Nature’s Garden Express opens this month at Krog Street Market

Market and juice bar offers fresh produce, local goods, and organic smoothies
Michael Kirk and Scott Frishman
Michael Kirk and Scott Frishman

Courtesy of Michael Kirk

Atlanta-based produce subscription service Nature’s Garden Express is opening a brick-and-mortar location in Krog Street Market, across from Fred’s Meat & Bread, this month. The stall will feature a small market with fresh produce, seafood, and local jam, as well as cold-pressed juice and an organic smoothie bar. “We’re trying to represent healthy eating, community, and sustainability, targeting in-town culture and the new green mainstream,” says Michael Kirk, who owns the company with Scott Frishman.

Open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, Nature’s Garden Express will offer 10 juices (produced offsite twice a week) and seven made-to-order smoothies. Kirk tells us more.

Why the Krog Street location? It was kind of an organic process, no pun intended. We had patronized Krog as consumers and thought it was a really neat concept. In February, we started thinking about it being a good outlet for our new juice line. Then we talked to Paces Properties and found out they were interested in produce as well as juice and smoothies.

What’s the setup of the space? The produce and grocery side is a little market so you can walk in there and do your shopping. The juice bar portion will have a little seating (five stools) for folks who want to hang out and enjoy a wheatgrass shot or a smoothie. [The space] will have a farm-y feel—a rustic vibe. We’re using some old wood products. We’ll have wagon wheels. The countertops have a copper-type look. It’s 600 square feet combined.

What market items will you offer? On the produce and grocery side, we’ll have everything from organic fruits and vegetables to spices and superfoods, grass-fed dairy, kombucha on tap (a self-serving station), nut butter, jams, Simply Seoul kimchi, local honey, local breads, and wild seafood. We work with Simply Fresh to get local prepared meals like faro and arugula salad, southwestern quinoa salad, beef lasagna, and soups. These typically serve two or three folks.

What other local vendors are you using? Zocalo salsa, the kombucha is from Lupa’s Kitchen, Mountain Fresh Creamery dairy, JB Farms chicken eggs… The seafood is from Lummi Island Wild—one of 11 sustainable fisheries on the planet. They use solar-powered boats and reef netting which lessens the stress on the fish.

With such a small footprint, how will your prices compare to those at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and traditional grocery stores? We are focused on the niche of organic, which is sold at a premium compared to conventional food. We typically come out a little cheaper than Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods [because] we leverage direct relationships with farmers and cut out the middle man (the local distributors). We pass the cost savings on to the end user.

Our core business is an online e-grocery service in Atlanta with organic produce and herbs. We have a subscriber base that subscribes to weekly boxes. That’s our core revenue. Our additional grocery items are value-added in our minds. We’re making our margin on the produce side, which allows us to be price competitive on the grocery side.

Will consumers be able to subscribe on site? Yes, and there will be some cost savings versus our delivery service . Everything is personalized and customized. They can preselect online or at Krog. It’s about $28-$55, not including extras like meats, cheeses, and coffees.

How will you keep up the supply in such a small space? Space is limited and we’re hoping to fill it with quite a few products, but our headquarters in Tucker is 20 minutes from Krog Street. We’re planning on making daily runs to the market to keep everything in good supply. We will have a 6×6 walk-in cooler to maintain a back stock.

What makes your juices different from those available around the city? The uniqueness of our flavor profiles. We broke it down into notes like chefs and sommeliers do. Each juice has low, mid and high notes. The Pina Verde is a juice that hits almost every human taste sensation except bitterness. The low notes are cucumber (which provides a mellow base) and pineapple (which cuts through the mix and dominates). The mid—flavors that aren’t as immediately identifiable and don’t hang around as long—comes from apples. The high—flavors that mix and flirt and dance in your mouth—comes from lime, cilantro, and jalapeno.

What kind of smoothies will be available? There’s Yola Mango, a tropical drink made with mango, pineapple, coconut, orange, strawberry, and gogi berry. The Apple and Oats is a hearty breakfast-style smoothie with cinnamon, almonds, spinach, Greek yogurt, vanilla, and ginger. There’s also Café Cocoa with cold-brewed Wanderlust Coffee, banana, cocoa nibs, chia seed, hemp seed, coconut milk, and coconut palm sugar. They’re mostly nondairy based and we also have boosters like protein (hemp seeds and silken tofu), superfoods (bee pollen, acai, and spiraline), and fiber or fat (avocado and nut butter).

Do you expect much competition with Urban Pl8? It seems like the target audience is very similar. I think the businesses will be very complimentary to each other. Our focus is not prepared meals. We’re more grab a juice and do your grocery shopping.