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originalpinkmountain

A dream shop called "Ferment"

l pinkmountain
2 months ago

Hubs and I were bemoaning our lack of being able to make really great yogurt at home. We make it OK but not great, and I think a lot has to do with not having access to great yogurt with active cultures to use as a starter. Which got me thinking, that if you really loved fussing with foods, that would be a great little shop to open, one called "Ferment" (although that name probably would not be a great sell) where you specialized in selling all the fermented foods that most people don't have time or space to make at home.

I like all those foods but just don't eat enough of them on my own to make it worth the time investment. For example, I love sourdough and finally mastered it, but I just don't eat enough bread to keep a starter going, no matter what the tricks. Just a waste to keep feeding it and not using it. If I want the fermented style I usually go for a biga or some old dough in the freezer from a previous pre-ferment.

But if I really loved the process of playing with micro-organisms, I could see making and selling all kinds of stuff, from the pickles to kimchee to breads and even wines. I've tried some of all of that, but just ended up with a lot of product and not being able to eat it all in the end before it spoils. I'm still working on last year's pickles and tomato sauce and I only did a couple of batches . . . even with give aways!

Anyone every been to a store like that? I doubt it would last in my home town, although we do have one place featuring local meats and serving barbecue that is trying to make a go of selling a local product. We also have a gift shop featuring local products, many food stuffs. I just think it would be cool to have the place to make all the stuff in the back of the store . . .

Anyway if I thought I would love it I sure could do a little home business here in MI because we have cottage food laws that allow you to sell some home processed stuff. I have seen people who do it selling at craft fairs. I am not yet into it enough to try my hand at commercial level production but I sometimes fantasize about a little stand outside my house where I sold excess stuff to support my hobby foodie projects . . .

Comments (14)

  • John Liu
    2 months ago

    Is there a way to ship the stuff you’re thinking about? I think that you could cut your teeth on local sales, farmers’ markets, etc but a larger ”reach” would be either necessary or very helpful for the economics to work.



  • plllog
    2 months ago

    There's one a ways from here, but it's part of a restaurant. You can get really good starter for free in the mail, and it's easy to order kefir grains, enzymes and rennets for dairy products, scoby's, etc., and starting them at home is pretty easy. Some of the bigger operations make home fermenting kits, but the money is in the equipment, not the cultures and all.

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  • sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)
    2 months ago

    My kitchen is small but i do have a far end of my counter run, well out of my kitchen triangle, i call my 'fermentation station'. Also where we prep morning pour over coffee--Chemex. Kobucha, kimchi, Krauts, Hot sauces, spice rubs, etc.

    It was a similar obsession of mine 30 yrs ago. I had a business plan and even started looking at storefront rentals. Talked to local favorite restaurants for specific things they offered. Basically a one-stop for an easy meal or a recipe with simple ingredients to prepare at home. Without all the packaging. Returnable containers, yada. Sourcing local produce in season for quick meals....minimal prep or just a re-heat. Bulk refills for household needs. (not the Co-Ops that have been around for eons that ket kickish and political) Fast forward---a dozen years, maybe more, 'refilleries' exist in NYC. Maybe 3-4 dozen now.

    But NYC has heavy foot traffic. In the right neighborhood it seems successful. They buy bulk Kimchi, Kombucha on tap for refilling, bulk grains and pasta, herbs and spices, ---a few cheeses made locally.


    Web site...Mason Jar Refillery



  • plllog
    2 months ago

    I've never heard of a refillery. Great concept! I don't remember the details, but we have laws about any kind of refilling which are from a different era, but would make it difficult. Especially in NYC, where space is finite and immutable, having the small extra that doesn't fit in the canister or jar would be a burden. Having the refillery within a short walk, so getting there is easy, and carrying the jars is doable, makes the whole system possible. Brilliant!


    I think in a spread out area, where people stock up rather than making more trips, there'd have to be a different kind of system. Even in semi-urban or suburban places, people tend to have a little more flexible space for pantry items, and many are into making their own. Even mainstream groceries have off the shelf. There might be a niche for people who would love to buy some of these things in bulk, but want half a dozen jars. Perhaps, an on site cannery? So they can just exchange empties? Or have on site canning sessions where they make their own and can be sure of the cleanliness, and have expert supervision/consultation?

