Two Frederick County residents hope to open a fresh foods market and bistro in downtown Frederick this September, pending permits and health department inspections.
Brittany Grimm, of Frederick, and Diane Branson, of Mount Airy, plan to open Serendipity Market & More at 14 E. Patrick St., the former site of Carroll Creek Antiques. It will sell fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, local milk, eggs and cheese, as well as other necessities that are hard to find downtown, they said.
“We want to provide what the community wants,” Branson said.
The city recently released a retail market report for downtown that showed strong consumer interest in more grocery options and a gap in meeting that need.
Grimm and Branson didn’t know about the report when they signed the lease for the 5,000-square-foot space June 20, the same day The Frederick News-Post published a front-page story on the need for more food options downtown. When they saw the story that same day, they were pleased.
“We did a really big happy dance,” Branson said.
The owners aptly named the store.
“Everything has kind of fallen into place,” Branson said.
They looked into the location on East Patrick Street about a month ago, they said. That’s when their idea mushroomed into a market and bistro, in which they would sell food made from the produce they will sell. They want to have seating for 20 to 24 people if anyone wanted to eat there. The market portion became apparent “right after we walked into the space,” Branson said.
“The space just sort of spoke to us,” she said.
Other things they hope to do with the space include selling, but not serving, beer and wine and offering a space for local artists and artisans to showcase their work.
Steve and Arleen Chafitz, who are married, own the building and said they had a lot of interest in the space in the four months it was available.
“We were holding out for somebody that would really be an asset for downtown and the new tenants are really going to be an asset,” Steve Chafitz said.
Branson’s son lives downtown with his wife. Branson said they have nowhere to go for groceries unless they drive.
Richard Griffin, director of the city’s Office of Economic Development, said he isn’t surprised by the new venture because there is strong market demand and need for this type of business downtown. He said his office valued the building’s previous tenant, an antique store, but it is nice to see the space used for something positive.
“We will work hand in glove with them to see that they are able to stay on their timeline,” Griffin said.
He said this is a great opportunity for downtown because there has been a void in the market, which he described as challenging. There is “enormous competition” with grocery stores in the area and many people will drive to a store to save, he said.
Profit margins in groceries depend on quantity. “They sell a lot of something to make it work,” Griffin said.
In the downtown area, there is high demand for groceries, but little supply, he said. Some of the closest grocery stores are
Griffin said farmers work hard to harvest crops and get them to market quickly, he said, “so having a permanent location where they can sell those items is both good for the farmer and for the shop downtown and for the residents.”
The Downtown Frederick Partnership is thrilled to welcome the market, Executive Director Kara Norman said.
“Downtown residents frequently ask for more market shopping opportunities and we are excited to see this large space for Downtown Frederick filled with such an active and desirable use,” she wrote in an e-mail.
The partners have been talking to farmers in Frederick and Howard counties about selling their products in the store, but nothing has been finalized, they said. If they can’t get an important product locally, they will get it from another source.
Without definite vendors, they aren’t sure of a price point, but they would like the store hours to be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.
“We’ll want to work with local bakers and have bread,” Branson said. “We’re trying to do things more community-centered instead of having Wonder bread.”
They have a meeting scheduled with the Office of Economic Development this month, as well as the Downtown Frederick Partnership.
Branson started a catering company about 12 years ago, and Grimm joined her a few years ago. As a hobby outside their full-time jobs, it blossomed, Grimm said. They picked up many last-minute catering requests, including for weddings and showers, so they named that business “We’ve got this!”
“It just seems to be our niche,” Grimm said.
Grimm also owns a home decor and interior design business, The Perfect Perch. They wanted to combine Branson’s catering business with Grimm’s decorating because it often went hand in hand that they would cook and decorate for events.
When they looked for a storefront, they came across the space that inspired them to go beyond the catering and decorating business and into a market and bistro.
They heard feedback from people downtown that they wanted a market, Grimm said. “We thought to ourselves, ‘well, we could totally do that,’” she said.
She said it was similar to their response to many last-minute catering requests: “We got this!”