After 10 years in the independent-grocer business, South Philly-born brothers Andrew and Adam Erace of Green Aisle Grocery are calling it a day. They’ll shutter their shops on East Passyunk and Grays Ferry Avenues at the end of this month.
To empty the stores, they’re discounting all inventory (save for fresh products such as cheese, produce, and ice cream) by 20% — that includes frozen meat, cookbooks, kitchen wares, and shelf-stable goods like their house-made preserves.
The Eraces started making the jarred preserves years ago, as a way to use up produce that was past its retail prime. “It was part of a zero-waste operation,” Andrew Erace said in a recent phone interview.
Initially, they’d cook them down in the kitchen of erstwhile East Passyunk neighbor Paradiso on the restaurant’s off days; eventually they began making them in the small commercial kitchen of their Graduate Hospital store. They could tend to cooking in between stocking the shelves, ringing up customers, and tallying inventory.
In keeping with Green Aisle’s local mandate, they used seasonal produce and organic pantry staples (vinegars, spices, sugar, etc.) to make marmalades, nut butters, jams, pickles, and more. And producing batches of three to five cases at a time allowed them to experiment with unusual flavor combinations: curried apple-onion chutney, smoked cinnamon-amaretti cookie apricot butter, blood orange-meyer lemon-habanero jelly. “You’re not just going to get plain strawberry,” Andrew said.
They’re done making the preserves now, but there are 60 or so jars left at both locations. Remaining stock includes strawberry-thyme, apricot-sumac-sage, vanilla-gooseberry, and blueberry-cardamom — as well as jars of their house-made pistachio butter, one product the brothers hope to keep alive even after Green Aisle shuts its doors.
“People had asked us I can’t tell you how many times, ‘I have a place in Brooklyn, I’d love to get six cases of these,’” Andrew recalled. His reply was typically laughter: The pistachio butter is blended in an 8-cup Cuisinart food processor at the Grays Ferry Avenue store, and because it was made with organic raw pistachio and grapeseed oil, it was pricey.
But recently, their Santa Barbara, Calif. pistachio supplier started offering pistachio crumble — “they make a pistachio flour, and when they render out the flour, the crumbles are what’s left” — which makes the process for making the butter more cost- and time-efficient.
“Still no one is doing that on the marketplace,” Andrew said of the butter. “We’ve consistently gotten the wow factor from that product, so much so that we’re working on developing that into a full-on business.” The entrepreneurial brothers, who called Green Aisle a “side hustle before ‘side hustle’ was even a phrase,” plan to take a break after the stores close, then explore scaling up production and distribution of the pistachio spread. “Maybe this is something we want to ride,” Andrew said.