  • l pinkmountain
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    Yes, location would be key. That's why the shopping experiences in my home town are not very good. Not enough critical mass of shoppers going by. Or folks who are into whatever type of food might be out there. That's why all our restaurants serve the same menu and all the shopping is of the "Tractor Supply" or discount type like "Dollar Store," that's what the market will bear. The few nice shops we have are always hanging by a thread . . .

    It is just a fantasy. If I wanted to do the stuff at home I could sell at our local farmer's market and maybe even at a couple of local shops. The farm market ends middle of Sept. which is kind of a bummer, but they told me they don't get enough traffic to keep it open longer. There are some folks who want to turn an empty closed grocery store into a year round farm market type place, but the economics are just not there to make it viable. We have many gorgeous storefront places just sitting empty for that reason. The costs are too high and the profit margins too low.

    But right now, my house is really not set up for a lot of preparation stuff. Maybe someday. I have a lot of plans for the place but my progress seems to be quite slow. Just got off the phone with a guy about making our screened in porch into a four season room . . . theoretically I might then have space for a little food prep area. Right now that space is where I store all the stuff from the porch, all covered and packed up during the cold wet season . . . I'm thinking a utility sink and counter for produce prepping. Then I could do the canning on the gas grill out on the deck. I've actually done something similar when our electricity was out for a week right in the middle of tomato canning season. Also thinking about putting in a small woodstove which I could also use for canning in a pinch. Hot as Hades but so is a fuel burning stovetop or grill. That's why canning kitchens were outside the main house, to keep the heat out there, not in the house in the summer. Then I could really brag about my stuff being "local" if the heat source for processing was also grown on site . . .

  • l pinkmountain
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    Hubs ordered some yogurt starter online, so we shall see about that. I have a kit for water kefir when I get so inclined. Right now still doing outside yard work as a priority. Yesterday I canned the last of my tomatoes into salsa, if you can believe it. I brought them in two weeks ago, was planning on doing green tomato salsa but got busy because the weather turned nice and then the holiday. Meanwhile, the tomatoes turned mostly red, all on their own, with no special treatment . . .

  • plllog
    2 months ago

    I’m not saying you would or should do this, but some towns have had good revitalization by creating an arts or food district in those beautiful old storefronts. Sometimes, a project grant, or a something is better than no rent attitude from the landlords, makes it possible. In an old downtown, some ”urban” planning can help, such as making sure there's easy parking for daytrippers, and accommodations for staying overnight. The trick is to get the whole community behind it, and also patronizing the pioneers.


    Your porch sounds like a great way to ger more living space. That fermenting place I mentioned has shelves everywhere. Of course, they're batching for use later in the restaurant, rather than for a couple. Storage is as big an issue is prep space. I hope you can find plent of space for all your new efforts!

  • l pinkmountain
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Oh yes, the idea is not lost on us, and folks are trying it in a variety of ways. There are infrastructure dollars available right now supporting towns in this effort. We shall see how viable this all ends up being. I have seen many cute places with great ideas go out of business. We had a wonderful outlet from a local apple orchard with fresh local produce and also many local made gifts and food items. As I mentioned, it went out of business last year.

    We have upgraded all the parking, roads and actually the buildings too. Also built apartments downtown. Have a viable library, theater and now Children's Museum is going in. There is a local brew pub, pizza pub, Mexican restaurant and coffee house along with a long time beloved local diner. An high end antique store, craft shop, Mexican grocery, photography studio, bridal boutique that just opened up and a couple of hair salons. All new, Other buildings are just waiting for viable businesses.

    I am actually very involved in a blossoming community center downtown next to the park that is on the four corners of our town. That has also been revitalized, (the park). It is adjacent to three of of the mainline churches, two of which are historical landmarks. The potential is there, but the question is will the customers come in enough volume to make it work at the bottom line financial level. Stay tuned. We've had versions of all of the above before, and they all went out of business. Some quite rapidly. My church is one of the historical ones, our congregation numbers are way, way down and show no signs of picking up. Mostly elderly, and they are dropping one by one and no new generation taking their places. But that's another story too . . .

