Buying Groceries at the Gas Station
On the corner of 1300 South and 1100 East in Salt Lake City, you’ll find a quaint building that was once a gas station in the 1920s, but now houses Liberty Heights Fresh. When you buy your groceries at the once-gas station, you won’t be getting the typical gas station fare of fat, sugar and salt. Instead, you’ll find fresh local produce, locally-made honey, jam, pasta, breads and cheeses and tons of great imported food. I spoke to the owner and CEO (Chief Eating Officer), Steven Rosenberg, who shared with me his passion for good food and told me about the importance of buying local.
Just the Good Stuff
You’ll find a huge variety of tasty, decadent food at Liberty Heights Fresh. Every product found in the shop has gone through an extensive vetting process—Steven travels the world looking for fabulous food to import to the shop, and local food is held to the same standards. Steven told me that there are just a few very basic rules for the food he buys for Liberty Heights Fresh:
- The food has to make you smile when you eat it.
- It has to be made with basic ingredients that would be easily recognized by your great-grandparents.
- No junk—no synthesized corn or soy. Just real food ingredients.
- Good food should be made with 3-5 ingredients.
Steven said, “It’s very important that people buy food that’s going to make them happy and healthy; not sick and tired. We strive to sell that kind of food and we honor all kinds of eaters. So whether you’re a vegan, a vegetarian, an omnivore, a raw food eater, we will support and provide food that will fit your diet and we’re very respectful of an individual’s choice of what they eat. The most important thing is that food makes you well and that it makes you smile.”
The Foodies at Liberty Heights Fresh
The staff at Liberty Heights Fresh knows their stuff. They can tell you where every product came from, what’s in it, what to pair with it and how to prepare it. They can recommend something special. Planning a dinner party and have no idea what to serve? Find out what’s new or in season. You can also get recipes for seasonal treats. Try asking the bag boy at your big grocery store where those apples originated and if they were sprayed with pesticide, let alone ask for a baking tip…. you’ll most likely get a blank stare.
Local Products Introduce Variety
Steven buys produce and other products locally whenever possible. He considers “local” to be products that can be purchased and transported from their original location to his store between breakfast and lunch. Local products vary depending on the season and availability. Currently, Liberty Heights Fresh offers a locally-made apple cider. Steven told me why it’s special, “Our apple cider is not made from Red Delicious apples. It’s made with Cortland, McIntosh, Jonathan,Yellow Delicious and an old heirloom variety called Winter Banana. The cider is made by the Zollinger family up in Logan and it’s absolutely delicious. It’s much different than what you’d buy in a supermarket. I go up there every week or two to get it.”
Why Buy Local?
I asked Steven why it’s important to buy local. He said, “Buying local means you’re supporting producers. And you’re also supporting your community. Locally owned businesses are far more generous in the local non-profit community; supporting the arts, supporting museums and supporting culture, than companies that come here and may sell their goods in a retail establishment, but in comparison give very little back to the local community.”
Steven also maintains that people should expect more from their small, local shops than they do from the big box store retailers. In addition to getting better food and better customer service, Steven said, “you should expect more from them and they should deliver more. You might be paying a little bit more for something—I don’t have the buying power of a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe’s. I’m one store. But what I do is give back to this community.”
The list of charities that Liberty Heights Foods contributes to every year is lengthy and includes everything from local youth sports to shelters for the homeless. Steven told me that the shop donates tens of thousands of dollars and food every year because he believes in supporting the community that supports his store.
Why Shop at Liberty Heights Fresh?
Well, once you walk in the store, you’ll fall in love. If the baskets of gorgeous, fresh produce doesn’t seduce you, the fresh breads behind the counter will. Ask one of the friendly staff to make you a sandwich made from all the wonderful breads, cheeses and meats on hand—if the weather is accommodating, you can eat your lunch at the picnic table. Bite into a variety of an apple that you can’t find in the large chain grocery store. Discover a new olive oil. Taste a sample of locally-crafted jam that has only two ingredients: fruit and sugar. Re-discover what real food tastes like. Those are just a few of my reasons for shopping at Liberty Heights Fresh.
Steven gave a few more reasons, “We like to get to know our customers and establish a relation that’s built on trust. When we’re dead and gone the only thing we leave behind is our reputation, so it’s important to leave a good one.”
I also asked him why he goes to such great lengths to choose the food he offers at the shop. He replied, “It’s really, really encouraging and invigorating to know that somebody got something from our shop they couldn’t get anywhere else. And it made them, and their family extremely happy. And that’s why I do what I do at Liberty Heights Fresh.”