While taking a Sunday afternoon drive through her neighborhood last April, Oella local Allison Smith spotted Wieland’s BBQ truck hosting a pop-up on the site of a vacated produce stand along Frederick Road.
Smith, who peddles her signature Picnic Pops at the Catonsville Farmers’ Market throughout the summer season, immediately called Joe McRedmond—the brains behind local pop-up Jose Grande’s Market Coffee—to meet at the truck for lunch.
“It was their first day in business and there was a line like 30 people deep,” McRedmond recalls. “The neighborhood was really excited because, before farmers’ market season, there aren’t usually very many food trucks hanging around Catonsville.”
It was there that the duo got to talking with fellow small-business owners Mark and Amy Wieland, who had recently taken over the former bodega, about collaborating to utilize the space inside.
“They proposed that they hold on to a part of the space, and we would put retail in the rest,” Smith explains. “We thought about how nice it would be to have a health food store where people could get all of the foods they were used to eating on Sundays at the farmers’ market, anytime they wanted to.”
Featuring shelves fully stocked with gourmet goodies and a custom-designed logo by Annie Howe Papercuts, Smith and McRedmond cut the ribbon at Rooster + Hen store on October 1. In only three months, the open-daily destination has become a community go-to for everything from organic fruits and vegetables to local crafts and environmentally conscious cleaning supplies.
“We needed a store like this,” McRedmond says. “Our kale might not be super beautiful, and our carrots might still have a little mud on them after being dropped off from a local farm, but that’s okay. Our customers want food that has integrity.”
Adds Smith: “We’ll never have the variety of a conventional grocery store, but when you leave here with a bag of food, you’ll know that it’s the best quality available.”
Coming from the farmers’ market circuit, the owners had plenty of local products in mind that they wanted to feature in the store, including Hex Ferments kombucha, Bottoms up Bagels, WOOT granola, Buddha Bites cookies, treats from Stone Mill Bakery, vegan pastas from Ellicott City Tasting Gallery, pies from Pie Time Baltimore, and Sagamore Spirit-infused Whiskey Cake from Rack House Bakers.
The owners also made it a priority to feature daily specials like rotating soups, local tamales for lunch on Tuesdays, organic farm eggs on Friday mornings, and, of course, Wieland’s BBQ on Sunday afternoons.
“Businesses do better when they rise together,” Smith says. “Here, there’s definitely a culture of sharing, supporting each other, and collaborating to form new ideas.”
Smith says that part of the overall goal is for Rooster + Hen to be a hub for innovation, which is why she and McRedmond have partnered with local creatives to host workshops exploring everything from gift-wrapping and book-binding to herb-bundling and food-styling on Saturday mornings.
While the spot is off to a great start, the owners have plenty of ideas that they hope to implement in the future, mentioning plans like the build-out of a small kitchen, a larger play area for children, a spring plant market, and additional live music shows.
Both musicians themselves—Smith is an Oklahoma native who previously owned her own violin studio and McRedmond bounced around the country’s punk rock scene—the owners note the parallels between the performance and food worlds. To coincide with that tie, local musician Caleb Stine will be playing in the store on Wednesday night.
“We understand the creative benefits of being in a tight-knit community,” Smith says. “I feel the same way running this place as I did when I was in a band. You’re working with other people to create an identity where special things happen.”
Though the store is nestled in the heart of Oella, a historic mill town between Catonsville and Ellicott City that Smith describes as a “magical little village,” the owners are excited to be making an impact on the food community at large.
“It’s not just hippies who buy organic anymore,” Smith says. “There’s a huge food culture revolution happening in Baltimore right now. People have an appreciation for good food and good ideas.”