From Francestown to Milford Village Foods opens retail shop at Granite Town Plaza

Editor’s note: Francestown Village Foods’ retail shop had to close temporarily to resolve issues involving its certificate of occupancy. They

expect to open by Christmas.

MILFORD – Ten years ago, Jason Martel had had enough of corporate life, and he and his wife, Jennifer, bought the village store in Francestown. It wasn’t long before customers began asking for prepared foods.

So they tried preparing and then freezing crowd-pleasers like lasagne, as well as more exotic dishes like a Vietnamese pork rice bowl.

The meals became so popular Martel sold the store and moved his prepared food business to Granite Town Plaza. For about a year, he and his business partner, Michael Webb, have been producing and selling the ready-to bake meals to markets all over New Hampshire, including Shaw’s and Hannaford Supermarkets and small, independent grocers.

In the 8,000 square foot facility, their 10 employees prepare and freeze 15-ounce meals in varieties that include penne with roasted garlic tomato sauce, macaroni and cheese and shrimp scampi, designed to feed two.

Their 11 different 31-ounce family meals include Thai green curry with shrimp, baked shells with brie, roasted tomatoes and shitake mushrooms and village pie with ground lamb roasted parsnips and carrots. They also make four different 15-ounce burritos.

This month a new chapter in the Francestown Village Foods’ story began as Martel and Webb opened a retail shop in the storefront of their commercial kitchen, selling their products for less than they do at supermarkets.

On Dec. 5, they held a “soft opening” for the retail store, and they’re planning a grand opening later this month.

The purpose of the shop is to build brand awareness and offer New Hampshire products at a good price, Martel said.

“This has been so much fun, and it’s fun to see how excited” the employees are to be part of this new venture, he said.

During the soft opening, a representative of the state liquor commission stopped in, and Martel hopes that soon the shop will sell 100 different wines and 100 different beers, allowing people to mix and match beer varieties in six-packs.

In January, they will have their own line of beef jerky made on site from beef raised at Maine Family Farms, from GMO-free, all-natural, grass-fed animals, “100 percent sustainable beef,” Webb said. There will also be fresh bread from a local baker.

The goal is to “put together an off-the-charts dinner” that people will love, said Martel, centered around traditional dishes like shepherd’s pie, which can be difficult to make at home.

“You could serve it to Gordon Ramsay, and he would never believe it had been frozen,” said Webb.

The retail shop is designed to be a low-cost outlet, with homemade lasagne, for example, selling for less than it could be made at home – $10 for two pounds of lasagne made from local beef.

Martel and Webb are also talking about turning their kitchen into leased space during its down time, on Saturday and Sundays.

But the big thing is the idea of sourcing locally, Martel said, of promoting local farmers and other producers of quality, wholesome food.

“As they grow, we grow,” Martel said. “There is something special” about “knowing people are eating our food. This has been so much fun.”

Their local suppliers for food manufacturing include Northeast Family Farms, Maple Brook Farms, Maria and Ricardos, Mclaughin Produce and Lost Village Farm.

Among the suppliers for the retail store are Maple Brook Farms, Ben’s Sugar Shack, Ava Marie Chocolates, Bee Tree Farm, Sweet Grass Farm and Black Bear Coffee.

The shop is open Wednesdays through Sundays, from noon until 6 p.m. and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or kcleveland@
cabinet.com.