Danielle Vogel comes from a long line of grocery store owners. Her new store,… (Marvin Joseph/THE WASHINGTON…)
Supermarkets are part of Danielle Vogel’s DNA. Relatives on both sides of her family have owned and operated grocery stores dating as far back as the Jazz Age, when women were just beginning to shed the straitjacket conventions of 1920s America.
Nearly a century later, as she was molding her own career, Vogel gave little thought to peddling groceries. She couldn’t seem to shed the family’s expectations that she and her sisters would do more with their lives than hawk fruits and vegetables. The mantra was so familiar inside the household that both Vogel, 33, and her mother can repeat it word for word today.
“Girls,” Susanne Brody would tell her three daughters, “you can be whatever you want after your federal clerkships.”
Vogel dutifully earned a law degree, clerked with the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security and eventually served as the environmental counsel for Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) from December 2008 to March 2011, fighting to win support for a climate change bill. But when the bill died, a victim of classic Capitol Hill politics, Vogel had had it with trying to improve the environment via the sausagemaking process in Congress. She decided to heed the call of those who had gone before her.
Danielle Vogel was going to be a grocer.
Glen’s Garden Market, a 10,000-square-foot operation carved out of the old “Secret” Safeway north of Dupont Circle, is her vision. It’s not a conventional supermarket, nor even a store like Whole Foods or MOM’s Organic Market. Glen’s is a concept that will mix Vogel’s past with the future, advancing the family’s history of supermarkets with the hope of helping us avoid a future full of environmental catastrophes. The store is Vogel’s attempt not only to promote sustainability and local products but also to wean Washingtonians off those goods from faraway lands that contribute to global warming.
Glen’s will officially open on Sunday, the day before Earth Day.
Vogel’s tools for accomplishing her mission are the same as those behind farmers markets: geography and artisan producers. With the exception of some staples (items such as olive oils, salts and other “forbidden fruit of the nonindigenous tree,” as Vogel dubs them), Glen’s Garden Market will sell products sourced only from the states of the Chesapeake watershed, from New York to Virginia.
What that means: At Glen’s, you won’t find pineapples from Costa Rica, farmed fish from Chile, wines from France, butter from Ireland or strawberries from California. Save for the “forbidden fruit,” every one of the 1,100-plus items on the shelves will come from regional producers, each personally selected by Vogel.
The store, she says, “is a logical extension of what I was doing” on Capitol Hill. “Everything we do is environmentally focused.”
If Glen’s Garden Market sounds like the product of an ambitious, highly educated adult from a Type-A family, well, Vogel is guilty as charged. She is the thin, wiry and slightly hyper daughter of Brody, an assistant federal defender in the Southern District of New York. Her late father, Glen Rosengarten, was the co-founder and chief executive of the Food Emporium, a mold-breaking grocery chain. Danielle, her mother says, spent her high school years in Greenwich, Conn., toting around the works of historian and activist Howard Zinn.
“By the time she was a junior and asking me to proof her papers, they were beyond me,” Brody recalls.
After Vogel graduated cum laude from Tufts University, she started working for fellow Connecticut native Christopher Shays, then a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, whom Vogel had long admired. She left Shays’s office to enter the American University Washington College of Law, which led to her job as environmental counsel for Lieberman.
The climate change debacle was not the only thing that soured Vogel on politics; so did the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down provisions in the campaign finance reform law, which Shays had helped craft. Vogel decided to leave politics for good, starting her second career as a cashier at Whole Foods in Arlington.
She had an agenda: Because she had never worked at one of her family’s supermarkets (her father’s Food Emporium had been sold to A&P when she was a child), Vogel needed to understand how the grocery business operated.
Her adventure in Arlington didn’t last long. About three months in, a Whole Foods manager learned that Vogel was conducting recon for her own store. “I was just a little too attentive,” Vogel says in retrospect.
Vogel quickly found employment at the Butcher’s Block, chef Robert Wiedmaier’s market in Alexandria. She spent a year there, using it as a platform to research local producers and products for what would become Glen’s Garden Market. She learned one important lesson: Customers would embrace local products if she could provide a compelling back story.