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Las Vegas Store Tour: Artisanal Foods

Specialty Food Association

For 24 years, Artisanal Foods was a wholesale purveyor of globally sourced delicacies like caviar, wasabi, and truffles for Vegas’ casinos and hotels, with a smaller retail grocery that catered to local residents. But Jon and Jinelle Batista, who bought Artisanal in 2021, are transforming the 15,000-square-foot shopping center store into something different: a specialty grocery and cafe with a focus on local foods, chef-made dishes, hard-to-find ingredients, and a deep sense of community. “My goal as a chef is to bring people together through food,” Jon says.

The couple got their start in the food industry by making and selling empanadas in their hometown of New York City. Business was strong, but trying to stand out in New York’s crowded food scene was taxing. After a move to Las Vegas, they ran a successful ghost kitchen. Once COVID-19 hit and food sellers in this tourist-dependent city saw sales plunge, the kitchen shut down. In 2021, however, the Batistas discovered that Artisanal Foods was for sale, and they made the leap back into the food industry.

After a grand reopening last summer, the couple began their revamp. First, they brightened the interior with new paint colors and murals that reflect the craft of food production as well as the old-school Vegas history of the neighborhood, which is close to the Strip.

Next came a focus on building the retail grocery side. The Batistas hired a retail manager and devoted 11,000 square feet to retail sales. Right now, Artisanal Foods stocks more than 4,800 grocery items; top sellers include foie gras, Kaluga caviar, A5 Japanese wagyu, and escargot from France. A wine selection that pairs with cheese and proteins joined the mix, and the business has recently partnered with a local mushroom startup as well as a local microgreens grower. “Creating a platform for local and non-local startups alike to grow their businesses is a special thing, and as we continue to design the store the goal will always be to pave a way for others with low barriers for entry,” Jinelle says.

Another new feature is the in-store cafe. The Batistas started with a few tables and chairs and hired trained chefs. (The company has six full-time employees in total.) At press time only a lunch service is available, but a dinner service is in the works. Chefs are encouraged to chat up customers; they’re also open to cooking anything a customer buys from the retail side. “Customers tell us, ‘this feels very homey,’” says Jon.

Change is coming slowly in terms of the type of customer Artisanal Foods attracts. Sales are still 80 percent wholesale, driven by casinos and restaurants, with 20 percent of customers from the retail side. Still, the new retail and cafe focus is showing promise. Sales are up 40 percent, Jon says, and the Batistas have big plans ahead: adding a vegan section, for example, investing in online sales, expanding their social media reach, and offering community events like live music.

Related: Paul Saginaw on Where to Dine in Vegas; Plant-Based Foods to Debut at Show.