New Morning Market at 45
“Organic Consumers Are Increasingly Mainstream.”
That headline, which turns up in the USDA’s Organic Market Overview from April 2017, affirms the mission John Pittari, Jr., has been pioneering and refining for over four decades in the hills of northwestern Connecticut.
When Pittari joined the staff of what was then the New Morning Trading Co., became manager, and soon enough bought the business that is now the thriving New Morning Market, mainstream consumers weren’t yet ready to embrace the movement that would revolutionize lifestyles across demographic categories.
If a dairy product as contemporarily ubiquitous as yogurt (current global retail value $78 billion) was considered weird in the early days of New Morning, it was certainly a gamble for Pittari to go “all in” on a business venture centered on healthy living and eating and dedicated to creating a marketplace for local, organic, and natural farms. Riskier still was the notion that such a market could be used to build a sense of community through philosophy, natural products, programming, and education. But Pittari’s vision of consumers’ interests and changing habits proved prescient.
“Consumers prefer organically produced food, because of their concerns regarding health, the environment, and animal welfare, and they show a willingness to pay the price premiums established in the marketplace,” states this year’s USDA Organic Market Overview. “Organic products have shifted from being a lifestyle choice for a small share of consumers to being consumed at least occasionally by a majority of Americans.”
That status coincides with what might be called the “golden age” of New Morning Market, which celebrated its 45th anniversary in 2016. “Our commitment is to select good food that meets the criteria of health, sustainability, and corporate responsibility,” Pittari says. “Our goal is to serve our customers’ needs and their best interests. We pay attention to the customers’ needs and try to educate them along with it.”
Mission is paramount to Pittari and a New Morning staff that has grown to an expansive 120 team members, and he’s passionate and articulate about all aspects of a holistic operation that resulted from significant research and careful calibration.
“I was listening to our customer. I was studying the market. I was studying the craft of specialty retail,” he says of the planning that preceded the latest and largest incarnation of the store, which debuted in 2012. This fourth move brought New Morning into a larger site with more opportunities to service the community that has kept the store growing all these years.
It includes a second floor meeting space and Vitality Center, an intense focus on the design and physical space, and a “phenomenally high” amount of recycling in the building materials, which includes the incorporation of siding and beams from a 1792 barn in Oxford, energy efficiency, habitat creation, and so much more – all on the 1-¾ acre site off Route 6 at the eastern edge of Woodbury center.
“All of that was in my mind,” Pittari says of the long road to the current market. “It took us a long time. The fact that we came out the other side, and we are as successful is very gratifying.”
For all the food lovers out there, here’s the “buried lead,” as journalists say: New Morning Market is a hotspot for an amazing breakfast, lunch, or early dinner in the café, all composed of the highest-quality ingredients and foods – very many of them local – and at prices that represent a true bargain compared to the tariff at any restaurant.
The comparison is apt, because the entrées and sides created by Chef Carol Byer-Alcorace and her staff of The Provender are restaurant quality, without the addition of excessive sodium and spices, and free of MSG or anything artificial. Think of oven-roasted salmon, personal pizzas, chicken pot pie, fresh salads and soups, sandwiches and wraps of any variety…the list goes on and on.
This dedication to ethical and sustainable sourcing translates to the cheese counter, the meat department, the dairy cases, the produce department, the coffee, tea, and smoothies bar, and beyond. Many customers stop in regularly to pick up the components of a gourmet meal to be enjoyed at home – something like a grass-fed steak, salmon or seafood, a loaf of local Bantam Bread Company semolina, oven-roasted potatoes, Moroccan-spiced carrots, and locally sourced organic lettuce and tomatoes for a curtain-raiser salad.
New Morning seems so polished that it’s a bit surprising to hear Pittari declare, “I still feel like we’re in what I call our ‘anthropological stage.’” Pittari and the millennial staff with which he feels a strong bond are observing the “native population,” both in the store and beyond, for clues about how New Morning should next evolve.
Those who appreciate all of the principles underlying the New Morning mission and visit as often as possible for the prepared food will be delighted to know that The Provender and its affiliated goodness is a key focus for the future. “It’s an expansion opportunity that I see,” says Pittari, who never fails to appreciate the present while keeping his eye to the future. “I am really, in many ways, astounded at where New Morning has arrived at this point in time.”
For many business owners, that would signal a feeling of “mission accomplished,” but for Pittari, it’s more of a declaration that he has mandate to find new ways to exceed customers’ expectations. Stay tuned; it’s sure to be delicious.
New Morning Market: 129 Main St N., Woodbury; 203-263-4868