    We have all the festivals, etc. to, to bring folks downtown. But the level of poverty here is quite significant, and the folks with money to spend downtown is quite a small cohort. Folks have gotten out of the habit, and can find cheaper alternatives online or at Walmart and other marts out on the edge of town which is full of strip malls. Of course many storefronts empty there too, ironically. But that has become pot shop central. And not for houseplants, marijuana, which is legal in MI. I have at least seven within a mile of my house. Plenty of fast food chains there for when the customers get the munchies!

    As much as folks on CF might love a fermented foods shop, no way would such a thing ever be financially viable in my small rural Midwestern town. We couldn't even keep the shop selling authentic Venezuelan arepas going. That building is empty now looking for a new business. It was once the home of a fabulous family-owned upscale department store. We all fondly remember shopping there. The building still has all the classy real wood elements and antique elevator . . . nothing has been able to survive there since the 2000's.

  • plllog
    2 months ago

    It's good to know some are trying. The trick is getting younglings who are looking for an inexpensive place to set up shop, who will attract their friends and followers to bring in money from out of town. It takes time, and a bit of luck, but with infrastructure like parking and updated buildings in place, that's half the battle won. It only works with things no one would ever think of going to Walmart for, so the area would already have to be thriving before you could make a go of selling pickles and yoghurt. This is worked in the most out of the way, depressed places. Good luck to your whole town!


    The churches are another thing, Organized religion is declining fast everywhere.

  • annie1992
    2 months ago

    Michigan does have "The Brinery" and products are available at many local restaurants and stores. They make pickles, sauerkraut, kim chee and fermented hot sauce.

    https://thebrinery.com/the-brinery


    There is also a list of zero waste refilleries and bulk food stores here: https://www.litterless.com/bulk-food-guide/michigan


    I think part of the problem is that capital for advertising is limited when a small business is spending money on space, product, help, etc. I can find these places, but I have to actively search for them.


    And, like Lpink, we have plenty of marijuana businesses in town since it became legal. We have 14 at last count, some come in, promptly go out of business, are replaced by another. Population is about 10,000, and we have the University, but I can't imagine that many marijuana businesses being profitable.


    Annie

  • l pinkmountain
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Gonna have to put that spot on my "to do" list Annie. We have good friends on a farm in Chelsea and we keep trying to visit/get together . . .

    The problem with my home town is it is not a bedroom community to anywhere, and also not snazzy enough of a place to attract a lot of tourists. As with most of Michigan, we have our lakes, and the "lake people" are the ones with the big bucks, but many of them are not full time residents, the lake people season is over by mid September, and a LONG time before it starts up again. It's plain-ness used to be the appeal of my home town. we joked, "Nice place to live, wouldn't want to visit there." But it had lots of manufacturing and retail back then, and a flourishing middle class. I grew up in that town. All that began to change in the late 70s but really picked up pace in the late 90s as the generation that ran all those institutions retired. We have several big multi-national and mass production factories now, and many of them don't even allow for management to be permanent residents, they rotate them in and out of rental homes they own. Also run barracks for the immigrant workers and low income housing for the line workers. Also many folks driving an hour or more to a job site now, just to stay employed. I had a schoolmate who worked for decades at our local "Aunt Millie's" bread bakery, but it closed and now he has to commute an hour to the one remaining facility in the state. For example. In his spare time he has a side gig to make ends meet, so he's not out frequenting fine dining or gourmet food shops. For example.

    Retirees are the only ones with time and money on their hands. One rarely sees anyone in their 30s and 40s with kids other than at school functions. Anything on weekends for fun is whole family. Going to the "Ferment" shop is not going to be on the agenda . . . she says jokingly.

  • l pinkmountain
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    Seems like that might work even in my small town, if home wine or beer or other spirit making was included in the definition of "fermenting!"

    Kind of side note, but I used to do programs at the local Arboretum, and had a heck of a time getting adults to attend anything. The one program that filled up was "Herbal Liqueurs."

    Hubs is now saying he wants to make wine (he's already made beer) and now I'm hearing him say "cheese."

  • lisacdm
    last month

    There was a similar store near me in NJ called Another Mother Fermentorium. The husband runs a BBQ joint next door and the wife runs the fermetorium. They recently moved operations so I think the fermetorium is in transition. They make pickles all types of veggies, kraut, kimchee, hot sauces, jerky, spice rubs.

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