141 Bradford Natural Market: A Cornerstone of Community in Provincetown
At the tip of Cape Cod, the seasons are distinct: summer months welcome a rush of vacationers who arrive to enjoy sea, sun, sand, and seafood, while winter’s quiet beauty is a wistful sigh at the end of the high season. The cooler months provide a respite from summer’s bustle, but the contrast in a resort community like Provincetown can feel dramatic; by mid-winter, isolation sets in for many year-round residents. This seasonal ebb and flow requires that locals seek community, and form close-knit bonds.
Enter 141 Bradford Natural Market. Groceries aren’t typically a hub of social activity, yet the market has unwittingly filled a void—regulars come in to shop, sip a coffee, or meet friends for lunch—some several times a day. Known to locals as “The Health Food Store,” the vibrant market and eatery is anything but the hippie co-op its moniker conjures up. The original started some 35 years ago, and in its early days, with its bright golden yellow paint job and freestanding barrels of tofu blocks, it gave off the funky vibe one would expect.
Joe Freitas and Chris Getman lived for most of their lives in New York and Connecticut, but like so many, found the warm welcome, artsy feel, and stunning views of Provincetown irresistible. The couple purchased a home here and visited frequently, but after five years of commuting, decided they wanted to start a new adventure together. Moving their lives to P-town was a rite of passage. “For us, moving to Provincetown and really becoming a part of the community meant being here year-round,” says Joe.
Joe worked previously in finance, but was teaching writing courses, intending to spend his time on the Cape relishing the solitude and writing his memoir. Chris’ background was retail, from J. Crew to Apple. The couple wanted to start a project together in their new hometown, and as itinerant foodies, they first considered a restaurant. When they heard that the local health food store was for sale, though, they leapt at the opportunity.
Joe and Chris had a sense that a new, modernized store would not only provide Provincetown with a much-needed outlet for organic and gourmet food items, but also become a hub for the community. Using their favorite haunts in New York City and beyond as inspiration, they enlisted the help of their friend Deb McKeand, the Creative Director at Worktable NYC, who worked with the duo for months to develop of a vision of what 141 Bradford Natural Market could be. Together, in 2011, they transformed the space into a welcoming contemporary market.
Their expanded seating area, once limited to three stools at the window, became an 18-seat cafe. Throughout the store, special touches lend a homey feel: the community table at the cafe’s center was the couple’s own dining room table; their hallway hutch now serves as the self-serve coffee bar; and fresh flowers from the Freitas- Getman garden are placed throughout. The golden yellow paint job also had to go, replaced with a fresh white that brightened and expanded the look of the space significantly. Ceiling-high shelves were replaced with functional industrial metal shelving that accented the airy ceilings and clerestory windows.
“Everyone kept coming in and asking if we had raised the roof!” laughs Chris. “No, but we lowered the shelving!” The overall feeling is open and clean, giving focus to what the market offers: fresh and prepared food, gourmet grocery items and specialty household and self-care items. A neat black chalkboard above each cold case denotes its contents in white chalk: “BUTTER. EGGS. MILK.” for an effect that’s both functional and visually appealing. The market also stocks free-range, organic, and grass-fed meats, something people were skeptical would be sellable at first, given the store’s past life as a health food store. “We eat what our food eats, so quality is very important to us,” says Joe. Now patrons pre-order specialty turkeys, leg of lamb, and scallops for holiday meals, as well as specialty items like glutenfree pies. The care for quality is evident in every corner of the store.
Displays in the center of the store showcase each special item in stock. A shopper wants to pore over imported pastas and sauces piled on a large wooden table, or choose a decadent treat from the vintage display rack holding an array of artisan chocolates. There’s a story behind everything stocked in the store. It’s a far cry from the florescent lighting and endless aisles of a conventional supermarket, and it’s that intentional feel that makes customers choose 141. “We realize that even in a small town, people have a choice,” says Joe. The market has brought previously hard-to-find goods to Provincetown, like several varieties of quaffable kombucha on tap, which their savvy and welltraveled customers appreciate.
The Market is committed to supporting local artisan products and industries, sourcing produce from Pure Joy Farm, honey from Pamet Honey (both in nearby Truro), and salt from Wellfleet Sea Salt Co., a testament to their commitment to building lasting personal relationships and supporting the local economy and small business.
