The cheese case is packed and wines, olive oils and other delicacies line the walls at Wellington’s Marketplace, across from the statehouse in downtown Concord. Husband-and-wife owners Debra and Randy Barnes opened the new marketplace in April.
“We knew that Main Street was missing this kind of store. There’s been really nothing here for a few years,” Debra Barnes said. “We have people that are in here five days a week already, sometimes twice a day, because they’ll come in here and they’ll have something for lunch and then come back and bring home something for dinner, instead of going to the grocery store.”
Both Debra and and Randy Barnes are self-described foodies and for years had looked into purchasing a food business. But then they decided to open their own storefront with specialty food products and prepared foods.
In January, the couple visited a food show in San Francisco to try out products and cheeses to stock the market’s inventory.
“That just ended up with a real good feel for what we wanted to carry,” Debra Barnes said. “I know that we have things in here that are no where else in the state of New Hampshire.”
Products like Blackberry Patch syrups and jams, chorizo ibérico and raspberry, lemon and lime snap cookies are just a few of those products. Barnes said that the wines in stock are not available at any state liquor stores around Concord.
There’s also homemade peanut butter and prepared foods like olives or panko crusted chicken available in the case at the counter.
“For anybody that’s making paella, or just wants it sliced with some Manchego — we have both raw milk and organic — you can put together any kind of an antipasto platter from here anytime,” Barnes said. “Our prepared foods are made all here. Everything is made from scratch. We make everything in small batches so you’re not always going to see the same things in the case. We’ll have our standards, but we’re changing all the time.”
Other culinary ingredients found on the shelves in Wellington’s Marketplace include pestos and a sea salt collection — an entire wall filled with infused sea salts, smoked bacon salt, applewood smoked salt and black truffle salt.
Barnes said she already has plans to bring in a smoker to smoke salmon and sausages, and she’d like to start offering regular wine tastings in June. She also hopes to collaborate with her neighbor, The Crust & Crumb Baking Company, in the future.
Barnes wants Wellington’s Marketplace (named after her grandfather, George Wellington Richards) to feel like a hometown market. Customers are greeted as they walk in and are offered samples of the various treats in stock. Barnes and her other employees can tell the story behind each of the cheeses in the case and suggest what to pair them with.
“As I say, you want to kind of feel like someone’s putting a sweater over your shoulders and giving you that warm fuzzy feeling when you walk in,” she said. “There’s people that don’t always want to go into a giant grocery store. … It’s that customer service, it’s creating that atmosphere that makes you want to come back.”
The owners’ culinary passion can also be found in their greenhouse, where Debra Barnes grows heirloom vegetables with organic practices.
Previously, local Concord eateries at The Centennial and Angelina’s sourced their vegetables from the Barnes’ greenhouse. Barnes also attended culinary school, where she earned her degree solely out of passion for food.
Now, that degree is coming in handy as she prepares special sandwich menus for lunch, with items like flank steak with red pepper mayo, arugula and cheddar cheese warmed on a grilled ciabatta roll.
“We’re keeping our lunch menu very condensed; that’s the only way we can change it every day or every other day,” Barnes said. “When something runs out, the ‘sold out’ sign goes on the blackboard.”