Mere weeks after Glen's Garden Market debuted in 2013, Danielle Vogel's idealism ran headlong into her daily reality: Shoppers demanded OJ, and they didn't care how far the orange juice traveled before finding its way into the environmentally friendly Dupont grocery store dedicated to the products of the Chesapeake watershed.
Vogel's survival instincts kicked in, and she immediately adapted Glen's merchandise to appeal to customer demand. Changes didn't just occur on the shelves, either. Vogel and her in-house chefs tinkered with the prepared foods. They added more salads. They re-engineered the sandwiches to counter complaints that they were mostly bread. Since Glen's opened, Vogel figures she has quintupled the inventory.
None of this came about by accident.
"I spent 80 hours a week in the [store], bagging groceries and having conversations," said Vogel, former environmental counsel for Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, while sitting on the patio of her Dupont store.
"And every time, somebody came and said, 'Oh, I love this, but could you bring in this flavor?', the answer was always yes," Vogel continued. "Then we'd take their cell phone number, and I'd follow up with them in person and say, 'We got the lemon flavor of this Pequea Valley yogurt that you love.' And then that person is here, loyal, forever more."
What Vogel has ultimately created is something different than she what originally intended: A neighborhood grocery store that's not so ideologically inflexible, but one still devoted to local products. Glen's Garden Market has become a launching pad for dozens of area entrepreneurs, the kind toiling in kitchen incubators, whose products have found a home in Vogel's store, which can serve as a stepping stone for wider distribution.
The revamped Glen's works so well now that Vogel is about to launch a second. Glen's Garden Market will open on Saturday, Dec. 5, in the Shay, a mixed-used development in Shaw. Though about a third smaller than the 5,000-square-foot Dupont store, the latest Glen's will feature the same mix of prepared foods, specialty merchandise and local beer and wine.
There are a couple of caveats, though: The second iteration will not serve pizza and will not offer a coffee program beyond basic drip, both concessions to competing businesses in the neighborhood. Compass Coffee, after all, operates just across the street from the forthcoming Glen's, while Declaration, a gourmet pizzeria from the same folks behind Lincoln and Teddy and the Bully Bar, is expected to launch later this fall.
"We're going to take the entire product mix [from the original Glen's] and just condense the space, which will create more of that compact Italian market, Di Bruno Bros. feel that I wanted to do here and can't, because it's so big," Vogel said.
Except for pizza, the prepared food menus will be largely the same as the ones in Dupont, although the new spot will offer a few hot dishes, too. Think roast chicken, pupusas, quesadillas, skirt steak with salsa verde and daily specials like jerk-chicken hand pies. (See the menu below.)
William Teague, a veteran chef at the Dupont Glen's, where he's developed a number of dishes that have become customer favorites, will assume head chef duties at the Shaw store. Teague and Esteban Gonzalez, executive chef at Dupont, also have two hired guns helping them in the kitchen: Jon Sybert, formerly at Komi, and Julien Shapiro, formerly at Eat the Rich, are creating specials, fine-tuning recipes and preparing dishes until they get their own projects up and running. (For the record: Sybert is planning a Mediterranean-inspired concept in Adams Morgan, and Shapiro is headed to New York to run a butcher shop.)
And if that isn't enough, Travis Olson, the chef who used to host the amazing family-style dinners at Glen's, remains a consultant to help with menus and operations.
"It makes for a deep bench," Vogel deadpanned.
The new Glen's will also feature a patio, like the original, although the Shaw outdoor space will be partially covered and heated for year-round dining and drinking. If past is prologue, the patio will become a focal point at Glen's in Shaw, given that at Dupont, the young and hungry regularly pack the picnic tables and pound down food and beer.
"We do probably 70 percent of our business between 6 and 9 p.m.," Vogel said. "The day business is almost pro-forma."
It would seem, then, Vogel has found a formula that could lead to even more Glen's Garden Markets. Yes?
"I think so. When we talked a few years ago, I was thinking about a five-unit regional chain," said Vogel, who has been speaking with developers eager to have a small specialty grocer on their property.
"There's a very good chance that we're going to be able to expand more quickly after this one," she added.
Glen's Garden Market, 1924 Eighth St., NW, opens Dec. 5.