Jon Przybyl brought bread and baked goods to downtown Mesa and now he has brought a concept that helps people just like him – local vendors who make unique products.
His Main Street Harvest, which opened in January and which he runs with his wife Amanda, is just two doors down from Proof Bread – Jon’s first brick-and-mortar bakery that he opened last year after his made-at-home Old World artisan breads and pastries won a big following.
“Proof has been a heck of an adventure with building out our first commercial production facility in downtown Mesa,” Jon said.
“Main Street Harvest is an idea I have been dreaming about for many years,” he continued. “Basically, it’s a way to complete the circle of what we do at Proof and that brings all of our friends from the local food production community.
“It’s a local driven grocery store. All of the products are produced by local families.”
He ran a test in December around the holidays before opening Main Street Harvest by developing a priority list of vendors whose products best paired with bread. “The first vendor I called was a coffee vendor,” Przybyl said.
But he wound up also carrying shrimp from Wild Shrimp Co. in Rocky Point.
“They were among the last of the 20 I called,” he said. “If it was just bread and shrimp for a holiday market, that would be a little bit weird. So, we went in the priority order of things that paired with bread.”
He admits he wasn’t sure his idea would work, recalling how he thought “there’s no chance we’re going to have a whole grocery concept off the fly because literally, I planned this event days before it happened.
“To my great surprise, everyone I called agreed to join. We had a holiday market of around 20 vendors with everything from coffee to produce to chocolate to meat to eggs to shrimp to granola and a lot of things in between.”
Yes, the store even carries locally produced chocolate.
“We source DNA Chocolate for Proof and it’s the chocolate we’ve been using in our chocolate croissants since 2017,” said Przybyl.
One of the most recent vendors to join is Ramona Farms.
“They are a group from the Tohono O’odham tribe in Southern Arizona that grows grains and legumes and so there’s all kinds of beans as well as wheat and wheat berries grown by the tribe down there,” he explained.
A lot of the original vendors brought in during the test holiday market are folks the couple knows from the farmers’ markets.
“With the bakery, we attend markets around the valley,” said Przybyl, who makes the rounds of farmers markets in Gilbert, Phoenix and Old Town Scottsdale.
“And we have been with all of these people for years,” he said. “We neighbor them at the market, we help one another setup tents, we share stories, we support one another. So, we thought what better way to enter downtown Mesa than not only to bring a bakery but bring dozens of other local businesses.”
When the couple first started this as a holiday pop-up, they had no idea what the future would bring.
“We knew we wanted to use our building to sell bread over the holidays,” Przybyl said. “And we thought this would be a great opportunity to see how the public responds to a marketplace where they can attend more than just on Saturdays to buy other local groceries. We had a really good response.”
Main Street Harvest now has 50 local food producers with many grocery categories. All of them have some sort of a tie to Arizona.
“What’s important for us is we actually understand what we’re selling,” Przybyl explained. “It’s a little bit different than when you go into the supermarket. There are so many products in the supermarket you can’t possibly expect the clerks to know much about.
“We have very close relationships with the folks who are represented in the store. It’s very important for us to sell their products in the same type and way we sell our own bread, with knowledge and information.”
The vendors occupy about half of the 2,500-square-foot store but the grocer is expanding.
“We also have a notable partnership we just started with Local First Arizona,” Przybyl said. “There’s a Local First kitchen in Mesa just East of our location near Pioneer Park. That kitchen is a commissary, a collection of very young businesses that in some cases are just starting out and some that have been around a while.
“We are featuring a number of those businesses on a rotating basis every month with Local First. Some of those businesses are then transitioning to joining the store.”
Another new initiative in the works is home delivery that should be rolling out in the next few months.
“Our focus is to highlight local businesses, to promote local eatings, promote local food production and also to give a lot of the local businesses we’re working with more of a regular opportunity to sell their goods,” Przybyl added.
“The farmers’ markets are incredible but we offer something they can have throughout the week.”
He said prices are very competitive to local foods but they come at a different price point than items, such as bread, you find at the supermarket.
“You can come into our store and you can browse the product and ask questions of people who will have answers for you and get an understanding of the real cost of food production,” said Przybyl.
“As you can imagine, our local food producers are not running around in Ferraris and Porsches and living in multi-million dollar homes. They’re among the humblest people you’ll meet. Food production comes with high costs.
“A lot of times when we shop at the supermarket those costs are hidden behind government subsidies, behind international trade, behind other mechanisms that drive the price of food down below levels that’s even possible to produce locally.”
“When we got into bread, we always had an interest in food,” explained Przybyl. “We’re both the children of immigrants.” Jon’s parents came from Poland and Amanda’s family from Lebanon.
The couple, who have lived in Mesa for the last four years, has two daughters, 8 and 10.
Information: 121 W. Main, mainstharvest.com, 480-428-8305.