. This is a concept that will shake up the way we think about and engage with food. We've found a better way to do grocery. It's as simple as that."
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