Downtown Lynn is a pretty diverse community. Young singles and couples, families, and senior citizens of all backgrounds call the area home. The one thing they have in common? The tight quarters that come with urban dwelling. Many also share something else—reliance on public transportation.
Now they have one more thing in common, with the opening of Sin City Superette in May. This convenience store—the brainchild of Rachel Miller, chef/owner of Nightshade Noodle Bar and Lynn resident—is custom-built for the realities of cooking and dining in a small space, with petite packages of fresh foods, like single sticks of butter, half-loaves of bread, or a dinner of to-go sushi.
“It’s a cool task to build something that caters to many members of the community while enhancing the availability of fresh food,” Miller says of Sin City Superette, which draws its tongue-in-cheek moniker from a long-ago nickname for the city of Lynn. “All the new developments coming into downtown Lynn are mostly studios and one-bedrooms and geared towards people who don’t have kids,” Miller says.
But those folks are not the only ones who may need fresh things in small packages—Miller says people living on fixed incomes or relying on food stamps are better served by purchasing exactly what they need, when they need it, rather than winding up with five pounds of rice or a whole head of broccoli. Since food stamps are ever-more prevalent since the pandemic started, EBT was the first account she set up, with an eye toward serving the entire community.
The shop offers groceries as well as prepared foods like breakfast sandwiches, burgers (both beef and vegan), poke bowls, and a rotating menu of sandwiches. Specials so far have included swordfish-and-veggie kabobs ready for the grill and shrimp and scallop ceviche bowls. Sweet treats like housemade gelato and crispy churros are also on offer.
The idea for the superette was born in the early days of the pandemic. Miller’s Nightshade Noodle Bar had only been open a few months when everything was shut down in March 2020, and she found her neighbors were stopping by looking for staples, because the stores nearby were closed or out of basic items.
“People were coming to us for things like toilet paper and butter—stuff that they weren’t able to get because grocery stores were closed,” Miller recalls. “We were also the only thing that some people could walk to.” Which was critical with public transportation all but shut down.
While buying things in small packages is usually more costly, Miller has a different plan. With Sin City attached to her restaurant, she realized she could take advantage of economies of scale to make items affordable. The plan: buy in bulk, cook some at Nightshade, and repackage some for Sin City. “I can purchase a case of carrots, for example, and sell it multiple ways,” she says, explaining that most small stores need to purchase lesser amounts, paying more, and winding up with less profit and a lot more risk. But if those carrots aren’t selling in the superette, she can pull them off the shelves, roast them at Nightshade then sell as prepared food.
Not only does that help with costs and profitability, it also eliminates a lot of food waste—a synergy that is also in place with Sin City Sushi, the new take-out counter inside the superette. Operated by Kathleen Chisholm, who formerly ran sushi programs for Whole Foods, in addition to her own catering company Sushi Mommie, Sin City Sushi uses sushi-grade fish from Nightshade in its take-out offerings, while Miller can use Chisholm’s fish trim in a variety of dishes in the restaurant.
“The cross utilization is creating a lot of buzz and inspiration,” Miller says, noting that Chisholm approached Miller with the idea of opening the counter, and the chef immediately saw the synergies. “It is going to provide another cool, fresh, healthy protein option in our neighborhood,” Miller says. “Takeout sushi is a big deal, especially since the shutdown. Car sushi picnics have become quite popular.”
While the business aspects make sense, Miller is driven by giving back to the community she loves. Senior citizens will get free delivery, and in addition to food, the shop also sells common over-the-counter medicines, batteries, mouthwash, feminine hygiene products, and scotch tape, making it easier for neighbors to get items they need without making special trips.
“We’re just trying to fill some of the gaps in the types of businesses that are currently in downtown Lynn,” she says. “We just want to provide more options in general, and better quality of food at a reasonable cost.”
Open Wednesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
71 Exchange St., Lynn, sincitysuperette.com