In March 2013, three guys started a Chicago company called Local Foods. Just over a year later, they connect 35 farms and eight food hubs with more than 100 restaurants.
Next up for Dave Rand, Andrew Lutsey, and Ryan Kimura: A hybrid wholesale-retail building, also called Local Foods (1455 W. Willow St., 312-432-6575), located in that oddball hybrid area where Ada St. and the Hideout sit cheek-by-jowl with plumbing suppliers and a garbage-truck parking lot.
Rand, 29, has dabbled in many nooks and crannies of the food industry—working in the commercial salmon industry in Alaska, at an organic grain farm in Washington, as a liaison between the City of Chicago and the Green City Market, and at the frequently name-dropped meat operation Q7 Ranch, in Marengo. “When I was at Q7, I was the guy who did the truck driving—700, 800 miles a week,” he says. “Chicago to Marengo and back.”
When he left Q7, he joined up with Lutsey and Kimura, who were working on a food-distribution business that focused on local products. They, too, were seeking a way to streamline the 800-mile-a-week drives that small farmers typically have to endure. So they came up with this store: a wholesale/retail combo that aims to make the food chain easier on both the farmers and their customers.
The wholesale operation will resemble others, Rand says, “with cold storage and loading docks and multizone refrigerators and all the things we need to move all the products that we carry.” Wholesale butchering and smoked and cured meats will also feature.
The retail half will feel like a grocery store combined with a farmers’ market, except without the farmers themselves there selling. “Proteins, produce, berries, eggs, whole grains, flour, syrups, jams, mustards, and honey,” Rand says. “Anything that can be produced and grown in the Midwest.”
The Local Foods team hopes to open the Willow Street location by the end of the year. Or in local-food terms, right around when the kale gives way to the root vegetables.