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Retail therapy: New niche stores offer great grocery options

The shopping section of Hope & Main's new Downtown Makers Marketplace on Westminster Street in downtown Providence, R.I.HANDOUT

This story first appeared in Globe Rhode Island’s Food & Dining newsletter, a free weekly email about Rhode Island’s restaurant industry that also contains information about local events, Q&As with chefs, dining guides, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail each Thursday, you can sign up here.


Those who stick to local shops for their grocery needs know what’s important to them.

Love a beautiful display? Then head to Rory’s Market and Kitchen. You steer Rhode Island transplants toward Dave’s Fresh Marketplace to make them feel like a local. And if you shop “on the Hill” you’re loyal to Tony’s, Venda, or Roma the way you are to your favorite sports teams.

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Independent markets and restaurants with packaged foods are staying popular even during the time of inflation. Take a look at these new spots offering niche goods.

The counter at Hope & Main's Downtown Makers Marketplace in Providence, R.I.HANDOUT

For products from local makers: Most small or micro packaged-food businesses don’t reach the shelves of major grocery stores. One reason: The cost of distributors and delivery companies can cut too deeply into the already thin margins of food entrepreneurs.

Lisa Raiola, the founder and president of food business incubator Hope & Main, has found another way to introduce local products to shoppers. Earlier this month, she opened the Downtown Makers Marketplace, which is featuring products crafted by local makers on their shelves. About 60 percent of the goods are made by women and 40 percent are made by entrepreneurs of color.

”Someone new wants to get on a shelf? They just have to get in touch with me,” she told me while walking past jars of Foss Farms four-ingredient marinara, small-batch treats from Blondie’s Bakery, and bottles of cocktail and soda syrups from Bootblack Brand.

In the fridges, they sell goods from A Perfect Empanada, the popular kimchi from Chi Kitchen, and packaged meals as part of their Nourish Our Neighbors, which is a community-supported meal share program. At the counter, some sandwiches are made with fresh breads from Buns Bakery while coffee, tea, and specialty drink program is anchored by Schasteâ.

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Hope & Main’s Downtown Makers Marketplace is located at 100 Westminster St. in Providence, R.I. MakeFoodYourBusiness.com.

For Naruto Japanese soda, vegan tuna, and handmade sake-ware: The sister business of the West Side’s Y Noodle & Bar and all-you-can-eat hot pot restaurant Y Shabu Shabu, Y Maru Maru is a Japanese grocery store that recently opened this month on Broadway in Providence. They have some classics, like sliced sushi-grade Japanese fish to bring home, butterfly-cut red shrimp, Naruto Japanese soda, and packaged hot pot sauces. Most interestingly, they serve some vegan products like dark yam starch cakes, frozen vegan Bao, and Notuna Sashimi and Zalmon for plant-based poke bowls.

Looking to give your table a refresh? They also sell tableware and handmade sake-ware from Japan.

Y Maru Maru is located at 267 Broadway in Providence, R.I. Instagram.com/ymaru_maru.

A rendering of Maven's Delicatessen, which is expected to open in the spring of 2023 in Pawtucket, R.I., by restauranteur Jason Sugarman.Jackson Creative Group

For traditional Jewish delicatessen items: Restauranteur Jason Sugarman spent a year collecting menus and chatting with owners of delicatessens all over the country. Now, he’s constructing Maven’s Delicatessen, which is slated to open at 727 East Ave. in Pawtucket this spring and will pay homage to the great Jewish delis of the past. So think of traditional pastrami sandwiches where the meat is smoked in-house, authentic boiled and baked bagels, and a few modern takes.

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”Maven’s is the place where you can come with your family and enjoy delicious Jewish cuisine in a fun, cheeky atmosphere,” said Sugarman. “Our menu is going to consist of simple food done exceptionally well.”

Maven’s Delicatessen will be located at 727 East Ave. in Pawtucket, R.I. mavensdeli.com.


Visit Food & Dining in Rhode Island for more. Because everyone’s gotta eat!


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.