Simone Reggie opened the neighborhood grocery Simone's Market (8201 Oak St.; www.simonesmarket.com) on Dec. 23. Reggie previously worked with the John Besh Foundation, where she helped farmers obtain microloans. She also cofounded the butcher shop Cleaver & Co. and worked for Good Eggs, the food delivery service that closed its New Orleans hub in 2015.
What was your inspiration for the market?
Reggie: When I grew up, my dad had a restaurant. I knew I wanted to do something in food, but I just didn't know what yet. When I started working for the John Besh (Foundation), [Besh] wanted to start the microloan initiative, which is now called Milk Money. ... I started realizing the struggles that local farmers have, because they didn't have any outlets at the time to get their products out.
The guys at (San Francisco's) Bi-Rite (www.biritemarket.com) have been my mentors all the way. I reached out to Sam (Mogannam), the owner, and went out there to work with them for a week. ... He and Calvin (Tsay), his partner at Bi-Rite, have been so supportive. But it's on a different scale: We're not California, this utopian society of wonderful food.
On the website, there's a photo. It's of my great-grandfather taken in 1930 in his grocery store in Crowley, Louisiana. He came to this country in 1920 with $18 in his pocket, a pregnant wife, a child and a sister. In a matter of 10 years, during the Depression, he was able to open a couple of grocery stores.
What's your mission at the market?
R: To source things locally when possible. But you can't fill the need of a grocery store with just (local products), so (also) filling in the gaps with lots of other amazing products that are out there by companies who are doing good things. People want spinach year-round. They want avocados, they want bananas — so just making sure those good products are there and knowing where they come from. I want to stay away from the word "specialty," because it's not that. There are some pretty special products on these shelves, but at the same time, you'll look up and see Newman's Own salad dressing. Paul Newman started that company and they give 100 percent of their profits to charity. They're good, and just because they're big companies, doesn't mean that they're bad companies.
What can people expect to find at the market?
R: You can find your produce; you'll be able to find meat, a wide array of good cheese, milk, dairy, nondairy, good kombuchas and juices, but not an overly big selection. Sometimes you go to a store and there are 15 bottles of olive oil and you're not sure what's the best one. We'll have an affordable one and an artisanal one, and that's it. Because it's small — you're looking at 15,000 square-feet of customer space.
I've hired an executive chef, Ashley Roussel. She's from Lafayette and she's going to be doing a wonderful line of prepared foods. Not only will you be able to come and get what you need to make (food) at home but you can also grab something to go that's not your typical grocery store meal. ... There will be grain bowls, homemade pasta sauces, meatloaf, lots of salads and good vegetables, and I'm Lebanese, so we'll have a line of Lebanese foods as well. We hope to eventually have hot dinner service from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., where you can come in and grab something warm to go.
It's not going to compete with Winn-Dixie, but if you shop for your pantry staples, it's going to be around on point. Eventually, we'll get into beer, wine and liquor. We want people to come for the prepared foods, but the main thing is for the neighborhood to have a grocery store, as there's no grocery store for 1.3 miles around here.