December 30, 2019
Open since March of 2018, Campbell’s Market Basket has been a one-stop-shop for all student needs. Bursting with a wide variety of produce and goods, you will never have to go anywhere else. The store carries regular grocery items, such as produce, eggs, bread, cheese, drinks and more. For those that want to stop in for a meal, there is a soup and salad bar, made-to-order sandwiches, pre-made food, coffee, chips and donuts. There are also gluten-free and vegan options available among those products. This vast array also has fun items such as cannabidiol (CBD) products, hand-made soaps, succulents and other house plants. No matter who you are, you will find something that suits your fancy at Campbell’s.
Ken Campbell, a native to East Lansing and an alumnus of Albion, is the creator of the store. He got into sustainability and agriculture during his senior year at Albion. After that, he worked at some farms and his knowledge of agritourism grew. Campbell ran some farmer’s markets, which got him interested in the local food movement. He then grew produce and put it in CSAs. These are food boxes with produce and goods that are contributed to by local farmers or sellers. People from the community pay a subscription to get a box once every week. Campbell realized he couldn’t rely on this as his only job due to it being so seasonal. He also noticed the lack of options and farmer’s markets within East Lansing. This gave him the confidence to start Campbell’s, a year-round farmer’s market.
“We’re not really a convenience store and we’re not really a grocery store. We’re just a small urban market that offers really good stuff that changes throughout the year to provide a space to cater to the students but also to East Lansing,” Campbell said.
The name for the place comes from a time when there were only independent mom-and-pop shops. The last one in East Lansing was on the same block Campbell’s currently is and was called Market Basket National Grocery. If you look, you can still see the plaque by Peanut Barrel that shows the old name from the 1940s of that block, Market Basket. Taking the history of East Lansing, that building and his last name, Ken Campbell created the name Campbell’s Market Basket.
To create a mix of produce from around the world, Campbell’s does carry some from conventional producers. This allows people to get goods that they otherwise wouldn’t in a farmer’s market and can make some, such as international students, get a slice of life from home. Despite this, Campbell’s is filled with 90% local goods during the on-seasons of farming. During the off-seasons, when farming is more difficult, there is more produce from national growers. Additionally, all of the baked goods are delivered from the local shops and bakeries every morning. With reasonable prices and delicious food, they are an EL staple. They carry pre-packaged food and a salad bar. These are prepared by the staff fresh every morning with their local items before their doors open. This gives a person stopping in during their lunch break the perfect opportunity for an amazing meal.
Campbell has fostered his contacts from his years of growing food and running farmer’s markets. These local relationships are what bring the produce into Campbell’s. “The best networking tool is using the contacts from the friends I’ve made, they’re the first people I’ll reach out to,” Campbell said. He also has creators who wander into the store, see the nice products and want Campbell’s to represent their business.
“For as small as we are, it’s important to have some special things that stand out and are unique. We are always changing, being innovative and looking for new exciting items; whether it be new produce or hand-crafted soap. If we think we can sell it and help people out then we’ll put it in the store and give it a chance,” Campbell said.
“The best part about the store is the people,” Campbell said. He meets so many new members of the community and loves to spend time with everyone. There are many regulars that they get to know. Plus, his staff is amazing. For Campbell, it makes it enjoyable to be at work. “The majority of my staff are Michigan State students. It’s really nice to work with people that are interested in this, whether they’re interested in agriculture, hospitality, food or all of the above. They make the overall experience better,” he said.
In the store, there are many secret gems that others might not know about. He feels one of these items is the produce. Campbell describes how most people come in for a quick bite but then are exposed to the items that they have to offer. The other item is their hot drinks. “We have really high-quality coffee and espresso, which is roasted just for us in Lansing. We have great hot chocolate that’s new. I have a friend that imports Italian cocoa and we use the espresso machine for it. It’s kind of a hidden coffee bar,” Campbell said.
For the future, Campbell wants to continue to expand his reach in the community and to grow with it. Campbell would like to put more outdoor seating and use the patio space they have to its fullest extent. “With our products, we want to continue to give students and people in the community a reason to come by and find some great stuff they can’t find elsewhere,” he said.
You can find Campbell’s on social media where they have giveaways and contests. Go stop by for a whole new local experience.
Heather Haely is a senior studying Professional Writing and Advertising. After graduation, she wants to edit or advertise for a publishing house. Heather loves good books and free time with friends. Her perfect day is in the sun with the sand in between her toes. She also likes to make fun of herself and dance like no one’s watching. Follow her on Instagram @heather_haely.