Today, we visited the Fenix Food Factory in Rotterdam, a market-like atmosphere in an old warehouse on the outskirts of the city. At Fenix, visitors discover a bakery, coffee shop, cheese shop, butcher, craft beer pub, a cider shop, fresh produce vendor, and the odd assortment of arts and crafts stands.
A couple of things make the place unique:
* The vendors in the facility rely on one another. So at lunchtime, the baker might head over to the cheese seller to ask for some fresh slices and to the butcher for the smoked meat of the day. As a result, she’s able to offer a sandwich for sale to the passerby.
I thought this strategy was fairly unusual by American standards, since vendors in markets in Seattle or Philly, for instance, often compete for business. There’s rarely anything cooperative about the way they market their goods.
* This warehouse, like many we’ve visited in the Netherlands, is located in a traditionally undesirable neighborhood–a place where folks don’t necessarily want to find themselves after dark. The innovative work of the vendors and the concept of the Fenix Food Market, though, have transformed this space into a hospitable, rather upper-scale destination.
One thing our guide/resident entrepreneur, Wooter, told us was that the place offers something special–yet altogether reminiscent of a more traditional Holland.
“We offer what we have that day,” he said. “Sometimes people come in and they ask for something, and we have to tell them we don’t have what they are looking for on that particular day. Instead of pork, we have beef or lamb.”
Wooter added that customers are occasionally disappointed.
This disappointment, he thinks, has to do with the fact that “we are spoiled” by the modern supermarket. By its promise of convenience, consumers expect that any product will be available at any time.
“It’s not normal,” Wooter told us. I tend to think that’s true.