A New Kind of Country Market
by Lisa Bauer, March 23, 2016
Earlier this year, when the Yorkville Market took a short hiatus, I sat down with Lisa Walsh to talk about her adventure with local food. This was the first opportunity for us to sit for a minute in peace and discuss how Lisa came to own and operate the Yorkville Market, how she hopes to offer local, organic, sustainable, and seasonal products and food, and the process she continues to go through to achieve these goals. And we also explored her vision for the future of the Market.
Lisa was raised in Yorkville, and lived here until she went to college at UC Santa Cruz, where she majored in English Literature. She then moved to San Francisco and worked at Research Now as a Project Manager. She has no particular background in either retail or restaurants, but did work in the wine distribution and importing field for several years.
And then she decided, with her family, to buy and renovate the old Yorkville Mini-Mart. The only store in Yorkville. The only restaurant in Yorkville. The store opened January 2, 2015.
Lisa wanted to create a place in Yorkville that brought together the great things of Mendocino County, Anderson Valley, and Yorkville. Her goal has been to celebrate the community: the handmade food and crafts, the wine, the diversity of products, the artists and craftspeople, the farmers and ranchers, the breadth of political and social diversity we have here.
Her intention in opening the Yorkville Market was not just to open a store, but to open this store, in this location. The Market is the only thing for 12 miles in either direction, and she thought there was a need for something to be in this spot, for both visitors, and those who live here. Yorkville is a beautiful area, with so much to offer, but because it is rural, without a focal point, those who drive through did not notice or stop here. Yorkville has never been a destination, and she doesn’t want to make it one. But she does want folks to see and appreciate the beauty, the diversity, the farming, the wine making, the crafting, so that these elements of beauty can be preserved and incorporated into the future. She feels that Yorkville is authentic, real, and she would like to keep it that way. She mused that even though progress often means the character and individuality of an area can be lost, this loss doesn’t need to happen here. The Market offers the ability to showcase local products in addition to serving them. And this, in turn, generates more of a connection for outsiders and travelers, giving them the opportunity to see the products, then go visit the manufacturers, then taste the products and results in the restaurant.
She also feels that the folks who live here need a sense of place. Before the Market, High Rollers went to Cloverdale, Ukiah, Boonville, but she now hopes that the Market offers locals a place to gather in Yorkville again. In addition to her normal business operations, she hosts a very well attended Happy Hour on Friday nights, casual dinners, brunches, and community events.
She discussed the challenges and successes she has had to date in sourcing local, organic products. She has found it often time-consuming to find and bring local products into the market, sometimes because there is not delivery offered with the product, or because she does not have the ability, being open 7 days a week, from 6:30 AM to 6:00 PM, to go and pick up the various items located throughout the Valley and beyond. And some products she uses regularly in the Market are not easily found in the area, or if available, are not cost effective for the Market to carry. Nonetheless, some local growers have reached out to her to ask what she might need. And some folks with extra produce from yards have offered her this wonderful excess to sell in the Market. Lisa feels that it is life affirming to provide the ability for our community to grow, feed and get to know each other in this way. She also feels that local food should not cost exorbitant prices, and yet she realizes that being a small farmer is a very difficult and under-appreciated job. She acknowledges that one of the challenges of farming in this smaller way is that the cost of the finished product will be higher than a mass-grown or produced product. This means that since she is trying to source predominantly local products, her food costs are often greater than if she was buying food from a national distributor. It’s a balancing act.
Her goal this first year has been to provide food that is organic, because organic farming is a more sustainable way to produce our food; local, because its important to support our regional economy; and seasonal, because food is fresher and more nutritious when locally sourced. She tries to keep her prices to the consumer as low as she can, so that everyone can enjoy and appreciate the products grown from this area. It’s also important for her to price her products to allow access to the full range of people we have in the Valley. In addition to these considerations, she strives to make delicious food, of a high quality, which appeals to a wide spectrum of palates and tastes. She chuckles, as an aside and as an indication of the range of clientele and considerations she juggles: “I serve pot farmers, I serve wine makers. I serve travelers. My goal is to offer something everyone can enjoy.”
Focusing on the future, Lisa smiled, “I want to do so many things. I need another me to do all the things I still want to do.”
She has a formidable expansion of events planned: she hopes to host a Yorkville BBQ competition in the late spring and summer, as well as a new festival, A Taste of Yorkville, highlighting all that is local, delicious and exceptional. In the summer, she will be putting on local music events in the outside patio area. She is also considering offering cooking classes with local subject experts and local foods.
She will continue to host special events and dinners at the Market, as well as occasionally holding weekend Brunches and Dinners, and provide catering for local events and customers. This next year, she will be exploring renting the Market space for community and private events, along with developing the patio area and the outside elements of the store.
Given what she has achieved in the first year of business, many High Rollers are excited about the continued and expanding physical and cultural hub The Yorkville Market continues to offer. You can visit the Yorkville Market at 26701 Highway 128, in beautiful downtown Yorkville, or reach out the market at 707-894-9456. You can also visit their developing website, at www.yorkvillemarket.squarespace.com.
(The Connecting With Local Food Series is brought to you by the AV Foodshed. Remember the Goat Fest at the Fairgrounds on April 23rd with another birria tasting/contest, cheesemaking, and other workshops. The next article in this series will describe the Mendo-Lake Food Hub, which is picking up and delivering local food around AV and the two counties.)