Locally Grown: Addison Avery
Interviews with South Dakotans finding success outside their college major by Kyle Hallberg.
Addison Avery is an activist with an appetite. From starting his high school’s GSA Alliance, to devoting his life to changing the agricultural pyramid of the Midwest, Avery is quickly becoming one of the leading forces of food in Sioux Falls. He is in the last stages of opening the first branch of his grocery store/restaurant/food market.
Keller’s Green Grocery is located on the first floor of the Carpenter building, and is anxious for its first customers. I sat down to chat with Avery about how he got where he is today, while simultaneously weaving his way through academia, before getting the insider’s look at the soon-to-open Phillips Avenue market.
Were you always interested in running a business in food?
Addison Avery: No. As a high schooler, I was really into punk rock, mohawk and all. I played guitar, bass, drums, piano and saxophone. Honestly though, most of my life was outside of school.
Did you find food in college?
AA: I actually went to the University of South Dakota for Music – composing. I found that it wasn’t what music should’ve been about. There were two paths I could have taken, and I didn’t fit into either of them.
So, then what?
AA: I ended up dropping out of USD and moving to Chicago. I started working at Maria’s Bakery, which was very Italian. There was so much diversity and little to no English spoken. I started by cleaning dishes. Then I found myself doing bike messaging and small parcel delivery. My routine turned into work – house show – gallery opening – bars – home *repeat*. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
Okay, after Chicago and realizing you needed something different, how did you decide to return to food?
AA: I knew I needed to go to school. I needed some sort of stimulation. My mother is an amazing cook, one of the best cooks ever. I remember waiting for her meals every single day and my grandfather gardened all the time. If he had extra of anything, he would knock on people’s doors and would constantly give food to people. Food was always in my family, so I decided to go to Culinary School at Mitchell Tech.
Tell me about that.
AA: I would be at school by 7:30 each morning and cook until 2. At 2 we would eat and then go to class until 5. After class I would drive back to Sioux Falls and work until 9. I was exhausted. But I told myself, ‘You have to be exhausted for x amount of years, and then you’ll be a good chef.’
After school, I went from working at Bros to Parker’s. Working at Bros single handedly taught me how to completely clear my mind while I was cooking, which is what I needed. When I finally moved to Parker’s, things started to change.
AA: At the beginning of my first year at Parker’s, my grandfather was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and did not have much longer. When he passed away, we inherited his land and decided to use that to make our grocery store, to finally make a family name for ourselves in the food world. Keller’s.
Keller’s. So far, you’ve told me about your journey, now tell me about what’s next.
AA: My view on Keller’s is this – I wanna take South Dakota’s agricultural pyramid scheme and screw it. We are in the middle of climate change, we need to teach people why we plant legumes next to tomatoes, and then carrots next to that. Sustainable farming needs to happen. From there, we will go to the state level and talk about lowering tax for farmers, which will stop forcing them into maximum agriculture. People don’t realize that we are the most harvestable breadbasket in America. We need to make South Dakota what it should be.
All of this from a grocery store?
A: Keller’s will be more than just grocery. Our goal is to have bike delivery of packages with our label on them to homes and offices downtown. We will eventually have different stores that are specific to different areas. Garden, Bakery, Wine – Cheese – Meats. Between late June and early July we will open our store downtown. We will sell beers from local breweries, local eggs and coffee. We are working on getting catering up and running, too. We will change the agricultural system for the better with all of this, firsthand.
After talking with Avery, he was kind enough to give me a tour of Keller’s and explain all of the work they have put into the building. From refurbishing the original floors to finding the windows true to the building, Keller’s is likely the next big thing in grocery and produce. Avery is one of the most inspiring business owners and I really do believe he is going to make a significant impact on farming in the Midwest.