Today, the third of Meijer’s newest ventures into neighborhood grocery store formats will finally open up after months of hype and anticipation. Rivertown Market, located at 1475 E Jefferson, is open to the public.
Media professionals were invited to Rivertown market last Friday to preview the facility and meet with a few of the 2,000 local brands who’ll be featured on its shelves. The building itself is cheery, open and welcoming, giving off Whole Foods vibes with a Detroit flavor. The signs are handwritten in chalk, clever and welcoming, and while the shelves were empty at the preview, it wasn’t hard to imagine how they’ll look chock-full of bright, fresh produce.
Marcus Reliford, manager for Rivertown Market, says the comfortable and friendly aura is intentional and genuine.
“I moved away at 17, but I’m a Detroit kid through and through, so I can’t help but be excited for something like this. Not only will we focus on bringing the freshest produce to Detroit, but also fostering the best relationships between customers, brands and workers. The atmosphere here is of foremost importance,” Reliford says.
The in-house coffee bar is amazing, and the fresh flower shop will no doubt be a hit, but the best part about Rivertown Market hands down are the brands, products and businesses who will be featured and sold in the market. Pizzaman Pizza, Washington’s Gourmet Cheesecakes, GLAM and For Heaven’s Cakes were the four brands present at the reception, ready with tables full of samples that are available for purchase today.
All four brands are Black-owned, with backgrounds and journeys as varied as the products they offer. While I chowed down on an absolutely delicious slice of barbeque chicken from Pizzaman Pizza, owner Ray Tucker explained how he came up with his signature sauce recipe and double-crust baking technique with his family and turned a pandemic business into a Rivertown Market staple.
“I told my wife that I wanted to sell pizza- it was just the first thing that came to my mind, but it was perfect. We spent hours trying to get our own unique spin and flavor on it. People let us know once we did,” Tucker says.
I asked what the history behind the fun name was, and the answer made so much sense. “Who else brings you the pizza, but the Pizzaman? I wanted something recognizable that sticks in your brain. Being in the market now is going to skyrocket the amount of people who go, ‘I want pizza’ and immediately think of me. It’ll also give me more resources to reach out to other culinary Black owners and let me help them out, incubator-style, in my own place,” Tucker says.
Jaqueline Sanders, owner of For Heaven’s Cakes, is a third-generational baker with roots in Mobile, Alabama. She started with baking goods for church fundraisers, and eventually started her own business. She approached Rivertown Market with a smile and a wagon full of treats, and an offer to be sold in stores was not very far off after that.
“People don’t believe me when I say I came with a wagon, but I did! Like one of the ones you put babies in. I packed it full because I didn’t know how much I would need. Marcus tried a few of my goodies, and the rest is history,” Sanders says.
I consider myself a cheesecake aficionado. I didn’t expect to taste the literal best cheesecake I’ve ever had in my life at Rivertown Market, but I did. Victor Washington, owner of Washington’s Gourmet Cheesecakes, was in and out from his table during the preview to check on the progress of his bakery secio in the back to make sure everything was perfect.
He says that pickiness is part of the recipe that makes his cheesecakes so fantastic.
“Love, creativity, and being particular, that’s how I make my magic. I’m very choosy about who I work with, where I have my cheesecakes, and everything in between,” Washington says.
Washington has been in business and quite renowned for some years, so he says that while being included at Rivertown Market is exciting, it feels like more of a validation and a pathway to helping others rather than an overwhelming experience.
“This feels right, and I can’t wait to use this to help other people the way I was helped. I’m far from the only Black business who deserves more shine and publicity,” Washington says.