Being a transplant from the mountains of Southern California, I have always been the subject of incredulous stares from people when they learned that not only did I move to Lafayette willingly, but that I do not plan on going back. That particular story is too long to tell here, but I would be lying if I said I did not miss something about my old Home. I do miss the topography, I missed the excellent Mexican Food (it has gotten much better lately with the influx of restaurants catering to a growing Latino population) and by god I have missed Trader Joes. For those that have not heard of Trader Joe’s, it is a chain of specialty grocery stores with excellent variety, quality and pricing. Beer, wine, dried goods, cheese, baked goods, meats, dairy, and more recently, produce line the shelves. One of the few things I brought out here with me when I moved to the Greater Lafayette Area in ’97 was a chest full of my Trader Joe’s favorites.
I languished for years, Trader Joes-less and forlorn, when suddenly there was hope! Indy had two stores. Yay! But not really…. Given my aversion to driving unnecessarily I could only justify trips to Trader Joe’s when I was down in Indy visiting friends, picking up my parents from the airport, or some other reason. However, the last time I was Indy, I decided to not go to Trader Joes. Why? Had I fallen out of love for the place? Have my tastes changed? Was I broke? No. What has changed is downtown Lafayette.
Yes, that’s right. I came to the realization that I can now get 85% of what I went to Trader Joe’s for in my own town, downtown. Beer, wine, cheese, produce, coffee, dried goods, baked goods, meat, and dairy, all of it. I am not just talking about Farmers Market and LBC both of which I frequent often. Those places have been around for a long time. I am talking about the local food renaissance happening at the east end of Main Street. The so called “Gourmet Triangle” comprised of K. Dees Coffee, Main Street Cheese & Wine Cellar, and Something Blue Bakery has now become the “Gourmet Pentangle” with the addition of Main Street Market Basket and Main Street Sea Food and Spice.
Main Street Sea Food and Spice, stocks delicious fresh and salt water delicacies and a plethora of high quality spices. Main Street Wine and Cheese, has well, a selection of local wine and cheese. Something Blue Bakery has my sweet tooth covered and K. Dees can provide me my caffeine fix with delicious coffee beans, all within a single block stretch of Main street.
While the aforementioned establishments are great, the newest addition excites me most. Why? The Main Street Market Basket has really closed the loop on local, sustainably produced food available in the downtown area. Located at 916 Main Street, The Main Street Market Basket just opened it doors and houses multiple vendors selling a selection of food items and produce. The largest and most exciting vendor there is City Foods Co-op. While City Foods has run for awhile as an online-only store, this cooperative business finally has an actual storefront as a part of the larger Market Basket. They have dried grains and beans, flour, baking mixes, honey, cheese, brats, chicken, pork, beef and soaps. These products are primarily sourced within the borders of our state and produced sustainably, if not organically.
So, even though Trader Joe’s will never likely have a store in Lafayette, we don’t really need one anymore. We have it all right here, in Downtown Lafayette represented by multiple businesses. While I encourage to check these stores out at their websites or Facebook, I overwhelmingly urge you to head to Main Street’s East end on a Tuesday or Thursday evening or a Saturday morning when all these stores are open, and visit each one, and then to come back again and again. The more we support them; the more these local businesses will bring to us in quality and diversity. Go downtown. Go Local.