Jen Saffron and Derek Dumont will open Millvale Market in the former Baby Loves Tacos space. Photo courtesy of Millvale Market.

There are plenty of places to grab a bite and a beer in Millvale, but when it comes to accessing fresh produce, residents have to go beyond the borough’s borders.

That’s about to change thanks to Jen Saffron and Derek Dumont.

Saffron, owner of Sprezzatura cafe, and Dumont, a former buyer for Harvie, an online program that connects consumers with local growers, are opening Millvale Market at 524 Grant Ave.

Located across the street from SLO Coast Taco Shop and Lucky Sign Spirits, the 1,900-square-foot space is expected to debut by early summer. Saffron and Dumont recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to support a point of sale system, refrigeration and contracting fees.

In addition to offering a small menu of soup, salads, sandwiches and coffee, the shelves and coolers will be stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, grocery items and healthy packaged snacks. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds will be accepted.

“We certainly have the intention to work with as many local producers and farmers as possible,” Dumont says. “We are very conscious of the fact that local can sometimes mean ‘expensive’ for folks in a low- to moderate-income community. Millvale Market will be focused on affordability.”

The store will operate daily, adding to Millvale’s network of neighbors helping neighbors, which includes New Sun Rising, Millvale Community Library, Triboro Ecodistrict, North Hills Community Outreach and the local government.

Dumont, who ran a similar market concept in New Orleans before working for Harvie, says his retail experience and relationships with local farmers combined with Saffron’s culinary skills helped the plan come together.

Within two days, 139 lenders from around the world helped Saffron and Dumont secure a $15,000 loan from Kiva, a San Francisco-based, crowdsourced microlending platform that helps entrepreneurs by providing access to interest-free capital. Kiva Pittsburgh is one of 43 hubs the company has across the U.S.

More than 300 businesses in Southwestern Pennsylvania have received Kiva loans, including Sprezzatura in 2019. The eatery gives back in myriad ways, including via its Community Food Tuesday program, which donates meals to people in need, first responders and essential workers.

To mark its $2 million lending mark in the Steel City, Kiva Pittsburgh, a partnership between Kiva and Riverside Center for Innovation on the North Shore, is highlighting six of the local businesses it has assisted.

Millvale Market also received a $45,000 seed grant from the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a statewide funding program through the PA Department of Community and Economic Development. The initiative’s mission is to establish access to fresh produce in underserved areas across the Commonwealth.

Saffron, co-host of the Facebook Live cooking show Saffron and Sass, plans to host fundraising events throughout the winter with Dumont.

In the meantime, you can get a taste of what Millvale Market will have to offer by visiting Sprezzatura, which is open Wednesday through Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. February happenings include a My Jazzy Valentine celebration on Feb. 12 and the AfroLovePgh: African Dances by Melissa Dubois event with music by Wax Grapes on Feb. 25.

“I think Covid has been a big teacher to all of us,” Saffron says. “For me, it’s been witnessing food insecurity here in Millvale. Having a small-town grocery, a neighborhood market you can walk to, increases quality of life. Food is fun and should be healthy and uplifting and enlivening.”

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.