Constellation Collective, a new grab-and-go food market in Ann Arbor's Nickels Arcade, aims to collect some of the best offerings of local food businesses in one central location.
The Collective was launched by four Ann Arborites with a long history in the local food ecosystem: finance partner Max Steir, founder and owner of Salads UP; membership partner Alex Perlman, former operator of food carts The Beet Box and Cheese Dream; marketing partner Jared Hoffman, a partner at Salads UP; and operations partner Nick Lemmer, co-founder of Iorio Gelato.
"Constellation is a collective of members who are small food producers, restaurants, and anybody in the food space able to prepackage their food," says Perlman.
The idea was to expose new customers downtown and on the University of Michigan campus to food businesses they might not otherwise run into, while providing a space in a high-traffic area for local food business owners to showcase their work without having to pay steep downtown rents for their own restaurant or storefront.
The co-founders ran a series of open houses in late November and early December so that prospective collective members could see the space and envision how their packaged food would be displayed.
The store's inaugural offerings will include pre-packaged salads and soup from Salads UP, and a variety of products from Harvest Kitchen, Tasty Bakery, Better Health Store, and Fluffy Bottom Farms. The co-founders are also in the process of planning a Harvest Kitchen pop-up at the Constellation store and collaborating with Fluffy Bottom Farms on new product development. Agreements are still in the works for other food partners.
Perlman says food businesses like Harvest Kitchen, a meal kit service based at the Washtenaw Food Hub, are exactly the sort of food partner they'd like to bring on board.
"They already have this beautiful kitchen space where they prep meals, but they don't have a storefront and rely on these kinds of channels," Perlman says.
The Constellation Collective space is operational, and the team that will run the storefront is hired, Perlman says. The next few weeks will involve getting food vendors signed up so that the store can operate on limited hours before the holidays.
His hope is to be "full-bore open" in the new year from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each weekday.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the interim project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Constellation Collective.