When the owner of Dawson’s Market announced that he would close the 19,000-square-foot Rockville Town Square store in October 2018 after a six-year run, it was a crushing blow to the community. Enter Bart Yablonsky, the store’s general manager, who put together a deal, bought the store and reopened seven weeks later. Yablonsky, who lives in North Potomac with his wife, Paige, is dedicated to having the very best products for his customers, especially locally produced items, but there is something that drives him more: creating, nurturing and serving a community.
“We are passionate about local vendors and hiring people who may otherwise have difficulty getting hired—people with physical and mental disabilities or people on work-release,” Yablonsky says. “We make space available for political speakers, storytelling, cooking classes. I’m very involved in the food community. I’ve been a member of the Montgomery County Food Council for four years, which is where I make the connection to local products. I make myself available for panels at natural food shows when requested.”
On the second Tuesday of every month from 5 to 7 p.m., Dawson’s hosts Meet the Locals. “We bring in 10 to 15 vendors. It’s a free event where customers can meet the people making local products, learn their stories and try everything. We always have two or three beer and wine vendors in that mix as well,” he says.
Yablonsky shared details with us on some of the Montgomery County–produced items (and one from Frederick County) at Dawson’s. Here are some of our favorites.
Vietnamese Yogurt “Rockville residents Phuong and Fred Chen are in the store all the time. We were their first retail location. Every family in their native Vietnam makes yogurt in their house. They used the family recipe to create theirs, made only with whole milk, cane sugar and cultures. It has a slightly caramelized flavor because they slow cook milk and sugar to make it. We carry their plain yogurt.”
“We carry Tsion Bellete’s dips—mild and hot red split lentil; mild yellow split pea; and mild and hot brown lentil. Plus four flavors of her amazing injera chips: medium; spicy; garlic; and sea salt cinnamon.” (Tsion Bellete started packaging Tsiona-brand gourmet Ethiopian foods made in her restaurant, Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant in Rockville, in 2014. They became so successful, she had to move to a licensed food processing facility in Rockville.)
“Cheryl Savastano is one of our longest-standing vendors. She has a retail store, also called Savvy Treats, two blocks from us. She does all our cupcakes and cakes, a vegan muffin, zucchini bread with chocolate chips. She uses no artificial flavors or sweeteners and no bleach or bromated flour. They’re really high quality and delicious.”
“I met the owners of Germantown’s Dip-n-Dill, Martha and Bern Stapleton, at a product expo we did for Montgomery County Food Council at [the Universities at Shady Grove]. These are powdered mixes you add to yogurt or sour cream to make dip. If you’re vegan, you can use vegan cream cheese, which we sell. The best sellers are fresh vegetable with dill; chili cheese; and roasted garlic.”
Caulfield Provision Company
“Caulfield Provision Company, which makes bottled hot sauces, is a woman-owned [Connie Caulfield] family business out of Potomac. The flavors we carry are smoky red pepper chipotle; minty jalapeno tomatillo; pineapple habanero; and citrus.”
“This is the newest product we have; it’s out of Orchid Cellar Meadery and Winery in Middletown, Maryland. They have unique flavors of mead, which is a fermented honey drink. I like the cool packaging and that they’re introducing people to mead with interesting flavors. We had to reorder three times in the first three weeks we had it. We carry strawberry, lemon vanilla, heirloom cider and grapefruit hops.”
Dawson’s Market, 225 N. Washington St., Rockville, 240-428-1386, dawsonsmarket.com