Recently I made the quick thirty minute drive from Ann Arbor to check out the newly opened Manchester Market and chat with owner Justin Dalenberg. When he was a kid, Dalenberg used to ride his bike to the (now former) IGA in Manchester to get Gatorade. Twenty-five years later he and partner Ken Heer have transformed that same 17,000 square foot space into Manchester Market. The Market is several stores under one roof – Acorn Farmers’ Market and Café, Iorio Gelato, Grand River Butchery, Grand River Bakery, and Super Perky Pantry.
Having been in the restaurant and food business for years, Dalenberg was looking to expand his butchery and bakery which were outgrowing their current space. Manchester Market organically evolved from there. His secret to success is working with friends and building a business around what people are passionate about; in this case, good food made with quality, local ingredients for the surrounding community.
Emulating a mini-farmers market, local growers sell their produce at Acorn Farmer’s Market and Cafe. Local dairy and eggs are available too. The café is a perfect spot to have a coffee or meet friends for lunch. Iorio Gelato is located within Acorn Market. They are making their family recipe Italian gelato on site using both local and Italian ingredients.
Noggle Farms provides four to six Black Angus steers per week to Grand River Butchery. I met lead butcher, Afrim Ramaxhiku, who cuts everything on site. Nothing is arriving in a cryovac bag here! The meat counter is a feast for the eyes with every cut available from a marbled ribeye to an imposing-looking cow tongue (Dalenberg insists it makes for great tacos!) Chicken, pork, and lamb are also locally sourced and sold.
There is a large case of freshly prepared meals and hot food made from scratch by chef Emmanuel Saintin and his team. I went a little overboard and bought several of the prepared meals for my family to sample. (Fried chicken mac and cheese? Yes, please.) Some standout favorites were the chicken pot pie, braised beef cheeks with mashed potatoes and the Korean short ribs with fried rice.
The smells alone emanating from Grand River Bakery would keep anyone coming back to Manchester Market. The bakery offers beautiful cakes and sweet treats like macarons as well as scones, sourdough bread, and Jewish Rye. Selections change daily and they accept special orders. All the bread products are fermented so even those who are gluten intolerant can usually consume them with no trouble. (I can vouch for this!)
Super Perky Pantry sells all the basics to round out any meal you are making as well as paper goods and household items. Whether it’s the Italian Pistachio gelato, sourdough bread, or the tomato basil soup (which were all delicious if anyone is wondering), no one is cutting any corners here. There is a reason toasted sourdough bread from the Bakery is now the preferred snack of choice in my house.
Looking to the Future
Plans for expansion include USDA licensing for processing the whole cow for customers and adding in-house made cheese and charcuterie. Come spring, don’t be surprised if you see a hoop house out back and garden seedlings and plants for sale.
“It (the Market) is what it is right now. But it will become what this community needs it to be,” said Dalenberg. One thing is for certain – every community needs a market making and selling delicious, unprocessed food with real, local ingredients. And Manchester Market is knocking it out of the park.