Bryan store, All Things Food, taking organic path

By Mary Alice Powell
March 13, 2012
Toledo Blade

BRYAN — The owners and the products at All Things Food in downtown Bryan are home grown.

Natives of the Williams County town located 69 miles west of Toledo, Staci Stevens and Monique Tressler opened the grocery store in September as a source for locally grown and organic foods.

“We want people to get back to real food,” Ms. Stevens said.

“Our motto is responsible food means the animal, the farmer, the land, and the consumer,” Ms. Tressler said.

The ground lamb from the store freezer is from Earthway Foods in Osseo, Mich. The jar of apple butter was made by Ravens Roost in Bryan. While chatting with Ms. Stevens and Ms. Tressler, I sipped organic herbal tea in a hand-sculpted mug and nibbled on flaxseed crackers that are an example of the raw food trend that retains nutrients because the cooking temperature does not exceed 110 degrees. The crackers are a product of Foods Alive of Hamilton, Ind.

Ms. Tressler is a former pre-school teacher who changed her diet to organic and healthier foods when she weighed 250 pounds and began suffering from Crohn’s disease.

Ms. Stevens returned home to Bryan from California where she had worked in restaurants and did some organic farming. The store fulfills her life-long dream having her own food-related business that connects people with local farmers.

Products range from apples and eggs to herbs and pastas that are displayed for both shopper and curiosity-seeker. Herbs, spices, teas, and coffees are in clear glass containers. Meats, milk, cheese, and eggs are in a self-serve refrigerator. When the local produce season opens, the owners plan to have a large representation of northwest Ohio fruits and vegetables. In the meantime, greens in the hoop houses at Kinsman Farms in Archbold will be ready for picking in mid April.

Before opening the store, Ms. Stevens and Ms. Tressler visited farmers markets throughout northwest Ohio, Indiana, and southern Michigan to get acquainted with local growers and invite them to participate in their store.

“We had to do a lot of networking to make this work,” Ms. Tressler said.

Karen Wood of Bowling Green an urban agriculture student at Owens Community College who is an All Things Food shopper, explained what buying locally means to her.

“If we don’t support our local farmers, there won’t be any more and there will be another Walmart on the bean field,” she said.

In addition to the extensive stock of edible products, kitchen tools, cookbooks, and local pottery are sold.

Ms. Stevens and Ms. Tressler are active in the Williams County community and frequently do public speaking. They are members of Eating Local Foods, the organization where they met. It is a network of northwest Ohio people who promote a sustainable, local food system through education.

The annual convention will be held Nov. 24 at Northwest Community College in Archbold and is expected to draw 100 members and food vendors.

Andrew Philpot, of Bean Creek Farm in Archbold is conference chairman. Mr. Philpot supplies the store with organic mushrooms, eggs, and goat milk soap.

Because they opened the store with more determination than money, the partners are proud of the appliances and fixtures they bought through Craig’s List. A demonstration counter and tables and chairs are the store centerpiece where customers gather for demonstrations and lectures, or just for a cup of tea or coffee.

The public is invited to events that are scheduled each month. Home cooks interested in scratch baking from grain to flour can attend an appliance demonstration March 31. Linda Yoder of Mark Center, Ohio, will demonstrate the Nutri-Mill appliance.

Recipe demonstrations are given by chef Vincent Pavon, who moved to Bryan from northern California to help sister Monique’s new venture. Although he worked in fine dining restaurant kitchens on the West Coast, he said, the lessons in Bryan are more basic techniques. He will prepare the lunch to be served at the Eat Local Foods conference Saturday in Archbold.

All Things Food is at 114 N. Main St., in Bryan. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.