By Courtney Charbonneau
Back to Roots market opens in Bankers Hill
Each morning, a large pull-down door goes up welcoming each person who walks in to the large, open space. Bright colors spread out across wooden tabletops. The smell of fresh herbs and warm baked bread fills the air and offers a sense of ease.
Family, friends and strangers all come together striving for the same goals in a community-like atmosphere. The new artisan market Back to Roots in Bankers Hill is all this and more.
The meaningful journey began back when co-owner Curro Smid Ariza, or “Philip,” and his brother Jan Christiaan grew up helping out on their grandfather’s farm, El Campito Farm in Descanso. It originally only had apples and grapes. In 2010, the brothers started hand-harvesting vegetables.
The plan to create a farm-to-table market came after. Gustaf Anders Rooth, a master craftsman from Sweden and neighbor received a call from Back to Roots partner Alvaro Miranda Hernandez and urged a get-together. From there, Rooth showed Ariza the place that would soon be the market, right next door to Rooth’s studio.
On Nov. 15, Back to Roots lit up and opened its doors for the first time.
“It all happened so fast,” said Ariza.
Loose tea, meat, cheese, baked goods, sauces and pastas — Back to Roots offers a broad array of edible goodness.
Hernandez’s offering at the market comes from Iberico Taste. He provides the meats from acorn-fed animals in Spain, along with a variety of cheeses. One meat to try is the chorizo, which spiked an interesting conversation between Ariza and his wife while attempting to describe its original taste. It’s a Spanish sausage “without the kick,” they agreed.
“Let’s just say it’s delicious, but uniquely indescribable,” Ariza laughed.
Some of the most popular products right now are the Iberico ham, bread and Bloomsdale spinach. The bread is from Prager Brothers Artisan Breads, handmade from heirloom grains. It’s a go-to for Flor Franco, an award-winning executive chef and owner of Acqua Al 2 at Back to Roots. She creates and provides prepared meals for customers on the go. For example, on Thanksgiving, a family could come in and walk out with a full dinner for eight to 10 people. After a few pending permits are approved, they’ll add wine and ready-made sandwiches to the offering.
The vendors who wish to sell out of Back to Roots, located at 3318 Fifth Ave., come in and out as they please. It’s simple, according to Ariza. They contact him and figure out a good time to come in with their dollies to set up. One requirement is that the products are grown and created in a traditional manner. He said he enjoys giving everybody a chance to join in, and that keeping it local is what it’s all about.
“Hence the name, Back to Roots,” he said.
Ariza is a vendor himself, selling produce from his family’s farm. Everything is seasonal and grown locally.
“We don’t use sprays or anything,” he said.
It’s completely organic at Back to Roots. The carrot seeds, Ariza’s favorite, come from France, which are Ariza’s favorite. It’s all fresh and according to him, the produce switches out every two days. When asked why that is, he said, “I’d rather give my customers produce that is real to its roots than give them something just because it lasts longer.”
“A main priority is to make it how it used to be 100 years ago” for the customers, said Ariza. What makes Back to Roots stand out today is that it’s open seven days a week. Ariza said he remembers working with other farmers markets in the past and buyers would ask where they could get their products other days of the week. This prompted Ariza to open his market every day of the week to meet the demand.
So far, Ariza said Thursday through Saturday are the market’s busiest days. The bread goes fast, according to Ariza’s wife, Sofia Arregui. Don’t worry; she’ll put it on hold until the end of the day. She also plays a needed role in the market’s operations by greeting customers, informing them about new products, as well as making sure the market is decorated with a little flair.
Ariza and Co. call this current stage in the market “phase one.” In “phase two,” Ariza plans to provide a place for customers to sit and enjoy some wine onsite. It all pairs with Rooth’s newest line of art and first commercialized brand, “Barrelly Made It,” featuring pieces made out of wine barrels that will be displayed in Back to Roots.
“The excitement of starting something new, meeting new people and overcoming challenges is the most fun about this job,” Ariza said. “It’s a pain when challenges are there, but when it’s over, it’s a great feeling.”
—Contact Courtney Charbonneau at email@example.com.