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A Detroit Restaurant Supplier Is Now Selling Food Directly to the Public

Atlas Wholesale used to distribute food to local restaurants and casinos

A pile of fresh vegetables and leafy greens.
Food distributors are increasingly transitioning to direct sales to the public.
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

A Detroit area wholesale food supplier that used to distribute to local restaurants and casinos has switched its model to sell groceries and household items directly to the public during the coronavirus pandemic. Atlas Wholesale Food Company is now expanding its Marketplace Direct program that allows southeast Michigan residents to shop for produce, meat, cheese, and items like toilet paper online for delivery or pickup.

Atlas debuted its online shopping platform in mid-March in response to Michigan’s stay-at-home executive order, which forced many local food businesses to close and placed greater pressure on grocery stores. At the same time, there’s been increased demand for businesses offering groceries for curbside pickup and delivery. It’s a model that other wholesalers around the country are finding success with, though in some cases companies have experienced staffing-related challenges. Atlas is one of first in the Detroit area to pilot the direct-to-consumer format, while other distributors such as La Grasso Bros. Produce have transitioned to selling produce boxes through restaurants. According to a release, Atlas has avoided major layoffs at the company by transitioning to the online ordering program.

As part of the updates to the online ordering platform, Atlas is now selling more food from local vendors including Dearborn Meat Company, Detroit Sausage Co., and Becharas Brothers Coffee. The distributor has also expanded to nine pickup locations in Clinton Township, Detroit, Fraser, Northville, Royal Oak, St. Clair Shores, Troy, Wixom, and Ypsilanti. Customers can also register through a so-called “Neighborhood Hero” program to become a delivery point for their neighborhood.

In addition to items like produce and meat boxes, customers can also find items like dry active yeast, all-purpose flour, and cleaning supplies through the platform. Customers must spend a minimum of $100 for pickup and $450 per order to qualify for delivery.

“My grandfather started this business 70 years ago in Greektown to supply to area restaurants,” CEO John Kohl says in a statement. “We consider these customers family and will continue to donate a portion of new sales to help the restaurants and service workers who are directly impacted by COVID-19.”

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