By Matthew Van Deventer | Photos by Giles Clasen
Lyndsey Manderson and her husband Jesse will be opening Denver’s first package-free grocery store, adding to the citywide movement of living a more sustainable lifestyle.
ZERO Market is not a new concept. If anything, it is a new take on an old concept: buy what you need.
About 75 percent of the products sold will be dry goods. The rest will be liquids, fresh local produce, and select locally prepared foods from featured Denver artisans. Instead of buying a couple boxes of spaghetti noodles or a jar of honey, customers will be required to bring their own containers and serve themselves.
“If you think about it, we really all started in bulk . . . our model is very European-centric,” said Lyndsey Manderson. “Buy what you need for a few days, don’t stock up your fridge with two weeks worth, so you know everything is fresh.”
Originally the Mandersons weren’t sure where to open ZERO Market. After weighing different options, they decided on Denver. Familiar with Boulder’s blossoming zero waste community, they felt Denver was on the brink of that lifestyle, especially seeing city-led initiatives like the pilot compost program; they wanted to hop on the city’s fledging green and eco-friendly lifestyle.
Currently the couple is working out a limit as to how far they will source their food while building relationships with local farmers, which means the store will be selling seasonal items. Lyndsey Manderson anticipates that this may turn off some customers at first, knocking them out of their normal eating routines. However, the Mandersons will be holding regular classes on healthy eating and sustainable living to combat that.
“[There’s] quite a lot of really delicious food products right now from Denver and the surrounding area,” said Lyndsey Manderson. “So we are hoping to highlight those. We are still trying to connect with them to see if we can offer their products in bulk.”
A challenge for such a new concept will be whether or not vendors and distributors are willing to conform their packaging to fit ZERO Market’s model.
The Mandersons want to locate in an area close to middle and low-income families, to make sure they have a quality food option that is affordable. They will be accepting food benefits.
The Mandersons had plans to open earlier this year, but Denver’s real estate market is volatile. At first they were picky about a place, but now, they just need a space to sell their food out of. The RiNo neighborhood, West Colfax, and northeast Denver are a few spots on their radar.
The new opening date is slated for this fall. Until then they are at The Big Wonderful every Saturday, an outdoor market place at 26th and Lawrence. They sell reusable containers made of glass and stainless steal and flatware made of bamboo. They do not sell food products yet, but they do have ingredients to make homemade deodorant and toothpaste, and readymade bulk items like shampoo, liquid soap, and bug spray.
“I think it’s mostly just getting people to think what all the products they buy are,” said Lyndsey Manderson about being at the marketplace. “What the packaging is and kind of showing them the alternatives that are available and give them some pointers on how to make their own at home for much less money and also with a lot less of the toxins and chemicals that are in the conventional products you buy at the grocery store.”
Right now there’s only one ZERO Market in the works, but Lyndsey Manderson has received dozens of emails from people asking her to start something in their state. Some sort of expansion is in the Mandersons’ five-year plan; eventually they also hope to offer delivery and be able to direct customers to other zero waste resources. They may consult with other states instead of creating more stores because they want to keep their footprint small and stay local. ■