Brothers (left to right): Joseph, Christian and Patrick Lane.
By Jessica Dupuy
Photography by Andy Sams
Everyone has a soft spot for the local neighborhood corner store—the place to grab a quick staple or two, where you feel safe letting your kids wander the aisles without getting too far from sight and where the check-out person likely knows you by name.
But many in our community would agree that it’s an immeasurable bonus if that corner store also happens to be a popular neighborhood hangout, a contributor to a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and designed with strict adherence to low waste and sustainability. Well, that’s exactly what in.gredients is all about.
Entering the East Side store, visitors catch on quickly. The refrigerated cases are awash with marbled cuts of beef from Bastrop Cattle Company, plump chickens from Windy Meadows Family Farm and fresh milks and cheeses from our many nearby dairy farmers. Down the first aisle is a collection of oversized metal barrels housing natural liquid soaps, nut butters and oils. There’s a fresh deli case and a back counter of prepared foods packed with pizzas from East Side Pies, Easy Tiger breads and tasty treats from Miles of Chocolate, to name a few. There’s a tap station with a rotation of local beers, Wunder-Pilz kombucha, Third Coast Coffee Roasting Company cold brew and Texas wines from Pedernales Cellars. Other aisles feature large containers of grains, nuts, baking basics and dried goods. Purposely absent, though, are most of the prepackaged goods normally found in the average supermarket.
In.gredients’ shelf offerings and business model are no accident. When brothers Christian, Joseph and Patrick Lane—along with business partners Christopher Pepe and Brian Nunnery—designed the store, they wanted to provide more than a simple neighborhood grocer; they wanted to make a difference. Building on ideas from the likes of acclaimed sustainable food-centric author Michael Pollan, the team followed the model of re-creating a shopping experience that our grandmothers (or even great-grandmothers) might recognize.
“We wanted to do groceries differently,” says Christian. “We encourage people to bring their own containers and weigh their ingredients at our weight station. They can see what they’ve got in the container, what they’ve had in the container and how they’ve reduced their overall waste of product over time.”
According to Christian’s research, 40 percent of what the average consumer buys goes to waste—beginning with the production and packaging of food, to the packages in the grocery store, to what goes to waste in our own pantries and freezers. By cutting out the conventional packaging system, a lot of that waste goes away. “We want people to understand what they’ve got in their pantry to help them reduce their waste and maximize what they’re buying,” says Christian. Of course, if a customer should stumble in without their own containers, they can purchase reusable containers in the store and use them again on their next visit. Of the various products provided at in.gredients, the vast majority come from Central Texas. “We source as local as possible,” Christian says. “When we can’t find local producers, we try to find a responsible alternative. But lately we’ve tracked ninety-eight percent local on produce, more than sixty percent in dairy and sixty-nine percent in the cost of goods sold overall, whether food or nonfood.”
But in.gredients goes beyond just selling local products. They work with the local producers to encourage and promote them, as well—everything from hosting special evening events that spotlight producers and vendors to working with many of the smaller suppliers to get them up to speed with basic business-accounting systems to facilitate better transactional processes. “We see this as a way to help bring new opportunities to newer producers who are just getting their goods on the market,” Christian says. “But it’s a lot to manage on our own. We have some challenges in finding new vendors, and there’s a lot to keep organized from logistics on deliveries to billing consistency and helping foster the different levels of business maturity among the vendors.”
And the dedication to promoting local products spills out the doors of in.gredients, as well—to the community picnic tables in the front, to the kids’ playscape and to the garden. “We really wanted to have a community space,” says Christian. “But also a place where people can learn about food and where it comes from. We partnered with Urban Patchwork to make a community garden here. People who are part of the Cherrywood Neighborhood Urban Patchwork CSA help keep up our garden and take a large portion of its yield. In exchange, we’re able to sell a little bit of what’s leftover.”
As in.gredients continues to grow in its current community, it’s possible that Austin could see other locations pop up in the future. But not before the founding team feels it has solidified its purpose first. “We want to get a solid foundation on what we’re doing here at this location before we think about expanding,” Christian says. “But we’d eventually love to effect this type of change in other parts of Austin, as well.” That’s something the corner-store fan in all of us can look forward to.
2610 Manor Rd.