Growing up, Marsha Pesavento loved lingering around the “fancy” food section of grocery stores in New York. Now Pesavento, along with her husband Ray, will be pouring that passion into a new grocery store in Wilmette.
“When I was 6-years-old I loved hanging out and looking at the canned escargot and all this wild stuff that was so exciting,” Marsha said. “I’ve always loved grocery stores.”
The 3,200-square-foot store at 414 Linden Ave. will focus on selling artisanal foods made by people who are completely and wholly integrated into the creation of their product, from sourcing raw materials to the actual production and packaging.
“We feel it’s critical to support local business, as that only strengthens our community,” Ray said.
Although the store would like to sell only locally produced items, Marsha says the reality is that it’s hard to get good quality products all locally.
“We have a lot of shelf space, so we can’t exclusively sell locally produced products,” Marsha said. “But we will definitely focus on selling domestically-produced alcohol.”
The store will sell brands such as Annie’s homegrown organic snacks, locally prepared foods, as well as other artisanal products Marsha finds.
“I pay a very, obsessively compulsive close attention to what’s been going on with food, what I have in my own kitchen what I and my family like to eat,” Marsha said.
That was one of the main reasons that Marsha, a former pastry chef and her husband Ray decided to open up a grocery store when they discovered Demas Fine Foods on Linden Ave. was closing.
Fulfilling a Passion
It only took the couple only a week to decide that they wanted to start a grocery store in the former Demas Fine Foods location after first hearing it was closing in August 2011.
“The original idea for Artisanal was to create a neighborhood grocery store offering various foods and products that we wanted to have in our home, principally products by artisans,” Marsha said.
The idea wasn’t new, the couple had wanted to dedicate a whole floor of a galleria Ray owns in Andersonville (Chicago) to artisanal food, but only ended up putting a couple of artisanal products, such as home-made toffee and chocolate.
Now that a space was available, Marsha said it was perfect timing to fulfill her love of food. Plus the 20-year Wilmette residents felt the Linden Avenue block could do with some revitalizing.
“The block was getting a little sleepy,” Marsha said.
In November 2011, the couple signed a lease for the space and has been renovating the space since May 2012.
Hoping to Work with New Trier High School
Marsha, a former pastry chef, says she’d like to be cooking in the kitchen once the grocery store is ready. She’s also looking forward to working with some local food movements, such as getting backyard chickens legalized in Wilmette and potentially setting up rooftop garden above the grocery store.
“I’m really looking forward to hooking up with Integrated Global Studies School (at New Trier High School), where this type of food awareness is taught and promoted, especially with high school kids.”
“I wanted to make sure we help spread the word about back-yard chickens to all our customers coming here, who would care about this type of issue,” Marsha said.
“We have a lot of flat sunny roof space, I’m really hoping to get a roof top garden going next year," Marsha said.
Before that can all happen though Marsha says she must focus on getting the grocery open Sept. 7.
“I’d like to work with New Trier High Schools a couple of months from now, but right now, I’m concerned about who’s going to be delivering our ice-cream, milk,” she said. “You gotta learn to crawl before you can walk.”