Archive - 2018

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Grit Grocery- Houston’s First Mobile Food Shopping Experience
2
Veatge Handcrafted Fine Jewelry
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Flophouze Hotel – Round Top’s Sustainable Best Kept Secret

Grit Grocery- Houston’s First Mobile Food Shopping Experience

Grit Grocery‘s recent launch is one of the best things that’s happened to the Houston food scene. I was able to check it out on a recent Sunday, while I was in the city. It was parked at Levy Park, with a white and black striped awning, and a neatly stacked pile of shopping baskets beckoning shoppers. Fresh produce and an assorted batch of local seafood, pasta, milk, bread, etc., lined the shelves of the open-air store front. The friendly one-on-one service was also a great perk.

Dustin Windham and his wife were living in Azerbaijan a few years ago, while Dustin was in the Peace Corps and working on some food projects. He recollected that they would visit the neighborhood butcher, bakery, and fruit stands several times a week. When they returned to the U.S., they noticed that the concept of having local and fresh food readily available was not a really an option, especially in Houston. Co-Founder Michael Powell further explains, “[While Dustin was in Azerbaijan], he saw how people around the world shop for and consume food. People eat fresh, they shop often and there is easier access to food markets on the street or in small shops. In places like Azerbaijan, “local” is not a food trend, it’s a way of life. And that’s a radically different model than what we’ve become accustomed to in the United States, which relies on a giant food industry driven mostly by profit margins and processed food. Grit takes inspiration from how people have been shopping for food for centuries. We want to see more people making more trips to the store, but it has to be an easier and more friendly retail experience.The other side of Grit’s inspiration is from entrepreneurial startup culture, where people are making dreams a reality and where technology can facilitate solutions that society had never anticipated. Grit is using a range of high-tech solutions to make this old-school grocery a model of innovation.”

Grit Grocery was launched in 2015. The team found that it takes grit to take back your health, thus inspiring the company name. “It takes grit to farm the land and produce the nutritious products that make people live healthy. Oh, and we’ve quickly found that it takes some grit to start up a grocery store in the 21st century,” Powell stated.

When asked about why they chose to have a mobile truck, instead of a brick n’ mortar, Michael explained, “I’ve actually been working in the food retail design industry for the last 12 years, which is how I connected with Dustin. I have a PhD in cultural anthropology and have been working with a design firm as a consultant, studying shopping behaviors, food culture trends and food brands. In that time, I’ve consistently found that most people are less than satisfied with their grocery shopping experiences. It’s a time-consuming chore. While food culture is blowing up around us, the grocery store is mostly stuck in the mid 20th century. And that’s largely because people don’t have many viable alternatives. So it’s no wonder that as soon as online grocery or alternative stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods came along, people jumped the grocery ship quickly. But those experiences are lacking, for a number of reasons. Grit offers a more social and neighborhood experience. Our merchants don’t just stock shelves, they’re passionate advocates for local food, and the value of cooking and eating together. And the products that Grit offers are not just local, but we don’t carry any of the processed junk that has now come to fill the shelves at many of our competitors. The truck is a flexible, convenient platform. It allows us to go places where our competitors can’t or won’t go. The numbers make sense, too. A new ground-up grocery store can cost upwards of $15 million, and then they have to employ 200 people and maintain the 50 thousand square foot building (and 100 thousand square foot parking lot) 24-7-365. Grit trucks cost a fraction of that price, and maintenance is much lower. So basically, the cost of a few grocery stores could fund enough Grit trucks to be in most Houston neighborhoods, not to mention effectively ridding Houston of food deserts.”

They have quite a variety of locally-sourced product, including, “In produce, our main suppliers are Gundermann Acres in Wharton, Lightsey Farms in Mexia and Sustainable Harvesters in Hockley. Meat is supplied from Three Sisters Farm in Tomball, Liberty Provisions in Richmond and Rocking 711 Ranch in Edna. Seafood from Katie’s in Galveston. Fresh pasta from Fabio’s in Montrose (Houston). Ice cream from Fat Cat Creamery in the Heights. Baked bread and cookies from Cake & Bacon in Houston. Brazos Valley Cheese from Waco. The list goes on. We also produce a lot of products in-house, so you can look for our Grit Grocery brand on: juice, hummus, prepped salads, soup and a few upcoming items.”

Ah….yes…. let’s talk about those cool meal bundles. I personally got the Pasta Salad bundle on my first visit, and it did not disappoint! I’m not really a cook, but I was able to understand the simple directions that were included, and it probably took me about a half-hour to prepare. I also added a pinch of my favorite See Salt before I added the sauce and veggies.

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Michael adds, “Meal Bundles include all the ingredients you need to make a simple, healthy, local meal. 2-3 servings per Meal Bundle. Local products are featured. We aim for classic crowd favorite recipes that take 15 minutes or less. No chef hat necessary. This is for your busy Tuesday evening dinner. Because the products are good, that’s going to make your meal taste great. Oh, and substitutions are always welcome. So when you visit the truck, talk to our Truck Merchant about the Bundles and make sure everything works for you.”

