To Market of Choice we go
Market of Choice, (regular shoppers simply call it M.O.C.) rolled its garage-style doors open to Belmont Street Thursday. Portlanders passing through the Central Eastside will now have a "choice" place to stop and shop, one that's hyper-focused on local products from shelves lined with hot sauce and pickles to make-your-own nut milk kits sold in Mason jars.
In fact, more than 65 percent of the vendors whose products are carried here are from Oregon, including 3,000 local farmers, ranchers and food producers.
Suburbanites already know the Eugene-based Market of Choice from its locations in Cedar Hills; and on Southwest Terwilliger Boulevard and West Linn.
Manager Anthony Joos moved from Eugene to Portland to take over the Goat Blocks location — so named for the goats that once tended the weeds in lots left vacant after a fire. Today's mixed-use buildings include high-rent apartments above; an Orchard Supply Hardware, Schilling cider; and Chipotle. Goat-shaped bike racks bolted near the grocery store's entrance pay tribute to the area mascot, long-since relocated to the Lents neighborhood. Across the street is a longtime Portland Produce Row business, one that M.O.C. buys some of its produce from.
"This store has the right things for this neighborhood," said Joos, pointing out the streamlined check stands, small carts, roll-up doors, and bar seating along the Belmont side, where baristas pull shots of Portland's Spella espresso. Underground parking is accessed on the 10th Street side.
"We have the best of everything," he continued. "We've always had really good food service, grocery and meat, but we really dialed in our grocery selection to fit into this footprint. We have everything the bigger stores have but in a smaller package."
At first, Joos wasn't sure he could picture a grocery store here, but he knew the area was changing fast.
"We have more local items here than any store we ever had," he said. "We partnered with the Food Innovation Center down on Front Ave. and in two days we interviewed more than 100 local vendors." The result? Market of Choice brought in more than 300 locally made items to its shelves.
"We carry brands from people who are working out of certified home kitchens," he said. Entire sections have "local" tags, and Market of Choice is able to redistribute all these new products if a vendor is ready to expand. Recently, 15 pallets of such foods were trucked back to the main distribution center in Eugene, Joos said.
Everyone, it seems is on a special diet these days. For them, there's a whole aisle dedicated to Paleo and raw foods; there are individual servings sold in the spice aisle. There's a juice bar. It goes on and on. Portland Mercado, a Latin food incubator and event space, brought in some of its unique items — check out the mole sauces — and there are specialty imports from New York and Seattle. Yum Sauce from Cafe Yum is here. So are the specialty cheeses, charcuterie and pate'.
Market of Choice was founded in 1978 in Cottage Grove, Oregon. It's known for its wide variety of local foods and selection of organic and conventionally grown foods. The "kitchen" at M.O.C. will offer grilled hamburgers, burritos, stir fries and fish dishes.
"I'm just excited to have a neighborhood option for high quality meat and produce," said Southeast Portland resident Nicole Vollum, who lives near Hawthorne and cycles past here on her way to work. "Especially now that Zupan's has closed, I'm sure that this store will do really well."