New Market Downtown Offers New Choices for Residents and Workers

Roanokers who live downtown, those who work there and people and others just visiting have a new option when it comes to pleasing their palates. S&W Market has opened inside the Sixteen West building on Church Avenue. The renovated structure also includes a number of apartments, the CORE chiropractic office, the Café 16 coffee shop, the RAC Express fitness center and booths that will soon house other food vendors.

Owners Mark Linson and Amelia Glaser have a long history in food, either in the restaurant business, or as in Glaser’s case, as an expert on cheese. She helped launch the gourmet cheese sections at Fresh Market and the now defunct Ukrop’s before taking the plunge with Linson in opening S&W Market earlier this month.

Glaser is putting her skills in pairing wine and cheese to good use at S&W, which also hopes to start drawing upon her catering background as well. “This is a lifelong dream  – I’ve been hanging around cheese for about 30 years,” said Glaser, “and I’ve always wanted to have my own shop.”

Glaser is sourcing regional cheeses as well as others from around the world, and looks forward to educating Roanokers about them. “People are scared of cheese. I want to make them comfortable.” Showing people how to pair cheeses with wine or beer is one way to do that.

 S&W Market wants people to “experience the food,” said Glaser, who plans to have regular tasting sessions. “We’re providing [an option] for all of the residents down here, as well as the business people.”

S&W Market features local produce, fresh salads and sandwiches, a wide selection of cheeses, sandwiches, wraps (the Hummus and Veggie wrap is a favorite) and homemade soups. There are also products produced regionally, like pumpkin butter from Winston-Salem, and items found perhaps in the northeast – think of well-stocked delis in Greenwich Village perhaps. Beverages not found elsewhere in these parts, along with local beer and wine, can also be purchased.

Yet S&W Market is also a place where local residents can find milk, bread and other staples, bringing it closer to the downtown grocery store that the area has long lacked. Part timer Jeff Wendell, who used to own the John Norman clothiers chain and was offered a job by Glaser, said the owners “didn’t go high,” when it comes to pricing, keeping S&W competitive with larger markets.

Wendell is proud to point out many of the esoteric items for sale, including some that remind him of delis in his native New Jersey. “A lot of odd things,” he points out. Wendell is semi-retired and still manages a building he owns in the West Village complex, in southwest Roanoke County.

Linson said he planned at first just to open the Cork & Crust wood-fired pizzeria next door to S&W – that could debut in late November – before the idea of a downtown market was floated to him. “The more we looked at it…its all tied in,” said Linson, who can share his inventory between S&W and Cork & Crust, which will offer tapas (small plates featuring various delicacies), local beer and wine, and fresh soups and salads. There will be booth seating as well as an emphasis on takeout service.

S&W has been described as a European-style market, something akin to what one might see in cities in Europe or South America. “We saw that Roanoke didn’t have this amenity. It was such a needed thing,” said Linson, who decided to take the plunge before someone else did. He’s trying to be as “ethical” as possible when it comes to product sourcing without being too hard line regarding organic or locally produced goods. He doesn’t want to carry cigarettes or mainstream sodas found elsewhere.

Its not Food Lion or Kroger, but S&W is “dabbling in every little thing,” keeping an ear tuned to what customers are looking for. “You can still get your can of soup or your jar of peanut butter,” notes Linson (35), who moved to Roanoke from Denver about six years ago. It took him almost a year to get the market off the ground and considers it to be an evolving project.

“We’re never going to be done, its always going to be changing, depending on the client’s needs and downtown’s demands.” Downtown was “dying” when Linson arrived in Roanoke. He’s encouraged by the living space renovations and other transformations. “It’s coming around – I think the buzz is going. I want to be a part of that.”

Having a critical mass of people now living downtown made a project like Sixteen West and S&W Market much more economically feasible. “There’s [about] 1300 people living down here right now,” said Linson, “and many of them don’t have cars or want to drive to Towers [Shopping Center] every time they need something. We’re hoping to fill that niche.”

A “big lunch crowd” looking for deli sandwiches, soup and salads is also helping to fill that niche. Linson would like to offer delivery services and “cuisine to go” in the near future. Being part of the Sixteen West renovation is “an honor” for Linson, especially since it was a “green” project.  At S&W’s recent open house people said they were impressed; “People were very pleased by what we put together.”

 S&W Market, 16 West Church Avenue, open from 9am to 7pm weekdays, 10am to 4pm Saturdays, closed on Sundays.

For more information call 206-3572.

By Gene Marrano

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