On Wednesday, Anabel’s Grocery reopened after closing for the Spring 2019 semester. The grocery now has a membership system, bulk food options and offers mainly plant based foods.
Anabel’s is currently open from Wednesday to Friday during the week from 3 to 7 p.m. The current hours are a change from its prior six-day-a-week operating structure, which the executive director of the Center for Transformative Action Anke Wessels said was unsustainable.
At the grand re-opening, Anabel’s offered samples of their kombucha and encouraged shoppers to sign up for their membership.
Anabel’s is operated under CTA as a non-profit organization. The store officially opened its doors in 2017, but only remained open for three semesters before having to close to reevaluate its program structure.
One of the main reasons for the shuttering was an unsustainable business structure, according to Wessels. As a smaller store, Anabel’s did not have the buying power to purchase the range of goods they would have liked.
“The bulk model allows us to buy a lot of oats and grains … [and] the spices and legumes at a price where we can then turn it around and sell it at a low price,” Wessels told The Sun. “There is a sustainability aspect that we haven’t thought about before that is definitely present.”
One noticeable change: There are no meat products in the store. Wessels said the main driver for this change was affordability, but also cited animal agriculture concerns and the health benefits of a plant-based diet. The store does sell eggs and some dairy products.
The store offers the materials necessary to purchase items in bulk, with containers available for use and purchase.
“I would never go buy a bunch of mason jars, but they are here for me to use. They make it easy and accessible, and also sustainable at the same time,” said Liz Davis-Frost ’20. “So you can tell they really thoroughly thought through their processing.”
The store has adopted a “buy what you need” model that focuses on sustainability and meeting the variable needs of students. In the store, students are able to buy grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables and even seasonings in variable quantities. This helps reduce food waste, encourages sustainability with reusable containers, and allows people to only pay for the quantities they need.
“I like the fact that everything is in bulk. If you don’t have spices and stuff but like you want to cook, but you don’t have to spend all the money to restart an entire kitchen. I have came last year, and the year before, but this is better,” Anna Daytz ‘20 told The Sun while shopping in Anabel’s.
With the on-campus location, students who do not have cars can access fresh produce, as was the case for Sarah Brice ’21.
“I think it is very exciting to have fresh local produce available on campus,” Brice said. “I personally love going to the Farmers’ market to get it, but this is way more accessible especially because I don’t have a car.”
Throughout the semester, Anabel’s will also offer cooking classes and community dinners. These will be planned in conjunction with the programming arm of the grocery, Anabel’s Programming, which is a registered student organization.
The store is staffed by volunteers — all students who have taken AEM 3385 Social Entrepreneurship Practicum: Anabel’s Grocery or are currently enrolled, Wessels said. The store previously operated based on volunteer labor.
“I am passionate about food and nutrition and I always wanted to join Anabel’s, but they were closed last year and I didn’t know how to join,” said Kieu Phan ’21, who was working during the opening of the store. She is currently taking the course with Wessels.
Pam Silverstein MBA ’76 is a local entrepreneur and board member of Life Changing Labs, an organization that helps student entrepreneurs develop their ideas. Silverstein has seen the development of the store over time.
“We want people to have food, that’s good and healthy for them,” Silverstein said. “That’s what we believe and we are trying to make it cost-effective so that you can come here with small change in your pocket and still get something to eat because that’s the most important thing.”
The store plans to continue this operating structure throughout this semester and next semester, however they will continue evaluating the store’s progress and what is selling best.
“We are always going to be evaluating. That is part of the process this semester. The students are running the store,” Wessles said.
Justine Kim ’21 contributed reporting to this article.