Campbell’s Market Basket Brings Fresh Groceries Downtown

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Monday, April 8, 2019, 7:41 am
Alice Dreger

At Campbell's Market Basket, 547 E. Grand River Ave., fresh-baked breads and pastries are among the many locally produced offerings.

In advance of opening his new downtown shop, Ken Campbell told ELi that it would bring a year-round array of fresh produce – something East Lansing’s downtown has been lacking. Now that the upscale urban grocery has opened, it’s clear Campbell’s promise has been borne out.

Campbell’s Market Basket opened about two weeks ago at 547 E. Grand River Ave., just across the street from the Broad Art Museum. Since then, a steady stream of customers has been coming in, ranging from MSU students to senior citizens who live in near-downtown neighborhoods.

The store stocks fresh spring-mix greens and spinach from Monroe Family Organics of Alma as well as fresh eggs from the open-pastured, antibiotic-free chickens of Willlowbrook Farm in Elsie.

Says Campbell (pictured below), the locally grown goods are “flying off the shelf.”

But there’s a lot more than what can be provided from local farms in winter. Campbell and his business partner Perry Kaguni aim to make it easy to grab coffee, lunch, or the makings for dinner.

Besides offering just about any vegetable or fresh herb you may want (peppers, onions, eggplant, squash, cilantro, mint), there are pastas, oils, tortillas, and fancy condiments. The refrigerated case has pre-chopped vegetable medleys for stir frys, and there are fresh flowers for the table.

The store also has avocados and mangos that are perfectly ripe.

MSU students, faculty, and staff often stop in to take advantage of the quick breakfast and lunch options. Campbell’s offers fresh-baked breads and pastries, soups, and sandwiches along with a dizzying array of snack options – yogurts, plain-raw and candied nuts, spicy peanuts, sodas, chips, and single-serving dips. You can also enjoy a big sour dill pickle from a barrel.

Campbell and Kaguni, who both grew up in East Lansing and graduated from East Lansing Public Schools, are excited to be bringing upscale urban options to their hometown.

Kaguni’s parents are faculty at MSU, and Campbell is fourth-generation East Lansing and lives in the Oakwood neighborhood. Kaguni attended MSU, and Campbell went to Albion College.

“I can always tell if it’s somebody’s first time in the store,” Kaguni told me, “because their face lights up. That’s what I like to see, smiles as soon as someone comes in.”

"We see a lot of repeat customers already, some in seven days a week," said Ken Campbell. "We are on their walk to school or to work.”

Campbell has been pleased with the response, too: “We have been enjoying a really good reception from everyone, from MSU students to our neighbors and relatives who live in Bailey, Oakwood, and Glencairn. We are looking to be their year-round market. We see a lot of repeat customers already, some in seven days a week. We are on their walk to school or to work.”

Campbell’s Market Basket is counting on the increasing residential density downtown to make its venture possible. The store is located near The Hub (under construction at Bogue Street and due to open in August), and the partners see that as a likely source of many customers.

Campbell encourages customers to tell him what they want him to stock.

“That’s the advantage of an independently owned small market,” he explained. Without contracts that might limit what he can buy, “We are so flexible.”

Any problems so far?

Says Campbell, “The only negative comments we’ve heard are from (undergraduate) seniors at MSU who say ‘I can’t believe I’m graduating in a month and this store has just opened.” © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info