The expansion of Pantry Goods from an online service into a Midtown micro market has brought with it a bushel of changes — all organic — for Marcelle Clements as she continues her mission to grow support for small businesses and sustainable living.
“It was a great move,” said Clements, founder of Pantry Goods, recalling her April decision to expand the business beyond its roots as a farm-to-pantry delivery service and into a bulk goods-focused mini market at 910 W 39th Street.
Click here to read more about the origins of Pantry Goods and its commitment to sustainability and the environment.
“Delivery was great, but in the Midwest people want to shop in stores,” Clements said, noting logistics of physical delivery are handled by a startup called Roadie. “We love our delivery service. It accounts for 40 percent of our sales — so it’s very important to us — but we feel like with the store and delivery [service] we now have [a business that is] the full package.”
From such bulk dry goods as oatmeal and rice to fresh, locally grown produce and locally produced dairy, Pantry Goods quickly found its niche in the Midtown neighborhood.
Click here to shop Pantry Goods online.
“[A lot of] people either live alone and they just want a tiny little bit of something or they have much bigger families and they’re making [something like] granola and need more than 12 ounces of oatmeal,” she explained, pointing that out shoppers can bring in their own containers or pickup compostable paper packages or reusable, glass containers directly from the store.
“We have a lot of shoppers who live within walking distance of our store that [have said they] love having us here. We have regulars that come in; that’s been really cool. The neighborhood has really embraced us.”
The store’s location, just steps away from a cluster of neighborhoods, has given locals the ability to shop as they eat, a luxury that can promote sustainability and eliminate food waste, Clements noted.
“It’s more of an experience, coming in either daily or every second day to get fresh bread, yogurt, milk, fresh produce and [allowing customers to] plan meals around what’s available seasonally,” she said.
“It’s more of a European style of shopping. … It provides people with the opportunity to shop [for] fresh ingredients for that dinner or maybe two dinners out.”
The ability to add a larger variety of fresh meat, vegetables and baked goods to its inventory and expand into dairy products has also planted new seeds for Pantry Goods, allowing the operation to support more local farmers, growers and makers, Clements said.
“We always had our farm-to-table [community supported agriculture] boxes — and we love those, because [customers get to] experience vegetables and meat and it spotlights a lot of farmers,” she continued. “Now we’ve started to work with a few small artisanal makers.”
A local baker supplies a lineup of sourdough-based artisanal breads three times each week, North Kansas City-fermented Brewkery offers its kombucha on tap, while Flint Hills-based ranch, Salt Creek, delivers dried and fresh meats and a partnership with Soap KC Refill Station gives customers access to the Waldo-based company’s eco-friendly soaps and household products.
A Kansas City-based collaboration with Betty Rae’s Ice Cream, however, offered Pantry Goods the chance to inspire immediate change.
“When we first opened, we had Betty Rae’s ice cream. With that collaboration, we asked Alec [Rodgers, owner] if he would [use] compostable packaging for us, because he wasn’t at the time,” Clements said. “He was totally game to do that and now, as far as I know, all of his packing in the store is compostable.”
The market also serves as a drop-off site for KC Can Compost.
“What has been cool is seeing people come in and not know what to expect,” she added, reflecting on her decision to expand operations and looking toward the future, which could include a larger space in the near future.
“It’s been a great proof-of-concept — again,” Clements said, referencing ways in which the online marketplace served as her first go at proving there was a need for Pantry Goods in the Kansas City area.
“This space is great. We love this neighborhood, but to be honest, we almost need a space that’s double this size.”
A partnership with a mission-aligned organization would be the most ideal path toward future expansion, she noted, but no opportunity will be overlooked.
“It’s almost wall-to-wall packed in here. There’s a lot that we want to include that we don’t have right now. … It’s been great to do it on a small scale and learn how to do it, but we would love a bigger space,” she said, adding there’s evidence in the store’s impact; something she’s eager to see grow further.
“I think, in a way, we’re definitely influencing people. … And I think we make [sustainable living] as easy as possible.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.