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Stay Focused Local Spotlight: City Feed

Erik and Randal sit down with David Warner, owner of City Feed in Jamaica Plain.


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Stay Focused Local Spotlight: City Feed

Randal Engelmann & Erik Gould

We are Randal Engelmann and Erik Gould, partners in providing exceptional customer service...

We are Randal Engelmann and Erik Gould, partners in providing exceptional customer service...

Aug 21 10 minutes read

This week, Erik and Randal sit down with David Warner, owner of City Feed in Jamaica Plain. 

TRANSCRIPT:

Randal:
Welcome back to Stay Focused. Focus Real Estate's weekly video series. Today we're doing local spotlight.

Erik:
Yeah. And we are here in City Feed and Supply in Jamaica Plain, the original store on Boylston Street with the co-owner and founder David Warner. David, welcome.

David Warner:
Thanks for having me.

Erik:
Welcome to our video series.

David Warner:
Welcome to you guys.

Randal:
Thank you.

Erik:
We've been wanting to make this happen for quite a while, and I'm glad we were able to make this work. And share with all our viewers out there a little bit about your store and about what City Feed is and who you are.

David Warner:
What City Feed is. Yeah.

Erik:
Yeah, yeah.

David Warner:
So City Feed and Supply. We first had the idea about 20 years ago, 1999, and my wife Christine Cortese and myself, we were dating at the time, and we were living... She was actually being around the corner, and I was living just a couple blocks up the street. So we both lived right here by the store, but it was vacant. The prior variety store had gone out of business, and the space was vacant.

David Warner:
So one day we were having dinner after work and she said, "You know that little store is vacant down there. Wouldn't it be great if they sold food you actually wanted to eat and a good cup of coffee?" And I was like, "That's a great idea. It's right there. We live in this neighborhood. It's what we want to see. We should tell somebody else to do that."

Randal:
To do that.

Erik:
You've never had any intention to do it yourself.

David Warner:
No, no intention because neither one of us had any experience since we were teenagers-

Erik:
Doing retail, food.

David Warner:
Retail or food service. And I just-

Erik:
What do you think? Are we crazy?

David Warner:
Yeah, exactly. But I couldn't get the idea out of my head. And so I started just researching, seeing what it would take, finding out who the landlord was, what they wanted to make, looking at the space, seeing what kind of work if needed.

David Warner:
And over the course of the year, we wrote a business plan. We applied for funding. We negotiated a lease, and in January of 2000, we signed the lease, and in May of 2000 right before "Wake Up the Earth," we opened our doors.

Erik:
That's awesome.

Randal:
And you've been making great coffee ever since.

Erik:
We have been making great coffee.

Randal:
You have the best coffee.

Erik:
[sandwiches and... Yeah.

David Warner:
Yeah. We've been working with Equal Exchange. They're located in West Bridgewater. They're a national-

Erik:
I didn't realize they were that close.

David Warner:
Yeah, we, we worked with them. They were one of the first coffee companies we reached out to because of their mission to work with small farmers. And I come from a rural background, grew up in Southern Missouri in a very rural area and Christine, my wife, grew up in Southern California, but her family before that both her parents grew up in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, and her grandfather had a feed store. Thus the name-

Erik:
The City Feed-

David Warner:
City Feed and Supply is the reference to her grandfather's store, which was Cortese Feed and Supply.

Randal:
Nice.

Erik:
Awesome. In New Mexico.

David Warner:
Cortese in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

Erik:
Going on 20 years now.

David Warner:
Yup. Almost 20 years.

Erik:
Yeah.

David Warner:
Yeah. 20 years the idea and 19 years since we opened the doors.

Randal:
And you've grown a little since then.

David Warner:
We've grown a little since then. Yep. In 2000-

Randal:
Just a little.

David Warner:
Yeah, just a little. In 2008 we opened the second store on Center Street, 672 Center Street. We definitely thought we were a little bit crazy, and a lot of people in the neighborhood thought we were a little bit crazy, but the business grew. The demand was there. We added in sandwiches because we got tired of people coming in at lunch and asking if we made sandwiches. So we started making sandwiches.

Erik:
You just responded to your customer base.

David Warner:
Exactly. Yeah.

Randal:
So you're cafe with sandwiches.

David Warner:
Full service cafe, full service deli, and full service grocery, but not obviously a supermarket scale.

Randal:
Right.

David Warner:
So I think what we tried to do is-

Erik:
Fresh fruits and vegetables.

