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Community spotlight: Town Square Market

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Community spotlight: Town Square Market

Saxon Metzger, deli and catering manager at the Town Square Market, 23, of Carbondale helps a customer at the front desk, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. “It’s [the Town Square Market’s mission statement] to provide good, quality, healthy food and household supplies to our community as cheap as we can and to educate people about some of the topics we are trying to focus on,” Metzger said. They focus on teaching people about health, nutrition, the environment and labor practices. (Allie Tiller | @allietiller_de)

Saxon Metzger, deli and catering manager at the Town Square Market, 23, of Carbondale helps a customer at the front desk, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. “It’s [the Town Square Market’s mission statement] to provide good, quality, healthy food and household supplies to our community as cheap as we can and to educate people about some of the topics we are trying to focus on,” Metzger said. They focus on teaching people about health, nutrition, the environment and labor practices. (Allie Tiller | @allietiller_de)

Saxon Metzger, deli and catering manager at the Town Square Market, 23, of Carbondale helps a customer at the front desk, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. “It’s [the Town Square Market’s mission statement] to provide good, quality, healthy food and household supplies to our community as cheap as we can and to educate people about some of the topics we are trying to focus on,” Metzger said. They focus on teaching people about health, nutrition, the environment and labor practices. (Allie Tiller | @allietiller_de)

Saxon Metzger, deli and catering manager at the Town Square Market, 23, of Carbondale helps a customer at the front desk, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. “It’s [the Town Square Market’s mission statement] to provide good, quality, healthy food and household supplies to our community as cheap as we can and to educate people about some of the topics we are trying to focus on,” Metzger said. They focus on teaching people about health, nutrition, the environment and labor practices. (Allie Tiller | @allietiller_de)

By Emily Cooper, Staff Reporter

Standing in front of a brick-covered road, a tall brick building lies on the corner of Washington and Jackson Street.

Carbondale’s best-kept secret, Town Square Market.

The Town Square Market has been in business since October 2006, Jennifer Pellow, general manager of the Town Square Market, said.

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“Our mission at Town Square Market is to promote sustainable living in all areas of life,” Pellow said. “It’s primarily focused on food, food availability, teaching people how to afford good food, growing organic food and supporting local business.”

Keeping the store Non-GMOs and organic

The Town Square Market has a careful selection process for sourcing the foods, Pellow said.

Elaine Ramseyer, general manager of Longbranch Cafe and Bakery, said Pellow has done a lot of work to make sure the companies that are represented really do support labeling non-GMOs and organic.

“It’s a really small store where everything on the shelf you can buy with confidence.”

Pellow said they take every item in the store and not only test the products for GMOs, but also test the producing company and the parent company.

“Do our values align with their values as much as possible?” Pellow said. “Specifically do our values align with their values in terms of how food is created grown and the conditions which it is sourced in?”

The Town Square Market has a list of brands that are researched and can’t be on their shelves anymore, Pellow said.

“For example, we want food to be grown non-GMO,” Pellow said “We want people to not [use] slave labor and child labor when they are making [products.] So, we had to get rid of a lot of different types of chocolates because they couldn’t guarantee some of those practices.”

Pellow said the chocolates are beautiful organic brands.

“I would eat them if it were up to me, but I’m trying to have a store that shows the sense of values behind it also,” Pellow said.

Working with locals

The Town Square Market tries to work with as many local people as they can, especially for produce because that’s probably the easiest thing, Pellow said.

“We try to use as much local produce as we can, but the majority of our produce comes from larger suppliers,” Pellow said. “Two main suppliers are Indianapolis Fruits Co. and a smaller distributor called Cusumano’s & Sons, Inc., they’re a small family that lives north of here.”

Pellow said one of the best ways the Town Square Market tries to keep the food cost as minimal as possible is by using local volunteers in the store.

“We tend to get a lot of SIU students, especially from the health department and hospitality department, but we are open to anybody,” Pellow said.

Pellow said the students from the health department have helped to figure out the nutrition value in some of the deli’s soups.

“We have signs that list all of the ingredients in our soups, and about half of them have [nutritional analyses] that were done, but SIU nutrition students [did those] nutritional analysis,” Pellow said.

Pellow said students help package, make the store look prettier and unpack products onto the shelves.

“We just want to get people involved in local business,” Pellow said.

Deli

“About two years ago, we decided that we wanted to offer a deli that was made with organic and natural foods,” Pellow said. “It’s not 100 percent organic because there are some foods that would be so cost prohibitive.”

The deli began because the store wanted to start a catering business because there wasn’t another organic and natural catering town, Pellow said.

The deli has fresh soups and entree specials every day, Pellow said.

Pellow said the Town Square Market has taken some of the classics like sloppy joe’s and meatball subs and made them organic out of their homemade bread.

“The Longbranch supplies the Town Square Market with fresh-baked bread,” Ramseyer said. “They have a great deli a lot of people don’t know about. So, customers can buy bread from the deli or buy from the loaf.”

Pellow said the Town Square Market is sister businesses with the Longbranch Cafe and Bakery.

“[Longbranch supplies] their bread and bakery case, and [Town Square Market supplies] us with research,” Ramseyer said. “Jennifer is really good at helping me stay on top of things, like plastic straws.”

Keeping the costs low

“Of course, the cost of organic food is challenging,” Pellow said. “We know that, and we’re trying to help educate people.”

One way the Town Square Market is educating people is with cooking classes.

“We’ve created a class that’s called ‘How to Eat Healthy on a Budget,’” Pellow said. “It’s a class that we give any time. Pretty much people ask me for it, and all we ask is for them to get a friend.”

In her class, Pellow provides general tips on what consumer can do to afford to eat better food, what are the more expensive items in the store and how they can eat a reasonable amount so they can afford to eat organically.

Pellow said for most people, it really comes down to choice. The bigger costs of organic food in terms of if you don’t eat organic food, there are two things: what are you doing to the earth? What are you doing for your kids, your grandkids and all of the people coming after you?

“For some people, they genuinely can’t afford much more,” Pellow said. “For a lot of us, it really comes down to choice. Could I give up a vacation? Could I give up an expensive coffee? Could I give up some extra clothes? What would that effect be in my community, and in the world?”

Pellow said most people are aware that the chemicals in foods, especially GMOs, affect their health.  

“I also talk to people about really their personal views of organic food,” Pellow said. “You can either spend a little bit more now or you’re going to spend a lot more on medical bills later.”

Grabbing SIU Student’s Attention

“It’s hard to get the attention  from a lot of students because they don’t really leave campus that much,” Pellow said. “They get kind of a small world around the campus area.”

Pellow said they used to spend a lot more time trying to promote to students.

“They’re here for a few years, and then when they leave then we would try to promote to a new batch, then they would leave,” Pellow said. “That has been a little bit challenging to just reach out to students and let them know we’re here.”

Staff reporter Emily Cooper can be reached at ecooper@dailyegyptian.com.

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