Great news, ya’ll! They plan on adding more trucks, which’ll mean more locations. “We are also developing technology solutions to make shopping the truck easier, including a “Chatbot” on the Facebook Messenger platform which will allow people to shop and pay for Meal Bundles before they leave the office, then come pick it up at the truck.”

Be sure to follow them on social media- Facebook and Instagram for further updates. Or check out their website.

Where and when to shop:

~Levy Park (3801 Eastside) on Sundays from 3pm to 8pm

~The Circuit Apartments in EaDo (2424 Capitol) Mondays and Wednesdays, from 4pm to 9pm

~Aris Market Square by Historic Market Square Houston (Downtown, 900 Preston), Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 4pm to 9pm

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

Grit Grocery, meal bundle, Houston, clean eating

“We’re always trying to learn more about our customers and what they want, what would help them in their daily lives when it comes to eating healthier and making local shopping easier. What kinds of Meal Bundles would you like to see? Or what kinds of products are you seeking? How can we make it easier to make weekday dinners more interesting? What kind of everyday food problems pop up–big or small–that we might be able to help solve? Grit Grocery is a flexible platform that’s always open to new ideas for how to improve food shopping,” Michael finished.

Veatge Handcrafted Fine Jewelry

I was first introduced to Veatge while I was browsing Flea at Silver Street several months back. I met with the lovely Krishna- who is the brand’s creative director. She preceded to show me her best sellers and other unique jewelry. Her pieces are simple, yet are refined and statement-worthy.

Veatge (pronounced way-aaa-je) is Catalan for “journey.” Catalan is a language that is spoken in parts of France and Spain.

Krishna Chavda’s journey began as a teen. She was working with her father and uncle in their fine jewelry business in India, where she was born and raised. The business mainly dealt with 22k bridal Indian jewelry. She goes on to explain, “I wasn’t really into the traditional designs, as they were only for special occasions. One day I found a tiny shop in the old part of my town, it had beautiful glass beads and gemstones and I was completely mesmerized by the colors and those unique beads, I bought a handful and made necklaces and chokers for myself. All of a sudden, I was a cool kid in the school. (Yes, chokers were trending big-time 25 years ago, and it came back in last few years). Collecting beads and making jewelry was always a hobby, I never thought about making a career in it. After migrating to the USA and working in the corporate sector for several years, I realized the crazy markups in the jewelry industry, and it felt like spending an entire paycheck for a well-made fine piece of jewelry. I also briefly worked at a Turkish jewelry store during my college days, which gave me a good understanding of women’s choice in the western countries.”

After migrating to the U.S., her goals were different, she wanted to be independent and travel the world. She then settled in Houston, and began sorting out her future. “After finishing Masters in Business Administration I started working as a Financial Analyst at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and then later moved to Houston’s oil and gas industry. My time was mainly spent with numbers, large data, and spreadsheets. It wasn’t until my daughter was born and I stayed home with her, when the major shift in interest happened,” she explained.

While she was staying home with her newborn daughter, she decided to take up silversmithing class. Then, an idea dawned on her. “I was already making jewelry and gifting it to friends and family. But inspiration didn’t come until my husband pointed out that I COULD actually create a business I wished existed all along – a new direct to consumer concept in fine jewelry that provides a single platform for unique high-grade designs from around the world at fair prices. With a little bit of bootstrapping, combined with his business expertise and my creativity, together we launched Veatge. The name aligns well with my personal journey of connecting back to my roots and a passion that I never even knew I had.”

Krishna goes on to explain her brand, “Veatge is known for fine jewelry that is minimal, modern and made to last. You can pick a piece of Veatge jewelry, and tell that it is made with high-quality materials by skilled hands. We work directly with trusted manufacturers who share our values and have been in business for many years. All our jewelry is made using only precious metals (sterling silver, 14kt gold, 18kt gold vermeil). We are merging technology and fine jewelry and creating a unique brand experience, with price points that are affordable and easily accessible through our website – this is what sets us apart from our competition.”

When asked about her favorite pieces from her brand, she replies, “I love to wear jewelry depending on the occasion and time of the day. I keep it simple with dainty pieces such as opal ring and studs during daytime and nighttime is all about statement gold jewelry. Dome Ring and Abstract Wire Hoops are a staple. I also wear hammered hoops in silver with three circles ring, you can never go wrong with them when you are in a hurry.”

You can find Veatge through the website, as well as through pop-up markets. They will be doing a pop-up in Dallas later this year. Be sure to sign up for a newsletter, or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

Veatge, necklaces, handmade jewelry, jewelry

One of Krishna’s first creations. (Image provided by Veatge)

Veatge, necklaces, handmade jewelry, jewelry

Dome Ring and Abstract Wire Hoops – Krishna’s signature pieces (Image provided by Veatge)

Veatge, handmade jewelry, jewelry

Krishna Chavda- founder of Veatge (Image provided by Veatge)

Veatge, handmade jewelry, jewelry

Me wearing Veatge. (Image by Krishna)

Flophouze Hotel – Round Top’s Sustainable Best Kept Secret

Hotels and inns all around the country have recently been embracing the small, sustainable, and minimal lodging markets. I’ve heard of glamping in luxury tents and yurts in the desert, airstreams, domes, tiny house AirBnBs, and more.

