People who want to buy locally grown food or who like artisan products probably know there are vendors all over the L.A. area, but the work of tracking them down is beyond most shoppers. The online store Good Eggs means to solve that problem.
Its mission is bold: "Grow and sustain local food systems worldwide."
And shoppers can find more than 130 vendors who sell such foods as homemade gluten-free sandwich bread from Roses in the Kitchen ($10). Or dumplings from Bling Bling Dumpling in Hollywood, where the recipes come from the owners' Taiwanese grandmothers and their own modern tastes; cheeseburger dumplings, anyone? (10 for $15)
Farm products this week include Jimenez Family Farm strawberries, Mud Creek Ranch avocados and Cliff McFarlin Organics citrus fruit. Some of the names are familiar to people who shop at farmers markets or in gourmet food stores: the downtown Arts District baker Bread Lounge and Homeboy Industries, for example, or Little Flower Candy Co.
Most items come from within 150 miles, Max Kanter, the L.A. operation's community builder, said.
Good Eggs -- which also has online stores in San Francisco, Brooklyn and New Orleans -- opened in L.A. in June 2013. It recently moved near Glendale to the cavernous old Hostess factory space, where on the concrete floor, there are pallet markers for such things as "donut sugar."
"It's such a drastic shift from Hostess, but it's neat to reuse the space," Kanter said.
Anyone who's curious can take a look on Saturday, when Good Eggs holds a party from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. with food and music. Details can be found at goodeggs.com.
One recent day, a few shelves held some pasta and flours, but very little inventory will be at the warehouse, Kanter said. The idea is for food to come in and go out on demand, within hours.
A consumer places an order. The supplier is notified and delivers the product to Good Eggs, which packages up the day's deliveries geographically and gets them, four days a week, to pickup sites or homes. That way, there's no excess, no waste, Kanter said. Delivery is free from Sierra Madre to Santa Monica.
"Oh my God. This is going to be huge here in L.A., because of the car culture here. Everyone hates driving, and there's so much traffic," said Anne Chen, co-owner of Bling Bling. "All the vendors, we pretty much have the same concept of having organic food and good food and staying within the local community."
Chen also sells her products at small stores and the Atwater Village farmers market, and caters, too.
The owners of Almond Milk L.A. were making and delivering glass bottles of milk on their own, when they saw the Good Eggs San Francisco website and asked for a Los Angeles outpost. They were thrilled "to become part of this collective of vendors doing wonderful things," said Nicola Behrman.
Not only can she and partner Yael Green now focus on their products, but she said vendors get to meet one another when they're making deliveries, buy and sell to one another, and sometimes they eat together.
She and Green started the company after becoming convinced of the health benefits of the milk they were making. Now they sell it plain as well as in flavors such as turmeric and lavender through Good Eggs, stores and farmers markets.
The Good Eggs model might be the next step from community-supported agriculture models in which households buy a share in a farm's operation in return for a share of its harvest. In a city such as Los Angeles, where the year-round, locally produced choices are wide, some people complain that they don't want to be limited to the produce of one grower.
"Grocery shopping is about choice," said Julian Nachtigal, the director of operations and strategy at Good Eggs. And the point of Good Eggs, he said, is to make it hassle-free; choose your food from a mobile site or a computer, and it's left at your door. No driving, no lines, no schlepping.
"I'm pretty particular about my food," said Meg Glasser, the L.A. Team lead at Good Eggs, adding that she routinely shopped at Whole Foods, a farmers market or two and Trader Joe's. Good Eggs can save a lot of time, she said.
Good Eggs began with private funding and intends to grow a distribution system to provide local food on a large scale. Of the trillion-dollar food sale total, just 1% is now local, Nachtigal said. Good Eggs would like to see it at 10% or 20%.
The prices reflect the nature of the products. A dozen eggs range from $6 to $12. Citrus fruit is $3 to $3.50 a pound. Some of the cheese prices are in line with the supermarkets, and overall, Glasser said, the prices compare with Whole Foods.
"Everyone in this office is very concerned with that issue," Kanter said. And they are researching how to be able to accept food assistance program benefits, such as SNAP.
Behrman is also a customer of Good Eggs, and recognizes that for some people, price is an issue. But she noted that the kinds of foods on the site are expensive to make, and the vendors are not making big profits. "What we can do is keep the conversation going about these things" and get people to consider their spending priorities, she said.
(We tried it in our house, getting an assortment of products we'd never tried. Good Eggs emailed us when our delivery would arrive. It came on time and the food was in great shape, packed in a paper grocery bag, with padded containers holding ice packs for the refrigerated items (those can be returned with the next order). They also gave us a small bag of tango tangerines from Polito Family Farms as a welcome gift.)