The goat cheese is from Topsfield and the root beer is from Maine. The cookies—those that are not made in-house—come from Essex. The coffee beans are roasted around the corner in Salem, and the shiny, crimson apples piled high in a box at the front of the store were grown just a few miles up the road, in Peabody.
Everywhere you turn inside the exposed brick walls of Salem’s Milk & Honey Green Grocer, local foods abound.
“We focus on sustainability and working with purveyors who are artisanal and small,” says Bill Driscoll, who owns the Church Street shop with his wife, Sharon.
Milk & Honey opened in 2010, but the seeds of the endeavor were planted years earlier. When the couple moved to Salem from Medford in the late 1990s, the downtown had scant options for dining and entertainment, Bill recalls. Then, perhaps 10 years ago, things started to change as new businesses opened, attracting more visitors and employees to the neighborhood.
The Driscolls wanted to be part of the transformation. They decided there was an opening for the kind of shop they like to frequent when they visit other towns: personal, warm, and—most important— filled with good food.
“We wanted to create a business that complemented some of the other things going on and fill a void,” Bill says.
To house their dream, they found a former real estate office tucked away on a side street. The floors were covered in old carpet that still bore indents tracing the edges of cubicles; telephone wires dangled from the ceiling, and there was no water access.
“It was just a shell of a space,” remembers Sharon, who left her job with an anti-hunger nonprofit organization to build her new business. The renovation took more effort than expected, but the result is a shop that blends the modern and the rustic. Behind a sunny yellow front door, the store is part old-fashioned neighborhood grocer, part contemporary gourmet shop, and part lunch spot.
The produce section in the front includes some local and organic offerings as well as some conventionally grown staples. Bulk bins hold nuts, flours, and dried fruits, and wooden shelves offer a carefully chosen range of oils, pastas, chips, and crackers.
For lunch, the sandwich menu includes house-roasted pork loin, turkey, and roast beef. Homemade quiche, scones, and cookies are available all day. Indoor seating and a pair of sidewalk tables draped in colorful tablecloths give customers a place to sit and enjoy their food. A selection of prepared grab-and-go entre?es and sides—mac ’n’ cheese, Thai tuna burgers, curried lentil salad—are made fresh daily.
The first couple of years were stressful, as they honed their business concept and dealt with the economic downturn. Now, however, they have found their place in the community.
“Now, it’s feeling good,” says Sharon. “It’s great to walk to work and know all your neighbors.” milkandhoneysalem.com