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Though the skyline of lower Manhattan is stunningly framed by windows behind the cashiers, the new Whole Foods in Gowanus is all Brooklyn. Of the twelve Brooklyn bakeries, some arrive from just a few blocks away on Third Avenue by bicycle—and there’s even a few Spike Lee-styled cycling caps for the staff. The Third and 3rd location has curated an unique offering with over 200 exclusive products with many local artisans you’ll recognize from the borough’s greenmarkets.
Like the cleanup of the nearby Gowanus Canal, the Whole Foods team, led by Regional Local Buyer Elly Truesdell, has helped many of the vendors to find packaging and ingredient sourcing to meet the chain’s local and sustainable requirements. Williamsburg-based Brooklyn Cupcake sells their Puerto Rican and Italian-inspired cupcakes at a few BK locations but only cage-free eggs are used at Third and 3rd. Pete Severino of Severino Pasta sought help to find the best local cheeses and flour for their gnocchi. Even the store’s seafood department reached out to find local North Country Farms flour for the base of the in-house beer batter.
Collaborations between multiple vendors can be found in every corner of the store. Magpies, whose business has taken off since being introduced in the Bowery location in Spring 2013, uses Anarchy in a Jar‘s fig and apple chutney for an exclusive flavor of their poptart-style treat. Third and 3rd brought together yogurt from Park Slope’s Culture and granola from Fort Greene’s Early Bird Foods for a hyper-local parfait near the buffets. One partnership is a harmony of two products: Evil Twin Brewing and Chocopologie recycle chocolate to produce stout and then use the beer to make a special truffle (we wrote about it here).
The exclusive offerings are doing very well so far. Special Third and 3rd coffee blends from Allegro, Cafe Grumpy, Gorilla and Stumptown all sold out in the first day. Only hours after the December 17 opening, reps from Roberta’s returned to the store with a place marker for the sold-out freezer case; Third and 3rd is the first chance to bring the classic from Bushwick home. Even the store’s smallest product line has attracted attention in the first days. At the request of Whole Foods, Homa Dashtaki of Fort Greene-based White Moustache now bottles the nutritious whey byproduct of her hand-packed yogurt for fitness fans and mixologists alike. On day two there was only one bottle of the whey left.
Many of the local products are produced by small, one-and two-person teams and at Third and 3rd you have the chance to meet some of those personalities. In the prepared foods section, Charles Ventre of Chestnut Valley Sausage offers samples of his charcuterie steps in front of the curing case. Christopher Harth and a colleague from NYCutlery are in store several days a week to offer knife sharpening. And as the 1.5-year relationship developed, Harth’s woodworking also took shape in the meat department’s butcher block, tables throughout the store and in the branded cutting boards for sale.
The tags for local foods are woven throughout the store and highlighted on the menu of the upstairs restaurant. As the weather warms, we’re curious to see how the 20,000 square-foot rooftop greenhouse will add to now-meager offering of local perishables. And as this store has called on artisans from the Gowanus surrounds, it will be a new adventure to explore the exclusive product offerings for the Harlem and Williamsbug stores arriving in the next few years.