Hardcore matcha drinkers in Quincy, Illinois? The town is on fire with matcha drinkers, and their leader is Michele Wilkerson.
Michele is the dynamo behind Grown-n-Gathered, a thriving storefront, yoga studio, and farmers market rolled into one. She has done an astounding job introducing concepts concerning wellness to the community of Quincy, mainly through sourcing and providing better, healthier food to the people of Quincy.
We were curious as to why so many people in Quincy drink so much matcha, so we asked her a few questions; her responses are below.
What is it about the demographics of Quincy and its thirst for great matcha? How do you explain the amazing success of your matcha sales?
Quincy is small Midwest town with a population that can be described as having a strong work ethic; we have an extremely caring and generous community. We are located in the middle of a food desert, meaning we have poor access to healthy foods.
While our downtown is charming and rich in architecture, our main street is lined with typical American fast food chains and drive thrus. Our large chain grocery centers still cater to the food habits of 20+ years ago. Old habits die hard. Surrounded by large scale rural farmland, our nutrient-rich soils have been largely depleted by agrochemicals for big business farming. Smaller vegetable producers are rare.
When I mentioned to a friend who grew up in Quincy (and who lives here in northern CA now) that there’s a thriving and sustainable eco-friendly grocery store slash farmers market slash yoga studio that sells lots of primo matcha, she was incredulous. Has Quincy changed that much over the years? Can you see your model of success being replicated throughout the state and beyond? Do you see people everywhere just wanting better food and wellness in their lives?
The seed for Grown-n-Gathered came from my own Mom, while I was living in Chicago. She would often say something like, “I want to make better food decisions, I just don’t have access to options you do in the city.” And it was true: I had unlimited access to healthy food options. I had plans of moving back home to open a yoga studio; GnG was not on my radar. I drank matcha, not with the understanding of how it affected my health, but knowing it gave me energy as I was teaching yoga.
I opened Yoga7even in Quincy in 2013. I still had a full-time corporate job at the time and started the new business in my “off hours” — you can imagine how depleted I felt.
I was far from adequately fueled, for the exact same reasons my mom had explained earlier. We just didn’t have sufficient organic options readily available. I was schlepping food back with me during my corporate business trips to Chicago and kept telling myself “someone needs to open a mini healthy food store in Quincy.”
Little did I know it at the time, but in retrospect it seems inevitable; just a year after opening the yoga studio, I opened GnG because, at the end of the day, I was hungry.
I knew there was a market, within the stereotypical Midwest population, that thirsted to make better decisions. Ask anyone in Quincy, and they will readily acknowledge that we’re about 20 years behind the coasts, maybe more. We are a slower paced, vibrant and “great place to raise kids” type of community that hasn’t caught up with the concept of truly living. We made a top 20 list of great places to retire. Vegetarians and vegans find this Quincy extremely difficult to visit. We are at a tipping point here: GnG is leading the charge in offering healthier alternatives.
The store attracts all the out-of-towners and their response is almost always the same: “I cannot believe Quincy has a yoga studio and health food store!” They seem stunned by the vibrancy of both our offerings and how busy we are, and their follow-up is always “How are you doing, business-wise?”.
There is a HUGE opportunity in these small to medium-sized communities, especially in the Midwest, to offer a healthy lifestyle. People in these communities want to make better decisions, and they want to feel good. Most people just don’t know where to start.
Can you describe a few typical customers of GnG?
GnG’s customers, specifically matcha customers, are the hard working 12-hour swing shift laborers who want to go home and play with their kids and grandkids. The person that knows their past habits haven’t been the best choices and wants to make a change. The ones fighting chronic disease and find GnG soon after a diagnosis or treatment. We are a small store, offering 1 on 1 service and consultation. We introduce customers to things such as matcha, quinoa and kefir, among many more superfoods, for the first time. Several ask for matcha by asking “I’m coming in for that magic tea.” When something is that natural and magic, word travels fast.
What is it about matcha that you especially like so much?
I love Matcha because I love hearing how it’s helped so many find a healthier version of themselves; helping with migraines, chronic fatigue, weight loss, and more. I love hearing how people “just know” when they don’t drink it they feel it. I am a green tea connoisseur and love having someone try it for the first time. Their scrunched face as they smell it, look at it and say “Here we go” then surprisingly respond “That’s actually pretty good.” Its been an amazing staple within the superfood line-up at GnG. Specifically I love the generous and impeccable customer service at Breakaway; it never gets old.