Along the vibrant 900 block of King Street, a transformation is occurring in one of the vacant shops. And with it, an old adage is proving true: What once was old is new again. Such is the case for Mason & Greens, the region’s first zero-waste dry-goods shop, slated to open this spring.
“We always knew we wanted to open a business that would help the community and help the environment,” said Justin Marino, who owns the shop with his wife, Anna. Parents of two and Old Town residents themselves, Marino said his family took a long look at the waste they were generating from week to week and decided they had to change their ways.
At first, it started hyper-locally, in their home, but as the Marinos began to inventory the waste in their own household, they found themselves needing supplies to support their new lifestyle. That’s when the trouble began.
“We noticed that there wasn’t anyone around here selling these things” to support a lower-waste life, Marino said. In Europe, he added, traditional dry-goods shops are everywhere, but even in this country’s most metropolitan areas, the Marinos came up empty.
“We really wanted to do it for us and for the whole Washington, D.C. area,” he said. And thus, Mason & Greens was born. “We’re the first zero-waste shop in the whole D.C. area.”
Though small in footprint – the 1880s rowhouse at 913 King Street has about 1,100 square feet in total – the new store will pack a punch. From foods such as pasta, flour, beans and cereals to soaps and lotions, from safety razors to laundry detergents to children’s toys to candles and garden seeds, Mason & Greens is aiming to fill a gap in the region’s market with its plastic-free, zero-waste, cash-free existence.
“We have found that since we’ve been going through this process, boy, there are a lot of people who are interested,” Marino said, gesturing to the popularity of Alexandria’s weekly home-composting program as an example of residents’ environmentally friendly mindset.
“These people care enough, and that gave us hope that what we were doing is in the right place,” he said.
What’s in a name? The concept of Mason & Greens lent itself to the perfect shop name, with each word having significance.
“The first part of the name, Mason, was derived from the old Mason jars,” Marino said. “The second part of the name is Greens, so, of course it’s supporting the produce that we will have in the store.”
And Marino hopes that the changes sparked from Mason & Greens will extend to customers’ daily lives.
“I guess the real answer is to waste less. It’s important that we do this for our community, that we all think about wasting just a little bit less. Even if it’s just cutting out one paper towel a week (at first),” he said. “These are the things that we can do. We can all do this. We can change how we do stuff, and strangely enough, it’s not hard.”
IF YOU GO
Mason & Greens, 913 King St.
Opening: Early spring
Try this: A reusable double baguette bag. “It is made of organic cotton and has a nice strap so it can be carried over the shoulder,” says co-owner Justin Marino.
Hope Nelson is the author of “Classic Restaurants of Alexandria” and owns the Kitchen Recessionista blog, located at www.kitchenrecessionista.com. Email her any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.