Lawrenceville gets local food 7-52

Gwinnett County has a new, year-round source for locally grown food: The Lawrenceville Fresh Mart & Café.

Operating inside the new Emporium retail space in downtown Lawrenceville, the market features fresh local produce, grass-fed beef, milk, eggs and honey, as well as some locally sourced prepared adn packaged foods, including Olde World Artisan Breads. It’s the brainchild of Brennan and Gwendolyn Washington, owners of Lawrenceville-based Phoenix Gardens, who also recently acquired an additional 10 acres of farmland in Hall County.

“We’re just growing and growing,” explains Gwendolyn Washington (pictured, right) during a visit last week to the Fresh Mart, which opened Dec. 18. “This is all part of the growth.”

The business concept has been in the works for about three years, says Brennan Washington. But every space they looked at was too big, too expensive or otherwise not suitable. Finally Linda Campbell, their business associate, came up with the idea of the Emporium, which offers retail space and a central cashier for startup businesses. The Fresh Mart takes up a sizable corner of the shop.

“At the end of every farmers market, the question we always get is, ‘Where can we find you guys over the winter?’” Brennan says. “Even during the summer, one of the problems of a farmers market is Saturday morning may not be a good day for people. It’s important for us to not only be open year round but also be open during the week.”

The shop space helps other local food producers, too, who don’t necessary have the time or personnel to staff the area’s growing number of weekly farmers markets. The Lawrenceville Fresh Mart carries Tink’s Beef, Johnston Family Farm milk, Atlanta Fresh Artisan Creamery yogurt, BPH Inc. pork—all local producers. The Washingtons hope to add more food producers as their customer base grows; they also plan to add a café area soon to sell sandwiches and salads made with local ingredients.
It’s all part of their goal of creating new distribution networks for locally produced food, Brennan says.  “As long as the concept of local food is progressing, that’s whole idea.”

The Lawrenceville Fresh Mart & Café, located in the Emporium at Honest Alley, 178 E. Crogan St., Lawrenceville, is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday.