I wasn’t really ready to be awake this morning, even after hours of having gotten up. That all disappeared the moment I stepped into Oats & Barley, Short North’s new fresh and specialty food grocer.
Stepping inside is a breath of fresh air. The small space allows all its products to perfume it, inviting you in with the scent of newly picked produce and freshly baked bread. It’s quiet in there, was there soft music playing? I can’t quite remember, but being in a grocery store never felt so relaxing.
I walked up to the centrally located check out desk, where Georgia Agannis, co-owner of the shop, greeted me with a wide smile and bright, ‘hello!’
After reminding her I had written about their shop’s soft opening before, she quickly remembered my name, which was heart-warming, since my name is hard to pronounce, and I don’t exactly live in the neighborhood. I shouldn’t have been surprised though, because when I first talked to her, she promised to remember every single customer that walked through her door, as true mom-and-pop shops do.
As the latent sleep slowly crept off my eyes, I asked Georgia to give me a small tour of her shop. You see, I’m not too well versed in the areas specialty foods. I mean four months ago I was surviving off pizza and ramen. Thank god for graduation, amirite?
Georgia started with the produce section. “We stock every week, sometimes two or three times, a week depending on demand,” she gestured towards the array of colorful veg like a show hostess.” Next she showed me the bulk product section. In this section, you can fill a container with grains, nuts, and other foodie odds and ends, then pay by weight. I try to be as earth-friendly as possible with the packaging I use, so I asked if customers could bring their own containers to buy the bulk products.
“Absolutely!” she said, “we just weigh it beforehand and you’re basically good to go!”
She then waltzed me through the rest of the aisles and products they house, many of which are local and gluten free. There was honey, shampoo, maple syrup, jams, and breads that were all local. Too many to count, and all labeled with an in-house made sticker that made it easy to look for them amongst the shelves.
“We really wanted to make sure we supported local business because we’re a local business,” Georgia said, “and we’re a mom and pop shop, it’s what we do.”
She then walked me through their beer and wine section, where I spotted a Jackie O’s Razz Wheat, a brew close to my Bobcat heart. Among the beers were other local craft brew favorites. In fact, their entire beer selection was from Ohio, showing how much pride these ladies hold for our heart and home.
Next, and what I found to be the neatest part of the shop, was a fill station for Greek olive oil. This olive oil, Georgia said, comes directly from an olive tree farm in Greece managed by her husband’s relatives. She said they were distant relatives, but what a way to support family across borders and oceans! The olive oil sat in three small tanks, one that was priced with bottles they provided, one that was priced for refills, and one that was just the olive oil. For homemade, Greek olive oil and a bottle, 13-ish dollars is a pretty good deal.
My tour ended at their grab-and-go station, where a chef was stocking the station with what smelled like some delicious lunches. My stomach grumbled and Georgia asked if I had tried them yet. I looked longingly at the boxes, but instead settled on a Lokal cold brew bottle, to drain the last of my grogginess away. It was not quite lunch time yet, so I will go back and indulge, I promised.
It’s a grocery store in the end, but we go to the places we shop because we’re looking for something that makes us feel good, that reminds us of the humanity big chain stores seem to lack.
I waved goodbye and left with a smile, much like the other customers that had visited during my tour. No worries at Oats and Barley, you’re treated like family from the moment you step in.
By Paola Santiago
Photos via Oats & Barley