Central Ohio residents have access to local options when shopping for fresh food and homemade products through Market Wagon Columbus, an online farmers market that will deliver directly to a customer’s home.
Nick Carter, Market Wagon cofounder and chief executive officer, said the Columbus market started in fall 2019 and boasts 200 vendors with a little more than 1,000 products.
Market Wagon is committed to serving local farms and food artisans by growing the market for their products with consumer-friendly shopping and delivery services, according to its website.
Carter said the online market was started in Indianapolis in 2016 and currently is available in 29 markets across the Midwest, with plans to expand to 100 by the end of 2022.
Like many small farms, he said, he needed to reach the marketplace, and he decided to build a platform that not only would transform his own family’s farm but also others’ in 29 cities around the United States.
“Columbus was the sixth, one of our earlier ones,” he said. “We’re going to go everywhere.”
He said the market reaches Franklin County and surrounding counties.
Carter said his cofounder and chief operating officer, Dan Brunner, is a logistics engineer.
“He did work for order fulfillment for large grocers,” he said. “We have background in farms and logistics.”
Carter said Market Wagon is their “brainchild.”
“We met at a business-networking event in Indianapolis,” he said. “I was pitching the idea, and he was in the audience. We started by arguing.”
How it works
In order to shop at the market, users create an account at marketwagon.com and then choose from categories to shop, including meat, dairy and eggs, meals, bakery, produce, pantry, non-food, on-sale, popular and newest products.
The non-food category features pet food and supplies; handmade items and crafts; seeds and starts; health and wellness; soap and personal care; and clothing.
To place an order, shoppers make their selections, place them in a cart and check out before midnight Tuesdays for Thursday deliveries.
Home delivery costs $5.95, with no minimum order, Carter said.
A shopper also may pick up an order at a market host site for free.
“Been ordering for over a year and so thankful I found this,” Karen Schinzel posted on the Market Wagon Columbus Facebook page.
A Google review by Marsha Heim said she and her husband are a “sweet tooth” couple, and the baked goods she had ordered didn’t satisfy them, but they immensely enjoyed the goulash, green beans and carrots and will order those again.
“The vegetable bundles are too big for two, so I have not tried them,” she said. “The delivery part is on point, too.”
In another Google review, Cindie Gates wrote that she loves Market Wagon.
“I get to purchase from local farms and the majority of their products are organic, grass fed, free range and non-GMO,” she said.
Westerville resident Regina “Reggie” Green of Reggie’s Creations has been a vendor with Market Wagon since July 2020.
“I was one of many who lost their job due to COVID,” she said.
Green said she was doing odd jobs when she saw an ad for delivery drivers for Market Wagon.
“I started with them late winter of last year,” she said. “When the shutdown order came to Ohio, Market Wagon got extremely busy. They asked if we knew any bakers, farmers, artisans they could add. The vendors could not keep up with the demand.”
Green formerly had her own business selling infused buckeye candies and was approved as a vendor, selling buckeyes for a couple of months. Green said sales were low so she expanded her product list to include cream cheese, butters, mini pies, bread pudding and other items.
She was approved to sell not only in Columbus but also in additional markets, including Cincinnati, Cleveland and the Toledo and Bowling Green areas.
“My orders went from five to 10 a week, and now I am averaging over 250 a week,” Green said.
After being part of the restaurant and hospitality industry for more than 30 years, she said, Market Wagon is giving her a new road to pursue and still be a part of the industry.
Green said it’s flexible, reliable, business driven and supportive.
“My business is less than a year old,” she said. “I am still building and growing, but I could not have done that without Market Wagon.”
Green said her bread pudding is a favorite product.
She said she’s collaborating with Churchill Fine Teas in Cincinnati.
“I make a ‘bread pudding of the month’ that is inspired and made by one of their teas,” she said.
Green is making an apple-strudel bread pudding and a Victorian Earl Grey & Blue pound cake for the month of June.
She said her most popular products are galettes – flat, round cakes made of pastry or bread.
Duncan Forbes, salami monger of North Country Charcuterie, said the Columbus-based business joined Market Wagon in February 2020 after being referred by another vendor that had spoken highly of the service.
“At the time, we had been looking for new ways to sell directly to consumers supplementing our farmers-market sales during their off-season,” he said. “Restaurant sales are a large part of our business, but as you can imagine, we had to make significant pivots when stay-at-home orders were issued and restaurants began to close. Market Wagon became a key part of our company’s sales.”
Forbes said the online market has been a tremendous partner.
“Their services helped us and many other businesses reach the community and continue selling our locally sourced products,” he said.
Forbes said Market Wagon continues to provide added value to local efforts.
“We’re so grateful for their partnership,” he said. “Market Wagon was consistently one of our top drivers of revenue through the pandemic.”
Forbes said North Country Charcuterie’s top seller is its coffee bacon that’s dry-rubbed with brown sugar, cayenne and freshly ground coffee beans for a nutty undertone and then smoked over apple wood chips.
He said other favorites include fresh sausages and handmade salamis.”
Market Wagon genesis
Carter, who grew up on a farm in north central Indiana, said the business had a growth spurt in 2020.
Rather than looking for interested farmers to join Market Wagon, he said, most farmers find him.
“It’s a year-round market, which is a big benefit,” Carter said. “It’s not seasonal. It’s really important to the farms. We sell a lot of meat, eggs and dairy. When markets shut down, it’s hard on them.”
Unlike a local in-person farmers market, Carter said, Market Wagon provides shopping 24/7.
“It’s more convenient if you have other things going on at the time of the market,” he said. “You have a much larger selection of vendors and products.”
Carter said there’s no listing fee for vendors.
“We just share the revenue,” he said. “Vendors only pay if they sell something.”
He said the prices are comparable to a local farmers market.
Carter said the Indianapolis-based business has 52 employees overall, including two full-time employees in Columbus who handle market coordinating and logistics. In addition, it has about 50 part-time “gig” drivers who use their personal vehicles to make deliveries.
by Marla K. Kuhlman
Source: The Columbus Dispatch