Fresh Madison Market to launch mobile market

Photo courtesy of Fresh Madison MarketPhoto courtesy of Fresh Madison Market








Jeff Maurer is on a mission to share fresh food. Maurer is the owner of Fresh Madison Market, a popular grocery store on University Avenue. The busy store is generally full of students and university employees.

But recently, Maurer has developed a plan to extend the market’s merchandise to other neighborhoods—especially areas that normally would not have the same shopping opportunities.

In 2010, Maurer began working with the Madison Boys and Girls Club, and said he quickly took note of the startling lack of healthy food options near the Allied Drive area in South Madison.

“As I was working with the kids, it was really obvious that they were lacking in getting fresh produce, especially fruit,” he said.

Maurer believes that part of the problem is limited options for buying food in the neighborhood.

“Most of the people over there are shopping at Walgreens or McDonalds, [or] Kentucky Fried Chicken,” he said.

Now, Maurer believes he has found a solution to that lack of exposure: a 34 foot, refrigerated car trailer containing a mobile grocery store. A driver and cashier will operate the traveling store, where patrons will have the option to choose from a variety of nutritional food staples.

Inspiration came from the Chicago-based project Fresh Moves, where a bus was converted into a mobile food store. Maurer evaluated the program and enhanced it by adding, among other things, the ability to keep items chilled without leaving the trailer running, and samples and demonstrations of food, to spark interest in trying new products.

Additionally, Maurer plans to run the trailer using a relatively low budget.

“Cost wise, we believe we’ll be able to operate on a much lower margin than a typical supermarket because we won’t have all the overhead costs. There’ll be very low labor. No rent, no taxes, no lights. None of those costs of doing business,” he said.

As a result, Maurer expects prices will be lower for consumers.

 “We really don’t want pricing to be a barrier,” he said. “We’re looking to make really good, healthy food very affordable.”

He expects the mobile store will also give patrons the opportunity to pay with food stamps.

The mobile store has not come without a cost, however. The $200,000 project is seeking 501(c)(3) status and hopes to begin applying for grants within the week to help offset costs.

“Being a small company like we are, and a start-up company, we can’t afford to lose money on this and it really has to be self-sustaining,” Maurer said. “What we’re looking for is to essentially break even to cover our costs and provide a valuable service to those communities.”

Plans for the trailer will be unveiled during the Healthy Living Summit at Monona Terrace on November 17.

Although Maurer is a little nervous about how the project will fair, he is optimistic about the benefits it will bring to lower-income areas in Dane County.

“If we can help feed kids better foods, they’re going to be better. They’re going to learn better, they’re going to behave better, they’re going to grow into better and healthier adults,” Maurer said.