S ome of the big decisions for those who work downtown are where to park and where to get lunch. And what to bring home for dinner.
Not so much for the managers and employees of Elm City Market, though. Several ECM staffers even live in the same building as the market, which anchors the ground floor of the new 360 State Street highrise. “It doesn’t hurt the business that we have a thousand people living above us,” says General Manager Mark Regni.
The market is devoted to its numero uno community: the 1,505 members who’ve joined the cooperatively run business. You don’t have to be a member to shop at Elm City Market—the store serves over nine hundred customers a day—but members have a stake in how the market is organized and operated. And they get valuable benefits including member-only specials and sale prices throughout the store.
Some community standards were in place from the very beginning—for example, an insistence on using locally grown and prepared foods whenever possible, plus business hours which keep that area of
Elm City Market
777 Chapel St., New Haven (map)
(203) 624-0441 | email@example.com
Mon-Sat 8am-9pm; Sun 9am-8pm
Chapel bustling at night. “A lot of Chapel Street shuts down at 6 p.m.,” Regni says, “while we’re open until 9.”
Right now, the concern is lunchtime. What do the purveyors of some of the city’s freshest homegrown foods choose when they themselves get peckish?
Regni says he goes to the store’s hot bar and salad bar “every day.” Meanwhile, “My choice would have to be the bakery,” says Amy Christensen, manager of marketing and member services. “There are a dozen local bakeries within 80 or 90 miles of us.” Or closer. One favorite of ECM customers arrives after a 30-second journey from around the corner: the square-shaped donuts baked by Tony’s Orangeside Luncheonette. Bakery Manager Jeannette, meanwhile, goes for another baked-nearby delicacy: the broccoli bread from Apicella’s Bakery on Grand Avenue.
Jennifer, whose HR job overseeing the needs
of nearly a hundred employees suggests behind-the-scenes office isolation, is often out in the market helping customers and introducing them to new products. She’s partial to the Elm City granola with yogurt, and “awesome tuna from the deli.”
Brett, the IT Manager, is into the local grass-fed beef while Scanning Coordinator Kristy opts for the rotisserie chicken. She lives in one of the apartments above the market, and enjoys shopping for just the fresh foods she wants for that night’s dinner.
Several employees sing the praises of Bridge brand tofu and seitan—delicately textured soy and robust wheat-gluten products handmade by a small company in Middletown. “We’re a hybrid of conventional, natural and local,” Christensen says, and working with small businesses like Bridge can serve all three needs.
And what do customers say about the advent of this sleek, beautifully designed food emporium? As one shopper confided, “Elm City has made a remarkable difference to my quality of life. I can leave my downtown office, walk to the store, and within minutes be in my own kitchen cooking a great meal. Before Elm City, I couldn’t have imagined it.”
ECM isn’t just for downtowners, though. Drivers can park free for an hour at 360 State Street’s garage, and the store is near major city bus stops, across the street from the State Street train station and walking distance from many other populous parts of town.
As Christensen puts it, “We want this to be a market for everyone in New Haven.”
Written by Christopher Arnott. Photography by Uma Ramiah and Christopher Arnott.