Walk into a Rosemont Market today, and it'd be difficult to imagine a time not long ago that farm-fresh vegetables and local meats and cheeses were the exclusive domain of farmers' markets.
John Naylor, co-owner of Rosemont along with Scott Anderson, has been a significant player in the local food movement, providing fresh ingredients from local farms to consumers.
“My hope is that everyone will think about how often they feed themselves. When you’re thoughtful about eating delicious, nutritious, fresh food, going out to shop for what you eat becomes extremely important.”
John is well aware that shopping at Rosemont Market will cost a bit more. However, he's also resolute that nearly every dollar you spend is kept in your community. Your dollars are paying for workers who live in Maine, local farmers and distributors, and many other services. While larger grocery chains in our area owned by entities outside of Maine may be stockists of foods from the same farms, the same cannot be said about their model.
John, a straight-shooter from Teaneck, New Jersey, has been in retail since he was 13 years old. He was born in 1956, the seventh in a family of 13 children. He moved to Maine with his wife Molly and two kids in 1994; a third was born in Portland. “We liked it here and thought it would be a great place to raise our children.”
John was friends with Nick Witte of the famed Green Grocer before moving here. Nick asked John to come manage the Green Grocer, and John gratefully accepted. He worked for Nick for 10 years, eight of them with his now-business partner Scott. When Nick decided it was time to close the store, he encouraged Scott and John to start their own business. He had invested in these two men and wanted to see them succeed. The three continue to be close friends, and it’s easy to see where John learned many of his business chops.
Both John and Scott had restaurant experience prior to working at the Green Grocer. John owned a seafood restaurant for eight years in Mt. Kisco, New York, and Scott was the head chef at one of Portland’s finest restaurants, Back Bay Grill. John has always been the front-of-the-house person and Scott, back-of-the-house. They knew they did not want to own a supermarket — the small-store concept was more in line with their goals. Their first market was at 559 Brighton (now moved to 580 Brighton); a business they “scraped together funds” to purchase. Two of their staff, Erin Lynch and Joe Appel, have been with them from the start, which they cite as one of many reasons for their success.
The success of these two smart businessmen is based on loyalty — from customers, staff, and family. Several family members are involved in the business, and customers know that feedback and advice is welcomed. The second store in Yarmouth opened because a customer who'd moved there insisted that John and Scott see what she thought was a perfect spot. (She was right.)
Their model is to lease and then buy — it seems to be working. There are now six Rosemont Markets after one opened in Cape Elizabeth in December.
Supporting and incentivizing staff is a big goal for John and Scott. The team takes day trips to farms in order for staff to see who's growing what, and so staff is better prepared to sell their products. John would like to eventually do the same for customers. He believes that consumer education is a significant part of better eating habits and that the farmers he works with can provide expertise and enlightenment. We are the beneficiaries of John’s commitment to a healthier and better-fed Mainer.
Farewell for Now, Portland
Portland is a city of contradictions. At times it is so full of life, diversity and culture (and expensive real estate) you’d think it were a much larger city. You see the same people everywhere you go and complaints about traffic tie-ups are almost laughable. Drawn to its size, the sea, and proximity to the Canadian border, I moved here from New York City four years ago. I honestly imagined that Portland would be my last chapter, but a bicycle accident that landed me in hospital was a wake-up call I didn’t see coming. Now, a lifelong dream to live in Europe has became more plausible, so I am moving onto the next chapter.
I will miss the magnificent coast of Maine. I will miss Portland’s progressive politics and policies, and culinary offerings so plentiful that in a single year I could eat dinner out every evening and not visit the same restaurant twice. I will miss the bounty of Maine’s farms, and a handful of individuals who have taught me patience and picked me up when I slipped and fell. Lastly, I want to thank the Phoenix for providing a platform for my thoughts and opinions.