A Better Way to Buy Online

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Michael Muyzk, president of Bronx-based Baldor Speciality Foods, has spent his fair share of time in the kitchen organizing ingredient lists with pen and paper and picking up the phone to talk with suppliers since graduating from The Culinary Institute of America 35 years ago. Now, he says, Baldor has come up with a way to bring more transparency and simplicity to the ordering process in modern, tech-based kitchens.

“There are so many young, up-and-coming culinarians who are immersed in the Web, so this was our way to capture them and support them,” Muyzk says. “We have to go into their swimming pool, because they’re not going to come into mine.”

Baldor’s new website, which launched Monday, May 18, has the aesthetic of an online farmers’ market that connects growers and buyers in a visually appealing, user-friendly forum. The hook of the site is its real-time information about Baldor’s inventory, which is uncommon in the world of perishable commodities. Baldor’s SmartShop feature helps streamline the process even further by collecting user data to create shopping lists for regular customers from the company’s more than 80 farms and 4,000 items.

The site’s launch is Baldor’s attempt to not only look down the road, but around the corner in response to the growing desire of both operators and consumers to know where their food comes from, something Muzyk says isn’t likely to change soon.

“The local movement is in fact a trend, it’s not a fad,” he says. “Fads are bellbottoms—my kids tell me they’re coming back sometime, but I don’t think so. The local movement, though, is here to stay.”

In a market where the majority of Baldor’s growers operate west of the Mississippi and the majority of its buyers are located east of it, keeping “local” in the equation can be difficult. Muzyk says the solution is to offer complete transparency to connect all players involved. The site is designed to do this by showcasing the farm and the farmer—whether it’s a top-tier West Coast operation or a boutique farm on the East Coast—providing information on practices and product availability, and getting shipments delivered by the following day.

“We wanted to really help the chef in understanding the food’s narrative and bringing transparency to the local farm,” Muzyk says. “So we decided to have a site built by the industry, for the industry.”

To determine the wants and needs of chefs, Baldor relied on its culinary council, which includes well-known names like Michael White (Altamarea Group, New York), Paul Viggiano (formerly of Equus Tavern, New Jersey), and Jenna Zimmerman (of Food Network Fame), to name a few, and came up with the simplicity and practicality that are the hallmarks of the new site.

Baldor began in 1946 as a small fruit stand in Greenwich Village named Balducci’s, which gained a reputation for sourcing rare products from all over the world. Today, the company has locations in New York, Boston, and the D.C. area that deliver to a range of vendors, from tiny restaurants to packed stadiums—a point of pride for Muyzk.

“I put more trucks in Manhattan than FedEx. I dominate the marketplace. In the farm-to-fork equation, I am not the farm, nor the fork. I am the to. That is the space in which I live. That is the space which I dominate.”

In addition to its focus on farmers and fresh food, Baldor is using the new site to foster community, with a portion of online sales dedicated to providing fresh food to New York City schoolchildren through the charitable organization Edible Schoolyard NYC.

By Emily Byrd

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