Salt Lake Magazine dubbed Liberty Heights Fresh founder Steven Rosenberg Salt Lake City’s “Food Evangelist,” and it’s a title he prides more than any other. Rosenberg, who grew up on a 400-acre fruit orchard in southwest Michigan, sees a deep interrelatedness between personal health, public health and environmental health, and that fuels his approach to product sourcing.
Liberty Heights Fresh, which opened in 1993 in a converted 1920s-era gas station, promises that shoppers will find “no unpronounceable, unrecognizable mystery imitation ingredients … simply good food made with wholesome, traditional products that your grandparents would recognize.”
The store offers its own Community Supported Agriculture program, called Sustainably Farmed Food, giving members each week a selection of five local/regional seasonal produce items, plus the option to add on items such as local honey, cheeses, eggs or grass-fed beef. Selections can be tailored to those following vegan, vegetarian or paleo diets, as well. Shares range in price from $19.95 to $73.95 per week (plus optional upgrades), offering flexibility based on household size as well as dietary preferences.
In-store, prepared foods selections include a menu of sandwiches made using organic produce, house-baked bread and other local ingredients, as well as a made-to-order option. An on-site garden supplies the store with seasonal fresh herbs, and pantry staples are touted as “the most reliably authentic, full-flavored and time-honored traditional craft foods to distinguish our offerings from the regular supermarket shelves.”
“I like to tell people we converted an early 20th-century gas station into a 21st-century gastronomic station,” Rosenberg says.
In 2020, Rosenberg notes, his background in farming lent especially invaluable perspective. “I would make the analogy that in the early days of the pandemic, it was like doing everything right—you prune your orchards in the winter; you get them ready,” he says. “[But] you can do everything right, and you can get a really bad freeze, and it’ll freeze all the buds on the trees and you don’t have a crop. Or you can get further into the season, and for a crop like sweet cherries, you can get rain and wind, and the wind will whip the cherries … or you can go even deeper into the season and have a hailstorm.” Taking the long view—and taking care of your assets, including, for a retailer, human assets—goes a long way in helping a farm or a store weather a series of storms. Amid the tumult of 2020, Rosenberg maintained its bonus pay and provided paid time off for employees who sought testing for COVID-19. Employees and customers alike were provided gloves, and customers were encouraged to limit their trips to one shopper per household. “Taking care of your people allows them to take care of your customers,” Rosenberg says.