Bert’s All American Market is so patriotic it opened on the Fourth of July last year.
Owner Bert Waisanen prides himself on operating a fresh-food neighborhood grocery store focused on Colorado products and, beyond that, all-American products.
“It’s not that I’m against ethnic foods,” explains Waisanen. “We carry a lot of ethnic-style foods. I’m just pro-local.”
The underlying mission of Bert’s, at 5856 S. Lowell Blvd., is to support and stimulate the local, state and U.S. economies, says Waisanen.
“It’s nice to be creating jobs from the inside,” says Waisanen, who formerly worked as a longtime budget adviser on public policy for Colorado legislators.
“Why would you fly an apple all the way from Holland when you could grow it in a greenhouse in Arvada?”
While working in urban farming, Waisanen began networking with farmers and produce growers, ultimately conceiving the idea for his store. Waisanen used his time as an urban farmer to develop his grocery store, with some sage advice from his family.
“My father-in-law was a grocer for 50 years,” Waisanen says. “So I asked him about his experiences.”
Bert’s carries nostalgic goods, such as vintage sodas from around the country and Moon Pies. It also stocks up-and-coming food vendors looking to break into the business.
“It’s fun to discover the next new thing before it becomes big,” says Waisanen, who has developed a taste for the store’s various brands of root beer.
Laura Yetzer came in on a Tuesday looking for grass-fed beef. Yetzer says she is not a regular.
“I keep forgetting about (Bert’s) until my neighbor mentioned they had grass-fed beef,” says Yetzer.
Waisanen says many customers discover the store by word of mouth, looking for a specific product they can’t find anywhere else. Waisanen is always on the prowl for diet-specific items, a search that has yielded great finds like his vegan-friendly pancake mix.
Maggie Donovan, a vendor who sells her all-natural Wisecakes at Bert’s, sees consumers’ increasing attention to diet as being Colorado-specific.
“We’re one of the healthiest states in country,” Donovan says. “We’re one of the most innovative people in the country. I think we’re looking for urban gourmet shops like this.”
Waisanen sees his store as a place that gives small companies a place to sell their gourmet goods in the winter, when farmers markets are not operating.
“People who work farmers markets have a hub here in the winter months,” says Waisanen.
Waisanen says his commitment to local products still allows him to offer quality produce throughout the year. He believes that because of his personal relationship with local farmers, he can obtain what his customers want more precisely and quickly.
“Last year we had Palisade Peaches as soon as they were available, and we had them all the way into Thanksgiving,” says Waisanen.
By working so closely with local companies, Bert’s sometimes receives produce on the same day it is harvested.
‘A good state for new companies’
Jim and Liz Phair make and bottle barbecue sauces, marinades and pork green chili, and sell their products at Bert’s. Phair says that while most of his profits come during the summer at farmers markets, he brings in additional revenue by selling his wares at Bert’s.
Phair says his sauces have won awards around the country, but he hasn’t landed his products in any big stores yet.
“Colorado is a good state for new companies,” Phair says. "To be honest, though, it’s getting tougher … because, with the job market as it is, more and more people are thinking, ‘I have a good product. I could do that.’ ”
Phair says his wife works at a bottling plant and she often sees new companies trying to break into large supermarkets such as Whole Foods.
These new companies looking for shelf space and consumers are exactly what Waisanen is looking for to stock the shelves at Bert’s.
“I do think that Bert’s All-American is a great company, and we’re a great fit to be in there because of our products and Bert’s mentality,” says Donovan.
Bert's All American Market
5856 S. Lowell Blvd., Units 31-32, Littleton
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.