Matt White, who is known for his shop- Recycling the Past and venue (which is available for event rentals and photo shoots)- Round Top Ballroom, took tiny living to another level, and built Texas’ first shipping container hotel just minutes from downtown Round Top, TX. Matt has always had the constant urge for wanderlust, the need to recycle, and to create. Over 18 years ago, one of his friends who owns one of the fields in Round Top told him that he needed to come and check out Antiques Weekend. He took a half-loaded box truck and set up in the mud…and kept coming back to both the spring and fall shows for about seven years. In 1996, he launched one of the first salvage companies on the internet. The business has since been a interior design source for clients such as: Nordstrom, Anthropology, Polo, etc., as well as numerous restaurants, hotels, and other designers.

After falling in love with Texas and the Round Top area, he bought the current 7.5 acre property where the Texas branch of RTP is located. It wasn’t long after, when the idea of the shipping container hotel was conceptualized on a napkin while he was flying to some far off destination. He’d always been toying with the concept of building something from containers, which he also likes to refer to as his version of Lincoln Logs. He wanted to create something that looked raw on the outside, but nice on the inside; like the flophouzes, or rugged tiny surf shacks, that dot the New Jersey shoreline. The name flophouze just fit with the vibe he was going for.

In 2016, Matt and his team officially opened with three containers, all adorned with reclaimed artifacts that he had found while on trips around the globe. The hardwood floors are original to the containers, which have traveled the world numerous times over. The interior white pine walls were sourced from an old distillery in Kentucky, as well as the company’s farm in New York. All the windows were salvaged from an old school in Philadelphia that was slated for demolition. Kitchen cabinet bases came from an FDA lab in Brooklyn. The counter tops came from an old bowling alley from Texas. Matt wanted the overall vibe of the containers to be minimal, yet functional. Throughout his many years of traveling, he has spent nights in anything from luxury hotels to dumpy hole-in-the-walls, thus sparking his drive to deliver something unique and nice to his guests. Each houze has a different personality. The decor is also constantly evolving, and everything (including the containers) is for sale.

In 2017, the team added three more containers. Earlier this year, they added a small shipping container pool/spa that was crafted by Modpools. The pool continues to add to the ‘relocatable’ and ‘try before you buy’ themes that it shares with the living quarters. Flophouze partnered with Modpools, and is offering a free night’s stay to folks who purchase a pool through them. The property also features a covered BBQ area, complete with a smoker and a gas grill for guests who want to bring their own food. Guests can also relax on Adirondack chairs, hammocks, and also have access to the fire pits.

Matt has plans to continue to grow the property, as well as the possibility of expanding his concept to other parts of the nation.

My friend, Sofia and I stayed at the boutique hotel a couple weeks ago. The hotel has a self check-in process, where you receive an email after booking, explaining the process of getting the code to the lockbox, etc. Our home-away-from-home was Houze II, where there was a living room, kitchenette, bathroom, and bedroom. The whole space was open concept, with the bathroom that can be closed off with sliding doors. The living room offered a cozy couch with a coffee table and a selection of books and magazines. There is no TV, however, there is Wi-Fi and a Crosley record player with an assortment of records. The kitchenette had a Chemex coffee system, tea pot, mini-fridge, microwave, and other useful utensils that would make a short-term stay comfortable. The bathroom features an enclosed shower with rain shower head, and bath towels by Los Angeles-based Matteo. The bedroom had two twin beds that boasted cozy linens from the famed Pandora de Balthazar (a favorite at the Arbors field during Antiques Weekend). We enjoyed the pool, the pastoral views, the mooing cows, the sunset, and the overall quiet and slow atmosphere of the countryside. It was a nice contrast from the hustle-and-bustle of the city. While in the area, we checked out Henkel Square, Royer’s Pie Haven, Teague’s Tavern (awesome service and veggie burgers), Junk Gypsies, and Round Top Mercantile (for groceries and such). Don’t forget to get a photo of the sign!

Matt recommends going into town for a beer or wine, sitting at Flophouze and watching the sunset and stars, taking a drive along the backroads, checking out Festival Hill, and eating at Feed and Firewater.

You’ve gotta book your stay at Flophouze ASAP…and in the meantime, #StayAwesome!

Round Top, TX sign.

Sofia and I also did a mini photoshoot on the property. See those photos, along with photos from the trip, HERE.

Scroll down for photos from our stay…

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX, pool

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX, pool

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Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX,

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX,

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX,

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX,

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Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX,

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX,

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX,

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX,

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX,

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX,

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX,

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX,

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Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX,

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX,

Flophouze Hotel, Round Top, TX,

NOTE: I was given a complimentary one-night stay in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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