Downtown Littleton is a small thriving neighborhood that until recently was classified by Colorado Enterprise Fund as a food desert. Now Littleton Market is bringing local food vendors together to change that. Founder Hannah King seeks out Colorado products to stock her shelves, creating a store designed like a farmer’s market, but with walls and more permanence.
In 2018, Littleton was ranked one of the Top 100 Best Places to Live by Livability. “It’s pretty remarkable,” King commented. “If I need a prom dress, I’m set – there’s at least six stores I can go to [downtown].” But to get fresh produce, there was not a local option. “When I moved to downtown,” she said, “I was just so frustrated by the fact that I had to get in the car to go to a large chain grocery store for an onion.” After resigning from a job to seek out a career she was more passionate about, King began her research to open a market that the whole downtown community was craving.
Having a new market in the neighborhood that features all Colorado products has created a change in both the Littleton and local food business communities. “It’s given people something to care about,” King explained, both customers and vendors alike. King sells a wide range of local products, as well as fresh produce by Grow Girl Organics. The market’s prepared products typically come from small batch companies specializing in a few items, ranging from CocoPrana’s coconut butter and salad dressings from Herb Sister’s to Devil Dog Brew’s coffee beans and nonalcoholic beer and processco from Grüvi.
“Our mission is to connect people to the stories of their food,” King commented. And creating a sense of community and welcomeness in the store is important to both King and the vendors. As consumers’ desire to know more about their food grows, she recognizes that it’s important that she can tell her customers the full story behind the products.
“When [customers] come here, they can ask questions, ‘Is this made with gluten? Does this have sugar in it? What is the farming process?’ and I can tell them,” King explained. But often, the vendors themselves are there to talk to customers about their products. When they drop off the product to restock the store, vendors usually stick around for a few hours to help out at the store and chat with visitors. Once a week, a couple of vendors gather on the porch of the market to do samplings of their products and show the faces behind the market’s products. “You can’t get that experience at King Soopers,” she added.
Some founders of the products left corporate jobs to pursue small food businesses, like Nummy Nibbles tikka masala sauces. Others have dedicated their lives to raising beef, pork and lamb in an ethical and sustainable manner, like Willow Creek Meats. “When [customers] take [their purchases] home, they really value what they’re consuming,” King said. “And I don’t think you can put a price on that.”
Stepping through the front door of Littleton Market, customers often feel there’s a sense that they belong there — a sentiment that keeps them coming back. It’s a small neighborhood store that has Coloradans’ favorite local products that are hard to find elsewhere. Some days, King heats up empanadas, offering them to the vendors who are in that day, customers and even the hairdressers who work at the salon next door. No matter what’s going on in the store that day, “[the energy and community] is infectious,” King explained.
If things go well, as they have been since opening at the end of 2018, she hopes one day to replicate the store in another Colorado city. But for right now, she’s focusing on reaching their goal of servicing 50 return customers in a day. The immediate welcoming atmosphere will be beneficial in helping the market make that goal, but King is always quick to credit the vendors for the market’s success. “I’m only one small element of this,” she said.
King is also bringing in more vendors each month and expanding the selection the market offers, including a large offering of vegan and vegetarian products from local companies like Best One Yet and NU Food. King is dedicated to finding new companies and helping them succeed through carrying them in her store. Many of her new products she found searching on Instagram or attending food festivals in the area over the last few months, and she’s still hoping to find more vendors who are passionate about reaching the local Colorado community.
Though the market is growing, King is still experiencing the difficulty of the first year of business. Earlier this summer, she had the slowest day she had since opening, making $11 after nine hours of work. “But I’m still the happiest I’ve ever been,” she added. And her happiness and excitement truly is a large part of what makes Littleton Market the community space and local produce market that it is.
Littleton Market is located at 2692 W Alamo Ave. Littleton and is open Tuesday – Friday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
All photography by Evans Ousley.