The Return of the Philly Neighborhood Grocer


Published in Philadelphia Magazine, May 6 2017
Photography by Jauhien Sasnou

I’m standing on the back porch of River City Outpost, listening to the owners of Manayunk’s new fresh market extol the community values of their venture while joggers keep passing by us on the Schuylkill River Trail, proving their point. Runners stop and wave. When a customer pops in the front door, co-owner Pat Bresling is sure to point out fresh mint and limes displayed in mini wooden crates. “Perfect weekend for a mojito!” he says.

River City Outpost feels like a permanent farmers’-market stall manned by people who are the modern-day version of Mr. Hooper on Sesame Street. It boasts a mix of fresh produce and specialty products, like a pouch of “vegan bone broth.” The store is part of a new crop of pint-size markets — with even more curated selections than co-ops — that are making food shopping, well, just better. The ultimate goal: to free people from the grind of driving to a big-box store after work.

River City Outpost, Riverwards Produce in Fishtown, the soon-to-open Rowhouse Grocery in Point Breeze, and the ever-expanding Green Aisle Grocery stores have a lot in common (besides taking their aesthetic cues from Pinterest): The products are meticulously chosen. The young, savvy owners are focused on providing raw ingredients and educating customers about cooking well. “Forty years ago, there used to be produce garages everywhere,” says Vincent Finazzo, who launched Riverwards Produce as a pop-up in his friend’s garage last summer. Now, he says, “People leave the neighborhood to do a lot of their shopping.” When Finazzo moved to the Kensington area nearly a decade ago, it struck him as ironic: All these Fishtown artists were buying their lentils from massive corporate supermarkets.

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