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Downtown Denton to see new micro-grocery store

David Layton wanted to make breakfast tacos for his son Reid in their downtown Denton townhouse a few weekends ago. 

But he realized the eggs were expired, and how could anyone make breakfast tacos without eggs? Not wanting to drive to the grocery store, he made something else for breakfast. 

In comes Blue Bag Grocery: a new micro-grocery store opening Monday in the Adagio building at 503 S. Locust St., stocked with local produce, necessities such as batteries and paper products, and pantry staples.

"When I wanted to do Saturday morning egg tacos but the eggs were expired, it would have been great to just walk two blocks and back," Layton said. "We moved here five years ago in August, and [a grocer] was the one thing we were missing and hoping we'd eventually get. We do everything else downtown."

Jacob Moses shares the same sentiments as a downtown resident, and that's why he wanted to start Blue Bag Grocery. The idea behind the 633-square-foot storefront and brand is simple: Come in and fill a blue bag with what you need for the next day or two, then come back as needed. 

"What started this was a big conviction that people should do life where they live, and that seems to be the vision for downtown Denton as well," Moses said. "It's not about leaving with 12 plastic sacks, it's about getting what you need for the day and it all fits in one blue bag."

He looked to similar-sized spaces in cities like Cincinnati and Seattle for inspiration on laying out the space and making sure everything a shopper needs is there. Then, Moses was strategic with what he placed where: having a big familiar Coca-Cola cooler offsets some of the more boutique grocery items toward the center of the store, such as organic meat jerky and La Croix sparkling water. 

Some downtown residents are cautiously optimistic about the shop. In the summer of 2015, a similar concept opened a few blocks up the street from Blue Bag's location, and was out of business by January 2016. 

Melissa Lenaburg, who has lived downtown since 2010, said she'd thought about opening a grocery store downtown at one point, but the numbers wouldn't work to supply everything she thought the store would need. She's going to try and shop at Moses' store, but isn't sure if it will catch on for other residents.

"The community will consciously have to make an effort to support local to keep Blue Bag here," she said. "It's a tough business with low margins, and most folks take that for granted. I fear many will complain about the cost for the convenience — like they do about the Cupboard [Natural Foods at 200 W. Congress St.] — and go big-box it outside of downtown."

At the now-closed Denton Downtown Market, the hours were less flexible and the stock wasn't what downtown residents were buying, which are two things Moses is doing differently. First, hours will be 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. for a soft opening phase, and will expand to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in a month or two. Second, he's hoping to use customer feedback to figure out what he'll stock in the store.

He also sees the store as part of a larger downtown community. Shoppers who buy their own blue bag from the store are registered to give 5 cents from their purchases back to one of four charities: Keep Denton Beautiful, Our Daily Bread, Serve Denton or Denton Community Health Clinic. In turn, the shoppers get 5 percent off their bill every fifth visit. 

"It's just our philosophy," Moses said. "I truly believe that the most important elements of a neighborhood are the ones that serve everyone equally."

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889.

FEATURED PHOTO: The interior of Blue Bag Grocery, a new grocery store 503 S. Locust St. that will provide locals near the downtown Square with a variety of groceries such as produce, coffee and other necessities.
Jake King/DRC