Credit: Kelly Doering

Jeff Maurer, , Fresh Madison Market

The trend in grocery stores is mega-markets on the peripheries of cities. Hence food shopping means a drive in the car. For those without cars, access to fresh produce and good-quality staples can be a major problem.

Madison grocer Jeff Maurer is resisting that trend. Maurer, 55, brought a full-service grocery back to the heart of the UW-Madison campus when he opened Fresh Madison Market in January 2010 — in an area that had been without one since 1970. The 16,000-square-foot store has a prominent produce section, bulk bins, prepared-food stations and 4,000 additional square feet for cooking classes.

This past summer, Maurer's plan to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to areas of Madison without a convenient grocery (areas designated food deserts by the USDA) was realized with the launch of the Freshmobile. It's a mobile grocery store in a custom-designed 44-foot-long trailer hauled by a pickup; it's also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation. And it brings fresh foods to grocery-less neighborhoods six days a week.

"The whole intent is to break even," Maurer notes. "We want to provide healthy food at the lowest possible cost."

Staying close to his customers is important to Maurer. Before he opened Fresh Madison Market, he talked to students; he's just talked to six neighborhood groups about what he can do to make the Freshmobile more helpful. "We're evolving," he says. "We want to make it accessible." A new stop in the town of Madison is about to be added, too.

So far, the Freshmobile serves 200-300 people a week, but Maurer hopes that will increase with word-of-mouth. The closing of farmers' markets for the winter and the coming inclement weather may bring in more shoppers as well.

Maurer, who grew up in the food biz, likes to quote his father: "This is a people business. We just happen to sell food."

- Linda Falkenstein