Just a month into her ambitious Glen's Garden Market, which promised to source its products from the states of the Chesapeake watershed, Danielle Vogel has discovered the hard reality of running a business. The upstart grocer has had to add orange juice, soy milk and other non-local items to appease customers who are not yet ready to sacrifice their creature comforts in the name of the environment.
Since Glen's opened on April 14, the Sunday before Earth Day, the specialty market has had to revise or expand some of its offerings, Vogel said during an interview today at her store near Dupont Circle. Per customer request, Vogel has added both orange juice and soy milk (marked to indicate that the products are not local); heading into Memorial Day weekend, she also plans to ditch the full-service cheese counter, in which customers could have wheels cut to order, in favor of a display case full of fresh meats and fish. Some of the fish will not be local, but all will be sustainable, Vogel said.
"It's fresh meat because the frozen meat, again, people don't get," said Vogel, who initially wanted to sell only frozen meats for home cooks because fresh meat can spoil, thereby wasting the vast energy that went into producing it.
Some other changes since opening day: In-house chef Sean Sullivan has condensed his sandwich menu to the top five sellers, including the New Yorker (house-made pastrami, sauerkraut and Swiss on rye) and the Tony Wood (house-smoked turkey and roast beef with white cheddar on sourdough). Each is $10. Customers can also create their own sandwich for $8, which Vogel hopes will counter one of the repeated criticisms of Glen's: It's expensive.
Sullivan has also had to cut back on some of his inventive salads and house-made soups sold in vacuum-sealed bags, while adding mayo-heavy favorites such as potato salad.
If Vogel is disappointed with the compromises at Glen's, she's not showing it. Not that you could blame her if she did. Vogel launched Glen's as a logical, small-scale extension of her work on Capitol Hill, where she served as environmental counsel to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), working behind the scenes to pass the climate change bill. (The legislation would ultimately die due to classic Washington politics.)
But Vogel is putting a positive spin on the changes. Ninety-nine percent of Glen's products, Vogel said, are still exactly what she wants. She's viewing the other 1 percent as a necessary compromise to attract customers.
"I feel strongly that we can return to [the old system] once we build a trust. It was just too much going out of the gate," Vogel said. "This is the down payment. This is the relationship builder. They come, they taste ... They come to trust us. Then when we introduce the weird stuff."