History of the Local Food Hub in New Orleans: Hollygrove and Jack and Jake’s

Food hubs are still so new that it is still unclear to most of us how they function best when they do function well. Are the best cooperatively managed or run by a non-profit or as sole proprietors? Funded slowly through income or quickly in one season with grants and other investments? How do they work with their sistren and brethren: farmers markets, CSAs, farmstands, mobile markets and the like? Here is how the USDA describes them:

Food hubs are businesses or organizations that “aggregate the crops of small farmers (to) provide enough local food for not just consumers but schools etc. By offering a combination of aggregation, distribution, and marketing services at an affordable price, food hubs make it possible for many producers to gain entry into new larger-volume markets that boost their income and provide them with opportunities for scaling up production.

Here is a link to their 2012 report.

Jack and Jake’s has called themselves the first food hub in Louisiana; this version came to New Orleans in 2009 through John Burns who has family ties to rural farming in the state and worked for a short time at the area’s first storefront aggregator of local goods, Hollygrove Market. Actually, at one time, Hollygrove Market was presented as a food hub too and received much attention with that description. It now focuses on urban farming education and selling local products collected from market farmers and others who drop off at the site, all sold at its storefront or online store. They do offer delivery for a very low fee when the purchase is under 50.00.  The term food hub is no longer found on their site.

So after working for Hollygrove for a few months, John Burns announced his for-profit and expansive food hub, originally to be located just a few blocks away.  He received a great deal of press and significant investment money and the offer of a few high-profile locations in the 5 years that he ran the project. Unfortuantely, by most local standards, the amount of attention this project received didn’t seem to match the output in that same period.

Finally, he left the project and then the developers renamed the project the Dryades Public Market. It’ll be interesting to see if he shows up again with his Jack and Jake’s brand.

Here is some timeline of this idea’s history that I could remember or dig up:

Jack and Jake’s, a New Orleans entrepreneurial startup company founded in 2009, has created the very first local food hub in Louisiana.

2010 Earhart location, called a grocery store at this point

2012 90,000+ sq ft food hub. The details are not included, but my memory is that the hub they refer to in this story were 2 locations: a warehouse in Slidell that they used as a collector for farmers to drop off items in 2012 but suffered damage in Hurricane Isaac and forced its closure and their Earhart location which was never opened.

2014 New location in a renovated school building on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, complete with 1,000,000 city loan

2015 Founder John Burns out, new name as a public market but still called Jack and Jakes

2015: New CEO and new name

The long-delayed Jack & Jake’s Public Market in Central City has a new name and a new leader, reports the Advocate. The project, which benefited from a $1 million loan from the city, has rebranded as Dryades Public Market. Dan Esses, chef and owner of Three Muses on Frenchmen Street, will lead the project.

 

December 30, 2016

Dan Esses, the CEO of Dryades Public Market on Central City’s Orthea Castle Haley Boulevard, will leave the market in two months.

“It was just time for me to move on. I gave it as much as I could,” said Esses, who is also a partner in Three Muses on Frenchmen and Maple streets and owns the pasta company Esses Food. “This is an amicable move.”

Esses does not expect the market’s board to name a successor CEO. In a letter to shareholders and lenders, Esses said that eliminating his salary was necessary “in light of our economic reality.”

“There will be restructuring and downsizing,” he said in an interview. “They’re just looking to shrink the footprint a little.”

A consultant specializing in grocery stores and turnaround strategies has been hired and will provide concrete suggestions by the end of February.

 

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