Chef Paul Allen knows good food. He’s spent years of his life cooking it, buying it and even delivering it through his produce delivery service. Now, he and his wife, Ashley, have come up with a new way to connect others with tasty eats: They've opened Farm 2 Counter, a gourmet convenience store on Springfield’s north side.
“I call us the Williams Sonoma of convenience stores,” says Allen. “Because we’re not a grocery store, and we are a convenience store, but it’s our take on it.”
That “take,” as he puts it, is illustrated by some of the store’s offerings, which are generally either organic or local – and unusual for a convenience store.
“People are like, ‘Convenience stores don’t have produce,’” says Allen, standing near a display of onions, apples and squash. “My convenience store has produce.”
Such fresh offerings are only one thing that makes the store, which began out of a need for warehouse space for the couple’s food delivery service, stand out.
After discovering the location several months ago – which previously was a mainstream convenience store – the couple decided to repurpose part of it as a retail space. But before they could move in, modernizations began.
Today, with stained concrete floors and stainless steel-and-wood shelving, the store is sleek and fresh. But its wares taste even better than it looks: Those shelves are filled with a variety of local and organic producers for shoppers on the run.
“We try to shop local first, and what we can’t get local we get in organic, but we try to keep it a fair price,” says Allen. “So we keep it at the same price of a normal convenience store.”
Some of the items filling the shelves include organic pastas, jams, jellies and jars of honey. There are candy bars and bags of coffee from Ozark Mountain Coffee Co. Zucchini relish, black beans, treats from The Date Lady and barbecue sauce wait to be eaten. Locally found garlic and herb crackers sit temptingly, just a few feet from a cooler filled with specialty cheeses, meats and pizza.
Then there are fizzy and alcoholic drinks, sitting like bright jewels behind glass cooler doors. Beer is also offered, especially those of the craft variety.
“We feature as many local beers as we can,” says Allen, noting that he’s in discussions with other local breweries about carrying their brews.
The store also offers fountain sodas from Tractor Beverage Co., and glass-bottle favorites that don’t fit organic or local guidelines – but still fit in at the store.
“You’ll notice things like Coca Cola in a bottle, but it’s from Mexico and it’s made from real sugar,” says Allen. “So it’s not local, it’s not organic – but I love real Coke in a bottle. And I’m not saying you should drink it every single day, but when you want it, we’ve got it.”
Farm 2 Counter is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 8pm.
Farm 2 Counter, 2006 N. Broadway Ave., Springfield, Missouri, 417.834.5197, farm2counter.com