Jessica Buser, grocery manager for Bread Garden Market, on Iowa City’s Ped Mall, spends a lot of time on her feet.
“I walk through the store once a day,” she said. “And we are always coming up with new items to order … .
“I am checking in with the various departments and making sure we have the lunch rush covered. But everyone pitches in to make it all work.”
Buser oversees the grocery staff, maintains inventory, places product orders and serves as floor manager on the three days a week she opens the store. Having a small grocery store footprint requires Buser and her staff to think creatively and maximize space.
“We are constantly reorganizing the store,” she said. “Our back stock sits on top of the shelves. Our customers demand a variety of products, but also need the basics, so it can be a challenge to maintain an inventory. But it is fun to keep that balance.”
“We also have full service catering. And we aren’t just a soup and sandwich place — we can do high end steak dinners, too, and offer a five-star experience,” added Cara Viner, catering manager.
The downtown Iowa City grocery store — which specializes in natural foods and European imports and offers a full deli and buffet — is a hub of activity for residents, business professionals and students alike.
“It has definitely gotten a lot busier in the last week,” admitted Buser, noting the influx of students all around Iowa City.
But shoppers at Bread Garden Market aren’t just picking up lunch to go, or stopping to enjoy it on their outdoor patio.
“Customers who live in the downtown area are our regulars,” Buser said. “They come in every day and it’s part of our routine. This store is a community.”
The store moved into its current location — on the ground level of the Hotel Vetro, right on the Ped Mall — in 2008, after getting started as the Bread Garden Bakery & Café in 1995. The store is part of Fresh Food Concepts, owned by Jim Mondanaro and which includes Mondo’s Saloon, Givanni’s, Joseph’s Steakhouse, Mondo’s Drafthouse and Hot House Yoga studios.
Viner and Buser joined the Bread Garden Market staff — of about 100 full- and part-time employees — within the past year.
“That means everything from an individual ordering a sandwich that day for lunch or catering a wedding,” she said.
Bread Garden Market caters about three large scale events a month, but Viner hopes to increase that number.
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