Joe and Chris’ next project was to expand the kitchen. The full-service kitchen now has a grab-and-go cold case (the only one in town) stocked with fresh, healthful lunches: chicken wraps (made with free-range, organic chicken), Cape Cod quinoa salad, veggie burgers and freshly made salad bowls. In the cafe, a wooden table laden with baskets of baked-daily breads, baguettes, pastries, cookies, and muffins is virtually cleaned out by noon; the bread comes from Pain D’Avignon in nearby Hyannis and Iggy’s in Cambridge, while baked goods are made in-house (the Morning Glory muffin is a local favorite).
The hot food bar features two types of soups daily, cooked brown rice, and a changing selection of mostly vegan or vegetarian items. Selections might be mains like vegetable enchiladas or goat cheesestuffed roasted beets, and sides like braised kale and roasted fingerling potatoes with scallion, oregano and parsley, or roasted sweet potatoes with honey and cinnamon. Those who follow the market’s Facebook page get menu items updated daily, though many just pop into the store to see what’s cooking.
In the fall and winter months, the selections of the hot food bar are something of a local event. Everyone looks forward to recurring items featured on certain days of the week, even pre-ordering them for lunchtime pickup. “Mexican Monday,” “Pad Thai Tuesday,” and “Falafel Friday,” are something year-round residents seek out come the chilly months. “It’s like Cheers! Our regulars come in, no matter what the weather!” quips Joe.
The kitchen and menu have been inspired by Joe and Chris’ favorite places: Forager’s in Chelsea, Canyon Market in San Francisco, Terrain in Westport, Brooklyn’s Depanneur, and Butcher’s Daughter in the East Village, but the creation of 141 Bradford Natural Market’s menu—which delivers flavor without compromising health—was the work of Chef Genevieve Eustis. She also created the cheese program at the shop, adding a display case with unique and imported cheeses. Under her tutelage, current head Chef Margarita Millan Reyes learned Eustis’ recipes (adding specialties from her own native Mexico) and has taken over kitchen operations at the market.
The market stocks a number of items made in-house: pickled beets, antipasti with artichokes and hearts of palm, house-made granola, chicken salad (the curried version is Joe’s own recipe), guacamole, pico de gallo, and salad dressings. The market has also become a fixture in Provincetown by offering unique services like pantry stocking for residents and visitors. The market gets a list from a customer and puts items together for pickup, a welcome perk after a long day of travel.
Naturally, with the advent of the new menu, people began requesting food from the market at their events; wedding dinners, brunches, and parties are part of the kitchen’s repertoire. Catering such events became another facet of being a part of the community and being a part of local events. Joe and Chris proudly support local organizations by donating catering services. Afterglow, a performance arts festival that brings cutting edge artists to the Cape, is just one example. Their support is really just an extension of their commitment to enriching the Provincetown community season to season.
One of the things the couple find most appealing after years of living in a city was the way locals extend themselves to help each other, particularly in the barren off-season. It’s an attitude they embrace. Groceries, hot meals, or gift baskets are frequently delivered to infirm or elderly house-bound residents. During last year’s especially challenging winter, locals stuck together, making sure no one was without a generator or kerosene lamps, and regulars frequented the market, despite the weather, as much for the social aspect as the food. Joe and Chris’ goal isn’t about making money, but about being a cornerstone of the Provincetown community, something that comes naturally to the affable pair.
On any given morning, they’re meandering the store, welcoming customers, chatting with them, inquiring about a new haircut or family news. A warm smile greets everyone who comes in, local or not. It’s this energy that keeps the market going. “Our customers inspire us!” says Joe. Like their customers, their staff remains equally loyal— manager Audrey has been there for 35 years (which she humbly downplays). It comes so naturally to the pair to make 141 Bradford Natural Market appealing on every level—visually, product-wise, and flavor-wise—that the joy they have in running the place and being part of the community is obvious. “It’s really not a job,” says Chris. “We just don’t think of it as work.”
141 Bradford Natural Market
141 Bradford Street, Provincetown
508-487-9784 / the141market.com
Open Monday-Saturday 8:00 am-6:00 pm, Sunday 9:00 am-6:00 pm
Rebecca Treon is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyles writer who visits Cape Cod regularly. Her work has taken her around the world one bite at a time. More of her writing can be found at rebeccatreon.com.