Market on Main is not on Main Street -- not technically speaking, though it could be argued that busy U.S. 27 is the true "main street" in Somerset.
"It's kind of a bummer," said owner Jamie Fitzwater of the dissonance between name and location. "It makes the name confusing."
It is, however, very much a market -- and perhaps the most unique of its kind in Pulaski County.
Market on Main started as an outdoors farmer's market in downtown Somerset on the judicial center plaza, just off of -- you guessed it -- Main Street. The summer event grew quickly in popularity as a place for Pulaskians to hang out, shop for goods and food produced right here in this region, and listen to music.
As such, the "Market on Main" brand was already set in September of 2015, when Fitzwater decided to open up a permanent brick-and-mortar location where people could come to get much of the same stuff they'd find at the farmers market, but at any day that's convenient for the customer. They took over a spot with a lot of history in Pulaski County -- the former Mac's Village Pantry building, at stoplight no. 21 on U.S. 27.
The farmers market has gone by the wayside, however -- 2016 was the last year it was held downtown, as stormy weather made it difficult to sustain. The store itself is still going strong, however, and has kept the faithful following initially attracted to the Market on Main concept.
"We really wanted to do something that would support Kentucky farms and producers. A retail store is a better way to do that because we're here year-round," said FItzwater, who operates the store with her husband John. (She also organizes the popular Kentucky Green Living Fair held annually at The Center for Rural Development.)
"There are a couple of benefits (to the space)," she added. "One is that we can provide a much wider array of things to sell. We have refrigeration and freezers, so we can sell JD Country milk and Crank & Boom ice cream. And it's more convenient for customers because they can come six days a week, rain or shine, and it's better for the people who are selling (products). they can just drop off their stuff, it's here all the time. We can benefit more producers and make more money for them."
Among the products at Market on Main are pasture-raised meat from area farms like Cedar Creek Farm in Pulaski County and Marksbury Farm in Lancaster. There is a vast selection of condiments in jars from any number of local producers -- jams, jellies, honeys, hot sauces, salsas, and other favorites, and coffees, snacks, and cheeses.
And then there's the milk. "Our milk is low-heat pasteurized and non-homogenized," said Fitzwater. "Definitely, our milk is very popular. It's old-fashioned, the way people used to drink milk, with the cream still on the top. People who are lactose intolerant can typically drink it better. There's something about the homogenization process that destroys the bacteria in the stomach that helps people digest it. Plus, we have glass bottles that you can bring back, so it's better for the environment. And it tastes better."
Fitzwater said that Market on Main always tries to buy from small, independently-owned businesses. "We want to carry things no one else has. We don't want to be a copycat of everyone else."
Perhaps the most sought-after item at the store is one with a lot of local lore behind it: Mac's cole slaw. Mac's Village Pantry was famous in Pulaski county for its slaw, and Market on Main continues to carry that same recipe in the building that used to bear the Mac's name.
"We like the idea of taking the space that had been Mac's Village Pantry for such a long time, and turning it back into something the community would value," said Fitzwater. "Mac's cole slaw is definitely our crowning glory. We make it in-house and carry on the Mac's cole slaw legacy."
Also popular at Market on Main are their CBD (cannabidiol) products, on which the knowledge staff at the store can help inform the customer looking to learn more. "When people are looking for CBD grown in Kentucky, they come to us," said Fitzwater.
The store also tries to do special sampling events so people can come in and get a no-strings-attached try of some of the items that Market on Main has to offer.
Despite what people who are new to the Market on Main experience might think, it's not a health food store, it's not your typical grocery, and it's not anything like Pulaski County has seen before. It is, however, a name that many people in this area have come to know and trust for sustainable, locally-generated goodness. (Visit marketonmainky.com for more information.)
"Sometimes people come in and say, 'I thought this was a store,' and I say, 'Incredibly, it is,'" quipped Fitzwater. "People are definitely curious because they don't see these things elsewhere. We're not a convenience store, not a farmers market, per se, so it can be confusing, but once people look around and try things, they usually come back.
"We think a strong economy and a strong community comes from where you spend your money," she added. "We want to spend with people near us. We know that while we cannot compete with any big box store on price and don't have a huge variety of items offered, we can compete on quality and on customer service. We love getting to know our customers and being a part of their lives. Today, you don't go to the grocery store, you order it online and pick it up. We connect with people. We go back to the world of small business, and it's very rewarding for our customers."