OLD NORTH ST. LOUIS – It all started with a Facebook post for James Forbes, co-founder and chief executive officer of Good Life Growing, an urban farming company that has operated in north St. Louis for the past seven years.
It was a link shared by a Facebook friend that alerted Forbes about the Fantasy Food Fare Competition in 2017, ultimately giving birth to Old North Provisions at 2720 N. 14th Street.
“Somehow out of around 200 people that entered into this contest, we won, and that’s how we got here,” Forbes said.
“It was really geared towards restaurants, but we said we would like to open up a hybrid food-packaging facility and community grocery store because we are exclusively in north St. Louis,” Forbes said.
The five-month-long competition featured a grand prize valued at over $100,000; two years’ worth of free rent with a kitchen space; a business and restaurant mentor; free branding; and several other prizes.
As an extension of Good Life Growing, Old North Provisions hopes to combat food insecurity and urban decay by growing, washing and packaging vegetables in-house that area residents will be able to buy.
Good Life Growing is also operated by co-founders Bobby Forbes, James’ brother, and two of his close friends, James Hillis and Matt Stoyanov.
The “mixed use fooderie,” as James Forbes calls it, will also feature a grocery store with niche food items that you wouldn’t be able to find in most places. Most of those items are from local farmers and entrepreneurs within a 100-mile radius.
“We’re looking for more stuff all of the time just to help other local entrepreneurs, because we’ve lived through it, how hard it is to make it in business, especially when you’re trying to have a good mission and you’re on a shoestring budget,” Forbes said.
The new space will also allow the growing of fresh foods including vegetables, microgreens and other plants.
“We are, as of today, the largest microgreen producer in the state of Missouri. That’s a big chunk of our revenue, because you can do it indoors, year-round,” Forbes said.
“It takes seven days to two weeks to grow any of these plants in the trays,” Forbes said. “Chefs and fine dining clubs will buy them at anywhere from $20 to $60 per tray and it cost $1 to make them,” Forbes explained.
Forbes describes a microgreen as a plant that is below the size of a sprout but above the size of a germinated seed. Rich in vitamins, minerals and nutrients, microgreens carry anti-inflammatory properties – things that will prevent heart disease and liver failure.
“A lot of folks in this part of town have never heard of microgreens. That’s why one of us is always on hand to answer questions, give guidance and advice,” Forbes said.
One of the biggest things Forbes wanted to make sure of was that Old North Provisions accepted both SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits and EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards as a method of payment.
In addition, customers will be able to purchase pre-cooked, prepped and frozen meals prepared by two chefs.
Old North Provisions will also be partnering with both Honey & Thyme and Kitchen Kulture, two local food companies, to create premium goods that will be sold on site as well.
The storefront also features a unique community space set up with televisions, tables, chairs and a PA system where local organizations and groups can host events, free of charge.
Since May, Old North Provisions has had a slew of soft openings, which Forbes said was “building more momentum and identifying what inventory is moving well so we know what to order more of.”
Right now the store is open four days a week; Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Thursdays and Fridays, its hours are 2:30-7:30 p.m. On Saturdays, store hours are 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Sunday hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Forbes said that once they were able to hire and train more staff, they would move to operating seven days per week.
He hopes to celebrate a grand opening sometime in November.