David Warner:
Be a neighborhood market that is as full service as we can possibly be. Our inventory skews as much as possible to organic and local. So 40 percent of our inventory is locally sourced. All the produce that isn't locally sourced is organic. And then we have a lot of specialty food that comes from local regional and some imports. We added wine and beer in 2010 at the Center Street store. So we've been growing, adapting-

Erik:
That's awesome. Yeah.

David Warner:
Changing.

Erik:
Soups.

David Warner:
But it's still a good cup of coffee and food you actually want to eat.

Erik:
And you've become a real staple here in the Jamaica Plain community over the last 20 years.

David Warner:
Yeah, I mean, we try to... I think, what did motivate Christine and myself wasn't so much that we really wanted to be in the food business, but we wanted to be in a neighborhood business because we both had been drawn to this neighborhood. We didn't grow up here. We've moved here and just loved it and thought if there's something we can do where, like you guys, we live and work-

Erik:
Exactly.

David Warner:
Close by.

Erik:
everything we love and play and eat.

David Warner:
And we're serving our peers, people we know, and just feeling a connection to our work that we thought maybe that'll be rewarding. And it is.

Randal:
It is, isn't it?

David Warner:
It is very rewarding. It's the most rewarding part of the job. Now we're able to live in the neighborhood. We own an apartment in the neighborhood. Our son goes to school in the neighborhood. And we work in the neighborhood, and it's just been great.


Erik:
And so we want the neighborhood to support our local businesses, and speaking of local businesses, JP Local First.

David Warner:
Yeah.

Erik:
David is one of the directors of JP Local First and probably one of the founding members of that as well.

David Warner:
Yeah. A founding member, yep. Definitely a founding member.

Erik:
Which we're a part of as well.

David Warner:
Yep. I appreciate that.

Erik:
And we appreciate all the work you've done with JP Local First in the business district here.

Speaker 1:
Awesome.

Speaker 2:
Great.

Randal:
What's something you'd like to share with the viewers that they might not know about your business or you guys-

David Warner:
Something that I could share.

Randal:
To put you on the spot.

David Warner:
I know, right?

Randal:
Right? I mean you're very involved in the community.

David Warner:
Yeah.

Randal:
And I think people respect that. I know that hard.

David Warner:
Yeah. I mean, it's hard for me to try to think of what folks don't know.

Erik:
Any one thing.

David Warner:
Doesn't everybody know everything about-

Randal:
How about your favorite sandwich? What's your favorite-

David Warner:
Well, actually-

Erik:
That's a good one.

David Warner:
It is a good one and I think a lot of-

Randal:
Farmer's Friend. I mean, it would have to be mine.

David Warner:
Yeah, yeah. Exactly. And I think the story with that one is a good one because it's a precursor to us serving sandwiches here, or me having any idea that I would ever want to even be in the sandwich business. And when I was still single and I had a roommate, he had a ton of tomatoes that didn't ripen up so he's like, "I'm just going to pickle them." So he did a simple pickle recipe for his green tomatoes, and we were snacking on them one day, and he had some sharp cheddar cheese too. And he just put the pickled green tomato with the sharp cheddar cheese, and it created... You know how food can sometimes create these memories when you're hanging out with somebody you like and you have something new, and you're like, "This is a great flavor combination."

David Warner:
And years later we were making a menu, and mostly we were focused on just classic combination.

Randal:
Ham and Swiss. That kind of thing.

Erik:
Deli sandwiches.

David Warner:
Yeah, exactly. Deli sandwiches. We put a signup out, and we said, "Write down your favorite sandwich." And we took that inspiration from our customers and from-

Randal:
There you go.

David Warner:
People who worked here, whenever I said, but there's one thing we have to get on the menu, some sort of combination of pickled green tomatoes and sharp cheddar cheese. And that's the the farmer's lunch.

Erik:
Awesome.

Randal:
That's awesome.

David Warner:
And it's been a popular sandwich, and-

Erik:
Been with you 15 years now, huh?

David Warner:
Exactly, yeah.

Erik:
Awesome.

Erik:
Well, we thank you for being part of the community and providing to the community, and hope that all our viewers will continue to support both City Feed and Supplies on Boylston Street and on Center Street. Where can they find you online too?

David Warner:
cityfeedandsupply.com.

David Warner:
We are building a new website, which should be launched in the next 30 days. I have the time this is out-

Randal:
Out, it'll

David Warner:
The new website should be out.

Erik:
Great.

Erik:
Thank you so much for joining us.

David Warner:
Thanks to you guys.

Erik:
And being part of the community.

David Warner:
It's been a pleasure.

Randal:
Yeah. And thanks for watching everybody. Until next time, stay tuned and stay focused.

Erik:
Stay tuned and stay focused.

David Warner:
Adios. 



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