DURAND, MI — Melanie Tratt, co-owner of Tiger Shark Cafe, has noticed she’s getting more business than she did a few months ago.
On Thursday morning, she prepared 10 new orders of family feast meals that customers ordered through the startup company Market Wagon.
Market Wagon, an online farmers market and delivery service that aims to help local farmers and artisanal food vendors get their products to local consumers, recently launched in Durand. The city is the company’s newest local food hub and twentieth location.
The company, dubbed an “online farmers market,” allows customers to browse locally grown products on their computer or smartphone throughout the week and place an order from multiple local vendors with one single checkout.
Orders are delivered each Thursday afternoon in insulated totes using ice packs as-needed to preserve freshness. Area residents can enjoy local shopping not only during harvest season but all year long, after most physical farmers markets have closed for the season, according to company officials.
The company is accepting home delivery orders for its Central Michigan area, which includes Flint, Midland, Lapeer and Saginaw, Clinton, Ingham, Eaton, Gratiot, and Shiawassee counties.
Nick Carter, co-founder and CEO of Market Wagon, grew up on his family’s farm in Indiana and was poised to become a fourth-generation farmer, but family farms were starting to die out, he said, due to the “consolidation and centralization of food supply in the U.S.”
“When I was 18, I left the farm, I moved to the city and got involved in tech startups and really just over the last five to seven years, I started realizing that my passions still lie in agriculture,” Carter said.
Carter’s passion and his tech background meshed to create a new way for consumers to get food delivered from a local supply chain and make a significant impact for farmers. Over 1,000 farmers and artisans, including Carter’s dad, have joined the platform.
The Tiger Shark Cafe, 1008 N. Saginaw St., is one of the businesses in Shiawassee County that has joined the platform. Customers can order a loaded mac and cheese bread bowl, homestyle coleslaw, Semper Fi breakfast burrito or the popular family feast.
“This is our third week and it has been a great revenue addition,” Tratt said of the cafe, which is also a fun center.
Tratt explained some people are hesitant to dine at the business or enjoy the fun center because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Market Wagon has helped continue to keep our business afloat and assist us in paying our bills and our overhead in our building right now,” Tratt said.
The business started as a food truck five years ago and eventually moved into brick and mortar, where it has operated out of for the last year. At some point during the coronavirus pandemic, the business was struggling to keep the lights on, but with some help from a crowdfunding campaign, it was able to overcome the issue, Tratt said.
There are over 200 local products to choose from in the Central Michigan market already, with more vendors loading new products every day. Shopping requires no upfront fees or long-term subscriptions. Interested food producers can apply to become a vendor on the company’s website.
“Market Wagon’s mission is to enable food producers to thrive in their local and regional markets,” Dan Brunner, co-founder of Market Wagon, said. “The company accomplishes that mission by providing exceptional choice and service to their nearby customers who will know exactly where their food comes from.”
Other locations where Market Wagon has launched include Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
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