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Downtown: Foodie haven Wellington’s Marketplace is on the way to Concord

Randy and Debra Barnes have a greenhouse at their home in Bow. They own five grills. On one of their first dates, Randy Barnes taught his now-wife how to make sausage from scratch.

“We’re foodies,” Debra Barnes said. “We love food. We spend our days going, ‘What are we doing for dinner?’ And when we’re done (eating), we say, ‘Okay, what are we going to have for dinner tomorrow night?’ ”

Later this month, the couple will turn their hobby into a business and open Wellington’s Marketplace at 124 N. Main St. in downtown Concord. The specialty store will sell wines, cheeses, meats and other prepared food items.

“A mini-me of Fresh Market,” Debra Barnes said.

She rattled off a list of foods that will be on the shelves and in the deli cases of the new market. Walk in, and there will be a beverage case right there with a selection of chilled wines and pre-cut cheese, a few take-and-bake items. They’ll set up “a wine cave” in one of the little shop’s nooks and crannies, she said. The deli counters will house smoked fish, specialty meats – like wild boar salami and chorizo – and cheeses.

“You can’t go in anywhere in Concord and get five or six pieces of smoked salmon that’s not prepackaged,” Barnes said.

Wellington’s will also sell gourmet prepared foods, from healthy dishes with kale or quinoa to a more luxurious four-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese.

“Oh, and specialty sandwiches and soups,” she added, and some tables where customers can sit for a bite to eat. She spoke with obvious excitement, or maybe hunger, for the new venture.

Also in that deli case will be the Wellington’s burger, the meat ground in-house and the recipe perfected in the Barneses’ kitchen.

“We want to create a cult following,” Barnes joked. “We want people lined up out the door waiting for that burger.”

The items on the shelves and in the deli counters at Wellington’s won’t be food easily found elsewhere in the city, Barnes said.

“Like the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. I don’t know anywhere in Concord where you can get that,” she said.

The 50-year-old New Hampshire native has taught private cooking classes and worked in Concord restaurants such as 55 Degrees. A breast cancer survivor, Barnes will call the shop Wellington’s Marketplace because it’s a family name from her mother, who died of breast cancer several years ago. Randy Barnes, 54, doesn’t have his wife’s same ties to Concord – he’s originally from Texas – but when the two met online, their love of food clicked.

“It was an instant everything,” she said.

They like to cook with butter and salt and bacon fat, with fennel and garlic and onion, with fresh vegetables from their backyard. And they heard enough friends at their dinner table say they couldn’t find the same food in Concord stores to think about expanding their culinary adventures beyond their kitchen.

“It’s a needed thing for downtown,” she said.

Wellington’s Marketplace will set up shop right next to the Crust and Crumb Bakery on Main Street.

“This is perfect. It’s one-stop shopping,” Barnes said. “You go in (Wellington’s). You get your cheese, your wine, maybe a little side dish for your dinner. You go next door (to the Crust and Crumb), and grab a loaf of bread.”

And for building owner Mark Ciborowski, the new business will be “a great store, a great product, a type of store that makes downtown do better,” he said.

Wellington’s could fill a void Ciborowski lost when Butter’s Fine Food & Wine moved to Sheep Davis Road from another one of his downtown storefronts several years ago. Even though the Concord Food Co-op farther down Main Street does sell specialty food items, he said Wellington’s could serve even more of a niche market.

“There’s nothing like it downtown,” Ciborowski said.

Wellington’s Marketplace is scheduled to open the third week of March, Barnes said. But she and her husband are ready to get into their new kitchen.

“I woke up in the middle of the night and said, I think, ‘Wow, prosciutto and spicy cheese and pears sound really good right now. Let’s grill that up,’ ” she said.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

Legacy Comments12

Without free parking there is no sense in even discussing this project. You have the earthy crunch crowd who would love to see a butcher, baker, seamstress, shoe maker, candle stick maker, florist, quilter, etc. But that is not realistic. There is not demand to go into downtown Concord so the traffic is not there either. The populatoin is not enough to have full time prosperous businesses competing for limited dollars. It will never work.

That's the spirit.

I can't wait! I will be one of the ones standing in line.

For all the critics there - what kind of businesses do you think would do well in downtown Concord?

A good question, and one with a big catch. Any big, popular retail store wouldn't locate downtown because of lack of free & adequate parking.

The issue with Main Street is that it cannot compete with Big Chain Stores price wise, inventory choice, parking and longer store hours. The only towns with great Main Streets are towns where there is folks who have higher income levels than Concord. Main Street in Concord has a lot of Hair Salons, Sandwich Shops, and expensive Restaurants. Where do folks with two kids go to eat, they go to Loudon Rd. Where do folks shop for school clothes, outlets and big chains. Businesses fail because of inventory management, store hours, not enough marketing and parking issues. I am still amazed how some stores have hung on like Joe Kings and NH Crafts. On almost any given day you can go into a shop downtown and you are the only one shopping there. Very sad, because the folks downtown are terrific, friendly and really offer great services and products.

Businesses also fail due to lack of traffic and therefore sales volume and lack of ability to earn a living.

great another shop on main street that nobody can afford. taxes going up and pay check getting smaller good luck. i know i won't be eating there i have all i can do buying food from market basket.

Fresh Market is a lot like Trader Joes and Whole Foods. Great products but very expensive. The question for any new business is very simple. Do you have folks who will use your product or services, do the folks in the area have the income to shop at your place? Specialty stores usually thrive in towns with high incomes. Folks with high incomes can afford to buy the best. But is Concord NH one of those places? If you go by the shops on Main Street that have small inventories and high prices, the answer to that question is no. I wish these folks luck, and I do hope they will succeed.

Well, good luck to 'em. Will they accept food stamps? This is the kind of business that does NOT attract hoards of people to shop downtown.

rje are you saying that you are on food stamps and would shop there if they accept them? People drive lexus and people drive kia. People buy food at Walmart and people but food at the Concord C0-0P. It's the buyers choice .

Ha ha. No, I don't get food stamps but I have no interest in this type of business either. I'm just implying that the kind of people, who in general, would be patronizing this kind of business are not the broad spectrum of shoppers the city apparently wants to attract downtown by redesigning the area. In other words, it's exactly the reason why not "enough" people shop downtown. As RabbitNH points out (above), expect the products to be very expensive.

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