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Marketing to the downvalley masses

Caramie Schnell
Matt IndenOwner and chef of Mesa Market, Tab Walla, checks the status of his popular rotisserie-style chickens.
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Walk into Mesa Market on the verge of hunger and the sights and smells will quickly push you over the edge. A large glass deli display case features appetizing entrees and side dishes – everything from crab cakes and quiche to chicken salad and potato cakes. A hot food display case showcases owner and chef Tab Walla’s daily specials – Meatloaf Monday’s, Taco Tuesday’s, You Call It Wednesday’s, Smokey Thursday’s (brisket or ribs), and Fish and Chip Fry-Day’s.

Eagle resident Melissa Mock said she goes to Mesa Market at least once or twice a week for lunch.

“I’m from New England and it’s nice to have home-cooked soups and sandwiches,” Mock said. “The crab cakes are great, the chicken salad sandwich is one of my favorites. My husband loves the beef brisket and the meatloaf is great, too.”

Walla, and his wife, Jennifer, opened the market in October, after the kitchen they’d been using for their catering business in the Homestead Court Club was turned into a pilates studio. The two were searching for a new catering kitchen and kicked around the idea of opening up their own market. When they found the space in the Santa Fe Furniture Building in Gypsum, which had space available for both, they knew it was a good fit.

“The kitchen space here worked perfect for catering,” Walla said. “We were thinking of doing a market in a completely separate building. This worked out way better.”

In the back of the building is a large commercial kitchen the couple use for their catering business of seven years, Cowboy Catering. In the front is the market they’d envisioned, which has been open since October. The overall goal, he said, is to cater to the downvalley clientele – to try and provide healthy food for busy, working families.

“We try to cook with a health-conscious mindset,” Walla said. “I’m easy on salt and oil. We have gluten-free products and I usually try to offer a rice pasta salad. We also use all-natural, organic chickens and turkeys.”

For $14.95, hungry families can get an organic rotisserie-style chicken and two sides, enough food to feed a family of four, Tab said. Or, those rushing to get home to the waiting fam can call the market and have the meal boxed up and ready to go.

Besides homemade food, the market sells trail mix they package themselves and features locally made elk jerky, which has been so popular it often sells out.

“We have a real natural theme, but we don’t want to cross the line and become just a health food store,” he said.

The market is equal parts contemporary and cozy. Walla’s father, Dutch, is a photographer and his large black-and-white photos hang above the big, comfortable booths. Behind the display cases, the market’s menu offerings are written on a series of large blackboards. Interspersed between them are boards with famous quotations that change often; in honor of Bob Marley’s birthday they featured a quote from the reggae master and last week’s quote was courtesy of Henry David Thoreau: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

And with Mesa Market, wherever you look, you’ll be pleased.

Caramie Schnell can be reached at cschnell@vailtrail.com.


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