Top Shelf

David and Deborah Brenner of Northville and Bantan Markets (860/355-2667 and 860/567-8647 or northvillemkt.com) in New Milford and Bantam, respectively, focus on stocking their shelves with unique grocery items for those suffering from food allergies or requiring special diets.

Fancy Food & Culinary Products: Tell us about your business. How long have you been around?
Deborah Brenner: We have owned The Northville Market since 1998 and purchased The Bantam Market in 2011. We operate food marketplaces that focus on freshly prepared deli foods and entrées, as well as providing unique grocery items that are often overlooked by larger stores. This includes small batch, regional, and local food companies. We are also known for our large selection of alternative foods for those with gluten, dairy, and other food allergies.

FF: How big are your shops?
DB: The Northville Market has a retail space of 10,000 square feet, while The Bantam Market consists of 15,000 square feet [of space]. We have a large number of full time staff members, with 50-60 per store.

FF: You've owned and operated one store for 16 years, and another for three. Where do you see the stores in the next five or six years?
DB: Our vision for the immediate future of the stores is to further our commitment to providing freshly prepared foods by expanding our scratch bakeries and offering service meat and seafood in both stores. We will continue to seek local foods and products to add to our offerings. We will initiate a series of ongoing educational seminars that will include everything from cake decorating to gluten-free living; as well as vegan, vegetarian and raw diets. Our long term and short term goals are congruent in that we strive to provide an alternative to corporate stores that do little to actually serve and enrich the customer experience.

FF: You work a lot with local and regional companies. What are some benefits you've found from this?
DB: The main difference is that we are dealing with people and not companies at the local level. We can, and do, clearly impact the health of their business and therefore the local economy, with the support of our stores. At the same time, we are able to offer exceptional local products to our customers. We all win.

FF: What products do you typically look to buy, and what will you be looking to buy at the Fancy Food Show?
DB: We continually seek out interesting, high-quality products in all food categories. At the show, we will be looking for upcoming trends in food as well as regional, local, organic and natural foods.

FF:What are some of your bestsellers?
DB: We love to support small food companies and our staff is enthusiastic about recommending quality products. A few of the items currently experiencing impressive growth are Rustichella D'Abruzzo pastas, La Tourangelle oils, and Gracious Gourmet's line of tapenades, chutneys and pestos. Promoting unique and unusual items is what we do best. We prefer to let the food talk for itself—and quality speaks loudest.

FF: What are some trending replacement foods for those with dairy and gluten allergies?
DB: Almond milk and coconut milk are overtaking soy milk as a dairy replacement. Several companies have gotten really good at frozen dairy-free desserts. Gluten-free baking mixes and baked goods have gotten to the point where gluten eaters are very happily eating these products.

FF: What's your favorite thing about your line of work?
DB: Feeding the people in every sense of the word. Connecting with our customers and being a part of the community, helping local food growers and producers succeed. We provide a positive atmosphere to work and shop and an environment in which the members of our team can grow and progress.

If you would like to have your retail business featured here, please email Claire Johnson, cjohnson@talcott.com.