To Market, To Market

Time Market’s Peter and Bree Wilke talk passion, performance, and price.

June 23, 2013

In the BusinessIssue 1: Summer 2013

Q: You own Time Market, Wilko, B Line, and are involved in Exo Coffee. How’d it all begin?

Peter: It started in 1995 with Time Market. I moved toTucson, bought a house a block away from the market, got to know the owner, and at one point he said, “Hey. Do you want to buy this dump?” And I was just stupid enough to do it. There was never a plan to have multiple businesses; I just got involved with different partners, all of whom have since left. B Line opened in 2002, Wilko opened in 2009, and we started roasting coffee for Exo about four years ago. But food has always been a part of my life. Everyone in my family cooks. My grandfather was an importer for General Foods, my other grandfather was a tea taster and owned a market and smokehouse.

 

Q:How did you two meet?

Bree: Peter was my older brother’s best friend. We kind of grew up here together, in Time Market. When I met Peter, he’d owned the Market for a year. It was a super exciting time, when he was bringing in unique products from little far-away places, bringing in good wines. He’d bring home the wine for me to try, we would cook together, then we would travel together, taste and talk about what we tried. It’s been a huge part of our relationship.

 

Q:Are you both involved equally with all the businesses?

Bree: I’m really focused on Time Market. In the past two years, the Market has really experienced a re-birth. Before then, I had been living in San Francisco for school and we were traveling back and forth a lot. We were influenced by the experiences we had in San Francisco, the local food culture there. It’s a very friendly city, an amazing place to learn how graceful and gorgeous food can be, how dining can be casual and exceptional at the same time. [When] I returned to Tucson two years ago, Wilko was thriving, and it was the perfect time to work together on doing things at Time Market that we’ve always wanted to do, with local farmers, baking our own bread and really raising our game across the board.

 

Q: What kinds of changes are you making in terms of local, organic sourcing?

Peter: Ideally, local is better than organic, because you know where it comes from and you can go see what they’re using in their crops, how they’re taking care of their chickens. We’d like to source everything locally but this part of the country is a little more difficult in sourcing certain things like dairy, or foods that don’t grow in our biome. It’s a challenge to find a consistent supply of raw ingredients. We’re trying to cultivate a culinary team that can react quickly to availability from local farms. For example, Sleeping Frog farm just called us and said, ‘We have so much chard; we don’t know what to do.’ So tomorrow, the salad is going to be a charred Swiss chard salad. But it’s not the easiest thing to react to. What do you do when someone calls to say, ‘I’ve got 80 pounds of figs’?

Bree: We’re working on structuring that flexibility here, at Time Market and disseminating that to Wilko and B Line. If you can’t get, say, fresh arugula for even two days, if there’s a blip, it’s hard to have that printed on your menu. Your customers are like, ‘Well I came here to get that sandwich.’

Peter: The easy answer is to change your menu all the time, to have a chalkboard. The question is: Is this population ready for that?

 

Katie Morris tosses pizza dough, cooked in the Market’s wood-fired oven. Bree Wilke says that what gives Time Market its community-centered feel is the strength of their employees and the continuity of their customers.

Katie Morris tosses pizza dough, cooked in the Market’s wood-fired oven. Bree Wilke says that what gives Time Market its community-centered feel is the strength of their employees and the continuity of their customers.

Q: And is it?

Peter: It’s a lot better than it was 10 years ago.

Bree: A $9 sandwich can be difficult for people.

Peter: We’ll have a pasture raised, organic roasted pork loin salad, with local greens grown in Armado, delivered by the farmer, all organic baguette made by two guys in the restaurant, with home-made condiments, and it’ll cost $9. There will be people that complain about it… It’s all a Rubik’s cube, the price of that sandwich. To make it really good, the person making it has to be attentive enough to pull out that one arugula leaf that’s gone yellow. That person is not making minimum wage. That all goes into this whole deal, and that’s what you want to say to someone who complains about the price of a $9 sandwich.

 

Q: So what keeps you making that sandwich?

Peter: This isn’t really a business model. It’s more of an intense passion. We make these decisions because we have to do it that way. Because it’s the right way for us. We just hope enough people agree, that they want to come in and support us. Support us by saying, ‘I’ll buy that.’

Bree: It’s like throwing a party. Sometimes it’s completely stressful, you feel like it’s a flop. We’re throwing a party every day; it’s a lot of clean up and a lot of work. But when you throw one of those parties when everyone feels great, you feel great. You feel like: That’s community.

Peter: I’m into creating experiences and spaces so people in the community can go experience something to count as a real experience in their daily life. You know how the first thing new people ask is, ‘What do you do?’ I’ve always wanted to say: I’m a performance artist. We put on three shows a day, it’s an interactive experience, it has taste and smell and sound, and we have a cast of about 30 people. ✜


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