Think back to your favorite food as a kid. Was it your grandma’s apple pie? Or those creamy mashed potatoes piled high on Thanksgiving? Much of our love for food comes from a sense of nostalgia. A whiff of gingerbread cookies in the oven can take you back to your childhood. A red and white plaid table cloth can illicit vivid memories of the BBQ place down the street from your college dorm. Memories are made through the tastes and smells of the foods we eat.
Joe Ariel’s own nostalgia was what launched Goldbely, a curated online marketplace with a mission to make local food available to people nationwide. It was as a college student in Nashville where Ariel had Southern food for the first time, he described as a life-changing experience. “I had an emotional connection to those places.” But 10 years later and living in New York, Ariel couldn’t get Loveless Cafe biscuits or Prince’s Hot Chicken. His craving was so strong, he would finagle his friends into shipping him platefuls of food overnight.
“The food would arrive and it was amazing, of course. But what was kind of game changing was the emotional reaction to opening the box and smelling that smell, touching the menu and the wax paper from this place that you remember. It was an emotional visceral reaction,” says Ariel.
With that, Ariel saw an opportunity to upend the prevailing models of online food delivery. “What if a marketplace wasn’t just about getting you the fastest or cheapest food but about getting you the best?”
The answer is Goldbely, which lets you order New York’s Junior’s Cheesecake to your doorstep in L.A., or overnight Chicago deep dish pizza to your staff meeting in Seattle. And beyond major U.S. cities, Goldbely reaches communities that may not have access to all the amazing food that city dwellers do.
“I’ve coined the term, ‘foodies in the boonies.’ There are a lot of people who don’t have everything at their fingertips,” says Ariel, who wants to make nationwide food delivery as easy as a local take-out order. In an effort to foster long-distance food connections, Goldbely has tapped a market that didn’t previously exist not only for consumers, but suppliers too. Local food artisans have the opportunity to expand their market to people and communities beyond their immediate customers.
“For me to be somewhere else and get art from the authentic creator of it is really cool,” says Ariel.
Goldbely has partnered with major food brands like Milk Bar, a bakery founded by Christina Tosi, who also sees nostalgia as a theme of her success. “When I started Milk Bar, I had a realization that my job is to add, not to compete.”
If Tosi and her grandma made the same oatmeal cookies from the exact same recipe, she knows her grandma’s would be better just because grandma made them. “It’s the spirit. It’s a time and a sense and a place. Milk Bar is based on tapping into those food moments and those food memories and figuring out a way to celebrate them without ever competing with them.”
Milk Bar isn’t trying to tell you that their apple pie is going to be your favorite apple pie. They want to play off that nostalgia and build on it with a more creative and edgy kick. Tosi’s deep fried apple pie, for example, can be topped with a scoop of her signature Cereal Milk ice cream.
“How do I capture those lightning-in-a-bottle moments that are very deep within all of us,” Tosi asks, “and bring them to the surface enough so that you trust me and so that I can give you something more?”