Food carries symbolic meaning around the world. Through sharing a meal, we create deeper connections and friendships. Holly & Joe Quarto, owners of Amistad, live by and share this belief in their personal and professional lives. In October 2020, Amistad, a small store providing authentic products and cultural experiences, opened its doors in Ashland, Oregon. The store primarily offers food and folk art from Italy & Mexico; as Joe is Italian and they both lived in Mexico for many years. Amistad also spotlights additional cultures throughout the year, from regions such as Spain, Palestine, Germany, and so on. However, starting in 2023, they will also lead “Get Lost Tours’’, a travel experience that encourages participants to get lost and connect with the people in particular areas of an international city. Their philosophy stems from sharing F.A.C.T.’s (Food, Art, Culture, Travel) which creates Amistad, the Spanish term for friendship.
We had the pleasure to sit down with Joe Quarto and discuss how he uses RangeMe to discover authentic products for customers and his experience ordering products directly from suppliers on RangeMe.
RangeMe: When did you join RangeMe, and how are you using RangeMe?
Quarto: We initially met the RangeMe team at the 2020 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. I went home and signed up right away. We found that it was a wonderful outlet for us to discover products that we aren’t familiar with and new products coming out.
RangeMe consistently embodies part of our mission here at Amistad to provide a diverse range of authentic cultural products new to our customers and the specialty food market.
RangeMe: Are there specific RangeMe resources that help you discover new products?
Quarto: When I log in, I usually filter my searches by origin. This allows me to apply a specific country to my search and view all suppliers who produce products in a particular country. The search features on RangeMe have gotten so much better over the past two years, making our store spotlights on different countries so much easier. It’s the best search engine I have used to find suppliers from other regions. Features like this help us source from smaller boutique suppliers because that’s what our customers look for on our shelves.
RangeMe: What types of products influence your store and make it what it is today?
Quarto: We focus on food and folk art. So not only do you have the food from, let’s say, Guatemala, you can also find hand-woven serving baskets made from pine needles. The idea is that when you’re eating the food, you have something special to serve or present it with.
We also enjoy selling art pieces like ceramics from Italy that would go well with products like oil and vinegar. We love to provide a complete experience behind every meal. We want our shelves to prompt discussion of the things we have in common with other places and people.
RangeMe: How has your experience been with ordering products on RangeMe?
Quarto: Considering the sheer volume of producers, I think ordering products on RangeMe is off to a great start. Having the ability to browse through what’s available to order on RangeMe is probably the most helpful filter you guys have added thus far. Seeing suppliers’ minimum order amounts is also great because it allows me to scout out the brands that aren’t just looking to sell their products to large distributors or grocery chains.
RangeMe: What brands have you placed a purchase order with directly on RangeMe?
Quarto: So far, we have ordered from 7 Siblings, Karma Sauce, World Seasonings, African Dream Foods, La Mexicana, and Diammark Inc.
I haven’t bought that much directly on RangeMe yet, but I have spent thousands of dollars on brands I discovered on the platform. Some of the products we carry in-store that we have found through RangeMe include A’lard, Asante, Canaan, Cetus, El Mesias, Gardel’s, Health Garden, Maui Nui, Monva, Nemi, NTP, and Triton.
RangeMe: Given the restrictions around traveling over the last couple of years, consumers turned to purchasing authentic foods from countries outside the states. Have you seen a shift in consumer interest towards more authentic flavors?
Quarto: We opened mid-pandemic and business has been very successful since most consumers couldn’t travel. Many people turned to products that allowed them to take little trips abroad in their kitchen through cooking. Once they discovered authentic foods from other countries that they could experiment with on their own, they couldn’t get enough.
There has also been increased consumer interest in gluten-free products. Most of our grains and pastas from Europe and elsewhere can be enjoyed by the gluten intolerant, but we also import 100% gluten-free versions for those who are celiac! The same thing basically applies to cheese made in Europe for those who are lactose intolerant.
RangeMe: Any exciting news or goals you’d like to share with suppliers on RangeMe?
Quarto: Starting in 2023, we will start our Get Lost Tours. Part of what we’re going to do on these international tours is getting participants to meet with some of our suppliers from around the world and set up tours to see their production facilities and taste the products at the source.
We also plan to continue spotlighting different cultures and countries within our store – we always carry products from Mexico and Italy. This year we will be spotlighting Greece, a European Christmas, and a culture picked by our social media following. We are also always looking for specialty Christmas and traditional holiday treats.
Creating friendships, conversations, and memories
“Making a connection every time somebody comes into our store makes going to work when you’re over 60 a whole lot easier,” says Quarto.
In other countries, sitting around the table and sharing food is how friendships are created. While the Quarto’s are enthusiastic and passionate about what they do, creating special connections with every customer that walks into their store is the ultimate goal. Emotions run high for those that reminisce on old traditional products and recipes cooked by the generations before them, proving that perhaps food is what truly makes the world go round.
Not on RangeMe? Sign up here for free!
Are you a supplier with specialty food or folk art from Greece, Hawaii, Germany, Mexico, or Italy? Learn more about how you can sell your products directly to retailers like Amistad on RangeMe here.