John Sacharok, his sister Maryann Baldassare, her husband Frank Baldassare, and Joe Stratton, a Golden Valley Coffee Roasters employee and local farmer, opened the Artisan Exchange in June 2012 as a solution for Golden Valley’s empty warehouse space.
Top right: Spiked cinnamon pecan buns from Brûlée Bakery, shiitake mushrooms from Oley Valley Mushrooms, and pasta from Vera Pasta are just some of the delicacies available at the Artisan Market. Above: Ka’Chi, a Korean food truck, and Dia Doce, a cupcake truck, also set up on Saturdays at the Artisan Market. Left: MomPops/Take Me Bake Me Pizza was among the first tenants to join the Artisan Exchange.
desire to drive down cost of production means that the product — flavor, antioxidants, aromatics — suffers.” Unwilling to compromise, Golden Valley changed course. Sacharok and his business partner (and sister), Maryann Baldassarre, purchased roasting equipment. Frank Baldassarre, Jr., Maryann’s eldest son, became their master roaster. Today, the company still largely deals in the corporate world, but they roast their beans themselves and, whether it’s a priority for their clients or not, the coffee now boasts a sweeping set of credentials: Fair Trade, bird-friendly, and not one, but two organic certifications. They’ve even developed a single-serve coffee machine that brews singleserve cups without using wasteful pods, in order to continue marketing their product to offices and other companies rapidly switching to onecup coffeemakers, like those made by Keurig. The shift left the business owners with a dilemma: a warehouse and central drive aisle larger than their current needs, but out of synch with warehousing trends. They were reluctant
to sell the building in an unfavorable real estate climate. The team, which now included Frank Baldassarre, Sr. (Maryann’s husband and a former banking executive) and Joe Stratton (Golden Valley’s director of equipment services and a farmer), began to look for alternate ways of using the warehouse.
A Niche in the Kitchen In 2011, the group came across a survey by the National Grocers Association reporting that a whopping 86 percent of consumers interested in local foods found themselves asking, “What are the small-scale food manufacturers doing for space?” “We were struggling to find a kitchen,” says Carrie Balthaser, “at $20 per hour it’s hard to get your product out at cost.” Balthaser, whose company Basic Batters makes gluten-free cookies, is one of the newest members. “I work in the corporate world, but this is my passion.” Golden Valley discovered that there was no shortage of passion among these potential entrepreneurs,
but logistical concerns, such as space and licensing, were serious obstacles to making these businesses viable. The traits of their warehouse that were considered liabilities in the real estate market began to look like benefits. The central aisle meant that entrepreneurs could drive their vehicles in to unload supplies or load product for farmers markets. When the weather grew colder it also made the perfect enclosed place to host a Saturday market. In June 2012, Golden Valley welcomed its first members to the Artisan Exchange. They envision it as an affordable home and a community for those seeking to transform their local food dreams into reality. Within the last few months, word has spread and interest has exploded. As of mid-March, members included 20 food businesses, among them two food trucks, Ka’Chi and LuLu’s Café, who use Artisan Exchange as a home base for their mobile businesses. Though plans for the space include the buildout of a commercial kitchen where aspiring M ay 20 13