Lakewood residents Rodrigo and Leticia Salas began jarring their flavorful Mexican sauces, pastes and marinades last fall. But as new business owners, they soon realized how difficult it was to establish relationships with prospective retailers.
To get their regional flavors into Dallas kitchens, they would have to be readily available for purchase and effectively promoted so that shoppers would start recognizing the Mölli name.
For the Salas couple and their growing brand, an unconventional route proved worthwhile. They connected with Artizone, the online local grocery delivery (or pickup, if preferred), and began to see the benefits of working with a hands-on, grassroots partner.
Artizone does offer some of the conveniences of traditional grocery shopping. But its bread and butter is locally sourced specialties.
Their products were welcomed into the site’s broadening community of like-minded purveyors, introduced to other food aficionados and given a potentially limitless platform for exposure: the Internet. What’s more, Mölli now has the credibility to branch out.
“Telling other retailers that I sell at Artizone has also opened some doors that otherwise would have stayed closed,” says Rodrigo Salas. “[Plus], Artizone is a unique business that not only cares about their customers’ needs and wants but also about their vendors and partners.”
Planting the seeds
This community-minded approach to food commerce was conceived by Yehudit Buchnik, Shmuel Zichel, Sagi Briteman, Lior Lavy and Alex Zeltcer in Israel in 2009. It launched as Artizone in Dallas the following year with the help of Amber Dietrich, after research indicated that four of the top 10 U.S. cities interested in specialty edibles were in Texas. (The only other U.S. branch is currently in Chicago.)
Artizone’s founders had shared passions for cooking, supporting small businesses and developing new technologies for consumer use. Soon after they began brainstorming how to combine those enthusiasms, the idea for an online artisan marketplace sprouted up, and it’s changing the way people buy and consume their groceries.
As Dietrich, VP of market operations, notes, “Artizone believes that a home-cooked meal is, in a way, the highlight of the day.” So rather than running to the store at the last minute to pick up a forgotten ingredient or to suddenly figure out a dinner plan, users can plan ahead and buy local, fresh foods to work with in their kitchens.
Feeding the foodie craze
Artizone does offer some of the conveniences of traditional grocery shopping, including essentials (salt, pepper, spices and oils) and ready-to-heat meals. But its bread and butter is locally sourced specialties like Mölli sauces; pot pies, biscuits and gumbo from Jack’s Southern Comfort Food; and a special partnership with Green Grocer that began through Artizone’s Chicago operations before Dallas.
Artizone saw a 30 percent increase in business last year, expanded its delivery zone to Rockwall and now carries nearly 3,000 products.
As impressive as the food offerings are the artisans themselves, who’ve helped make Artizone a destination for deliciousness. Noted chefs — including Mansour Gorji (owner of Canary Cafe in Addison), Brian Luscher (of Luscher’s Post Oak Red Hots) and Katherine Clapner (of Dude, Sweet Chocolate) — have helped pique interest in the marketplace with their popular edibles for purchase.
Along with a growing number of products are features like a digital recipe book, which allows browsers to select a meal (zucchini, squash and roasted poblano enchiladas, for example) and then add the necessary ingredients to a digital shopping cart with just a click of the mouse. Users might also come across the MyPlate icon on certain items, which displays the nutritional information of that product as determined by the USDA.
In addition to convenience, the online grocer offers loyalty rewards, much like most brick-and-mortar stores. For every $50 spent at Artizone.com, a user will earn $1; for every five deliveries, he or she receives $5.95 toward future purchases. That’s more than most national food delivery programs offer their members.
With the economy finally experiencing a modest but steady recovery, it’s encouraging to see growth. Artizone saw a 30 percent increase in business last year, recently expanded its local delivery zone to Rockwall, and now carries nearly 3,000 products made by 85 local artisans and small shops – a number that has tripled since launching here in Dallas less than four years ago.
But, perhaps more notably, Artizone is helping introduce Dallasites (8,000 households and counting) to local vendors and meeting the needs of both with its expanding presence.