This month we sat down with our sweet friends who run our favorite local market. Matt and Ashlea Hogancamp saw a need for an organic, locally sourced grocery store where consumers can trust that everything on the shelves has been vetted and approved. They couldn’t find it as consumers so they opened it. We love their story and we know you will too!
Can you tell us more about Herban Market, your family and your story? We both were working corporate jobs in Houston, Texas and felt like it was time to get out of the grind. We wanted to get closer to home and sold everything. We had family here and market research showed us that the area would support an organic market.
How did you settle on moving to Nashville and opening Herban Market? Honestly, we were just aggravated with our food options. We were Whole Foods shoppers. I would run through the grocery store, throwing stuff in my basket, and I would pay whatever I needed to pay just knowing that it was clean. Then, I would get home, research the foods, and realized it wasn’t any better than Walmart’s Great Value Brand. That was pretty angering to us. So, we thought, there has to be a place where the working mom, as busy as she can be, doesn’t have time to cook or do anything, can run through somewhere where everything has been vetted. A place where all of the products are quality, where you can spend a dollar and it is worth a dollar. So, we realized there was a gap here and thought, we could have a family business and a simpler life. [Laughs] Wrong. Maybe not simpler but more time for family. We opened a store that we wanted as consumers.
What types of products can your customers find at your store and tell us about your recent expansions into prepared meals? At our core we are an organic grocery market. We try to get everything organic that we can. However, avocados for example don’t grow in Tennessee [laughs] so there are a lot of things we outsource. If it is outsourced, 99% of the time it is certified organic unless there is an exception or a compelling reason why. We also have an organic coffee bar. The water we use for the coffee bar is extremely filtered through reverse osmosis. The beans are roasted locally, they are organic. Then we have a café with prepared food like soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, juices and smoothies. We also offer body care, household items, olive oils and balsamic based products. We want to be a one stop shop for a healthy shopper. With the potential expansion, we reached a point this time last year where we could not keep up with the growth that was coming in of customers that wanted prepared foods. We have a panini press that makes six sandwiches at a time. So, if you get an office call in for twenty sandwiches and then you get a walk in who orders a sandwich, then you are behind on all of those. We were limited. Last summer, our landlord came to us and proposed the idea that if Mack and Kate’s went out, would you be interested in taking over their square footage? We originally said no but by October, he approached us again. At that point, we could not jump on it fast enough. We are more than doubling our size, a lot of which will be additional seating. We will have an expanded menu and what we are calling a “Build a Bar”. It will have 90 organic toppings where customers can make a salad, wraps or a pizza. You can order burgers off the menu from the kitchen. We are also going to have a wine bar that Matt is calling “Philosopher’s Island”. It will have limited organic sustainable wines, we will have about 6 local craft beers. We are just expanding on what our neighbors tell us they want and need.
When you first opened, one of your biggest products were your Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegars. Tell us more about those. Often times the Olive Oil that are on most grocery shelves are adulterated and not quality. In other words, you aren’t quite getting what you are paying for. Most of us don’t know about Olive Oil, the quality and the process. Ours are some of the best in the world. Unless you know someone with a grove that is pressing it and sending some to you, you really cannot find a better quality. Our Balsamics are the same, the highest quality and made from grapes. We only use the products we sell in our kitchen. A lot of our customers have dietary restrictions or have diseases they are trying to combat so it is very important to us that we cook with the highest quality for them.
How and when was your passion and interest in healthy eating born? Have you always eaten natural and organic foods? [Laughing] No – I was the pickiest kid ever and I was raised on Velveeta cheese. I thought I hated real cheese until I went to college and explored the world of cheese. Even in college, I was very picky and did not eat well. When I started dating Matt, I was first exposed to an organic family. They were making Kombucha almost fifty, sixty years ago. They were ahead of everyone else. I was exposed to a more organic natural way of eating and living, and I found it interesting. It was the seed that was planted. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my daughter that it kicked me into overdrive. I had to consider what I was putting into my body and why. I began to do tons of research. I started getting angry about what I was paying money for and more importantly what I was feeding my growing family. That was the thread that pulled the sweater off completely. When we started shopping, we spent an enormous amount of time researching. It was everything, it almost made me a little crazy. No one has time to do that research and not everyone is as passionate about it. This helped us decide that we wanted to have a store where people do not have to research for what is in their food, and luckily, we have built a reputation around that. Everyone knows that if it is here, we have cleared it and it is pretty good stuff. Nothing is perfect but it is going to be the best you can get for the price.
What is your favorite thing on the menu right now? Definitely our breakfast tacos. House made organic corn tortillas, organic black beans, local bacon, pastured eggs.
What is the favorite and most difficult thing about running your family business? The all in was definitely the most difficult. It took a toll on our marriage, our spiritual life. We sold everything and we were all in. And we did it without investors. There is no guarantee and there was a lot of risk. The reward is the flexibility, seeing the seed that you planted grow, and hearing people say this is their happy place. That is really rewarding.