DLM Honestly LocalBy: Calvin Mayne | VP of Food
On: May 16, 2012
You may have noticed our new slogan “Honestly Local”. It’s something we are very excited about, and think you will be as well. Why? To understand it, let me give you some context.
Dorothy Lane Market was founded in 1948 on the corner of Far Hills Avenue and Dorothy Lane (hence the name of the store) by my grandfather Calvin Mayne and his business partner Frank Sakada. The original store had a dirt floor, and most of the space was devoted to produce; it was, in essence, a large fruit stand. Calvin and Frank often bought directly from local farmers. My Dad relates how local egg farmer Mr. Baker, from Waynesville, would bring his eggs in the morning, and someone at the store would inspect and separate them one at a time by size. Other local produce that DLM sold in those days included corn, melons, squash, and strawberries, all in season of course. There were numerous local meat packers to buy from as well.
The neighborhood embraced the store (thanks to you if you traded with us in those days!), and things went well enough for Calvin and Frank to move their business to the present Oakwood location. They built what was at the time the largest supermarket in the area—imagine that. A few years later, Calvin bought out Frank, and continued to grow his business into a full-fledged self-service supermarket. In the late 50s, he went on a worldwide tour sponsored by NCR, speaking to food retailers around the globe, touting the modern methods of mass food retailing. Grandpa cheerfully rode the tide of the day, when post-war prosperity brought low-cost mass production of food. If you were alive then, or do much reading about that era, you get the idea that many people living at that time believed that human potential had reached its peak when it came to food. After all, the most powerful man in the free world, President Eisenhower himself, bragged of the luxury of regularly dining on a conveniently frozen, perfectly engineered meal at the White House, marketed as the “TV dinner”.
It’s funny how times have changed, or rather evolved. Even as DLM modernized over the years, we never forgot our local roots. And now we are more focused on selling local food than at any other time, except for maybe those early days at Far Hills and Dorothy Lane. Our Produce Director José Manzano, who began working at DLM in 1960, has for decades sourced fruits and vegetables from local farmers. These farmers are a collection of folks who are passionate about getting the best out of their land, and besides are just super people. So it’s no wonder that we are proud to bring you the succulent sweet corn of New Carlisle farmer Ray Brentlinger. Another farmer not far from Ray, Dave Stoltz, has been supplying us with juicy melons and pumpkins and all sorts of funky squash for years, just like his father John did for years before him. The Stokes family from Wilmington gives us strawberries, red raspberries, and their incredible black raspberries. There are relative newcomers to our “Honestly Local” party, but no less passionate, such as organic farmers Jon Paul and Megan at Orion Organics in Yellow Springs and John Branstrator, who farms in Clinton County. I can’t wait for Orion’s gorgeous ripe tomatoes and John’s fat spears of asparagus and big blackberries.
My friend Jack Gridley, who leads at DLM on Meat, Seafood, and Food Service, is friend to many a local producer. I see him almost weekly having a coffee in the store with chicken farmer Ed Hill, a Renaissance Man of sorts, with many interests and talents, including raising the best chicken this side of the Atlantic (I’ve only tasted one chicken that rivals the flavor of Ed’s: the famous Poulet de Bresse from France). Fortunately for us, Ed’s farm is close by, near Xenia. Jack has been hard at work finding local farmers to raise grass-fed cattle to our specs, that is, lifetime free of antibiotics and steroids. Maybe he’s not working that hard, however. It turns out that one of these fine local cattle farmers is his son-in-law, Jed Hanna.
A local scratch bakery is a fine thing, and you can find one right inside of Dorothy Lane Market, thanks to Scott Fox, who is our Bakery Director. He brought scratch artisan baking to DLM some 15 years ago. We start with flour, water, and salt right here on premise. We naturally ferment the dough, shape it and score it by hand, which happens to be time-consuming, physical work. If you don’t believe me, check out the arms of Joey Wrobel, our artisan bread production manager. And we bake it fresh daily here right at DLM. I think you may agree that our bread is pretty good—perfectly crusty with lots of flavor.
Buying and eating locally produced food has many benefits, from reducing the carbon footprint to supporting the local economy. Jack often talks about knowing where your food comes from. For starters, you may know that Dorothy Lane Market has always and continues to be entirely locally owned and operated. When you get acquainted with the farmers I’ve mentioned here and other local food folks like them, you develop friendship and trust, and you feel good about eating their food. You see Dale Filbrun delivering his beautiful Morning Sun Farm Organic Brown Eggs, knowing he and his family gathered them up that very morning, and you feel healthy and enriched dipping your toasted DLM Farmhouse Bread into those sunny-side-up deeply yellow yolks in the morning.
Ultimately, the food has to taste good. If you are like me, you love good food, no matter where it comes from. So I’m in no hurry to give up coffee (kudos to our own great local coffee roaster, Boston Stoker), bananas, or Parmigiano-Reggiano, all of which come from places very far away indeed. Yet when some of the best food you’ve ever tasted comes from your backyard, how cool is that! And blessed we are to live in an area with rich soil to produce food that has such good flavor. If you want to be assured of living on a diet of great local food all summer long, then sign up for our DLM Local Food Club, either online or in the store. Ask us in person or go to our website for details. And look for products throughout the store labeled as “Honestly Local”. These are foods that are produced with care and love by local farmers with small, hands-on operations. Most come from within an hour’s drive away, and at maximum distance leaving the farm at breakfast and arriving to us by lunch time. As we say in our mission statement, we want to “make you happy” with the food you buy here. I think you will find that eating our “Honestly Local” food lives up to that ideal. Not to mention that you will be eating better than President Eisenhower ever dreamed of.