Spade & Spoon, a New Local-First Meal Kit Company Launches in Denver | Westword

New Local-First Meal Kit Company Launches, Supporting Small Farmers and Makers

Its delivery range reaches from Fort Collins to Highlands Ranch
Comfort in a bowl, featuring ingredients made in Denver, Longmont and Boulder.
Comfort in a bowl, featuring ingredients made in Denver, Longmont and Boulder. Eva Jee
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It's that time of year again. The days are shorter and holiday chaos is in full swing, leaving us less than excited to answer the age-old question 'What's for dinner?' Fortunately, residents of the Front Range have a new culinary resource to turn to. Denver-based meal kit company Spade & Spoon takes the guesswork out of cooking, by delivering seasonal recipes and locally sourced ingredients directly to your door.

The company launched on November 26, as part of Shop Small Saturday. Owner/founder Joy Rubey brings over a decade of experience in the meal kit industry, as she and her team expand from the Pacific Northwest to the greater Denver area.

Spade & Spoon and its Washington-based sister company, Acme Farms + Kitchen, are the products of creative necessity. Rubey was in her mid-thirties, working as an architect and raising a young child, when her husband made a career change and ventured into farming. She spent evenings and weekends helping her husband on their small produce farm in Acme, Washington, and quickly learned about the tremendous financial challenges producers face as they navigate the uncertainty of operating businesses that are directly tied to the environment.

At the time, Rubey also had several young friends that had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, causing her to reevaluate the food she and her family consumed. "I felt like too much was on my plate," Rubey recalls. "I wanted to help my husband, and I really just wanted someone to make it easier for me to know where my daughter's food was coming from."
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Convenient meal kits arrive in environmentally conscious packaging.
Eva Jee
Rubey felt a deep need to support her farming community and wanted to help small producers generate more consistent income. She also wanted to promote producers that were farming consciously and sustainably, without the use of harmful practices and dangerous chemicals. Ultimately, Rubey wanted to enact meaningful change within her local food system as a whole.

In June 2011, she created an online farmers' market. After several weeks, it became clear that a pick-and-choose model was not financially viable. Rubey knew she needed to pivot fast. She thought if she could show people how to easily combine a variety of market goods, then perhaps her customers would purchase a larger quantity of items to create cohesive meals.

Over the course of the summer, Rubey created simple meal bundles, which sold out quickly. By October 2011, she was offering curated boxes, each containing a recipe card and the ingredients for three meals. "That took off," Rubey says, identifying the pivotal point that allowed her team to branch out into Seattle and Portland. "We could really scale orders for small producers. We saw the average sale go up, and things came into balance."

Since its inception, Acme Farms + Kitchen has moved over $24 million in local food throughout the Pacific Northwest, and Rubey is confident that Spade & Spoon can have a similar impact on the local food economy in Colorado.

Dairy farmer Kevin McSweeney is excited to partner with Spade & Spoon and hopes the opportunity will contribute to balance and growth within his business, Five Freedoms Dairy. McSweeney owns a small herd of Holstein cows and produces ethically sourced milk, cheese and yogurt in Loveland. He knows all too well the hardships that come with sustainable farming and small-batch production — describing the financial ups and downs as a "yo-yo."
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Spade & Spoon offer the highest-quality products from Colorado farmers and makers.
Eva Jee
Like McSweeney, many small producers struggle with year-round overhead, despite the bulk of their earnings coming from sales at seasonal farmers' markets. By highlighting local ingredients in its meal kits, Spade & Spoon is able to support small-business owners consistently while helping them reach new households throughout the year.

Rubey's business continues to thrive, primarily due to an incredibly loyal customer base that shares similar beliefs around food. She also attributes her team's success to their ability to learn and adapt, while holding steady to specific logistics, purposeful efficiencies and meaningful values. "In local food, the margins are tight," she notes. "You have to be really smart in every system that you build."

For Spade & Spoon, many of these key systems revolve around minimizing waste. The team takes meticulous care in building fair lead times so producers can provide exactly what is needed each week. Spade & Spoon also partners with Compost Colorado and nonprofit programs at Slow Food Denver to ensure zero food waste. Each week, ingredients arrive at Spade & Spoon's east Denver warehouse and are divided into meal kits using minimal packaging — the majority of which is compostable, returnable or recyclable. Meal kits are sent out for delivery within mere hours of being assembled, prioritizing the integrity and freshness of each product.

Spade & Spoon meal kits include over 900 chef-designed recipes. Each week, customers have the opportunity to choose from a selection of seasonal meals, with zero subscription or commitment required. At scale, Spade & Spoon will offer more than twenty rotating meal kits per week, sourcing ingredients from dozens of producers.
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Altius Farms provides Spade & Spoon with greens and herbs from its aeroponic greenhouse in RiNo.
Eva Jee
Each meal kit contains a detailed recipe card and ingredients for four servings. Local proteins are used in dishes such as chicken satay with curried peanut sauce and cucumber salad ($48) and a sausage-chard strata made with locally baked bread ($38). Exciting flavors shine through in vegetarian options, including fettuccine Alfredo with brown butter Brussels sprouts ($33) and vegan creations such as roasted pumpkin and farro salad with apples and candied pecans ($36).

Spade & Spoon will soon launch an online marketplace where customers can purchase additional meat, dairy, baked goods, specialty foods and more. Be sure to keep an eye out as unique curated kits become available, with gluten- and dairy-free options, Super Bowl snacks, Valentine's date-night packages, kid favorites and more.

With convenient online orders and a delivery range from Fort Collins to Highlands Ranch, Spade & Spoon is an easy way to support eating local while cooking at home. 

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