Sourcing local for 78 years: Waco family continues to support the community, students

Claire Boston | Multimedia Journalist

Taylor Wolf | Social Media Editor

Striving to be the most unique grocery experience in Central Texas, family-owned Waco Custom Marketplace is a one-stop shop for locals wanting to shop smart and become part of a family.

With most products either being made in-house or coming from other family-run businesses in Texas, Waco Custom Marketplace prioritizes quality and the local community.

“We’re just passionate about taking care of the people in Waco that want to shop local,” said Brian Bauer, Baylor graduate and vice president of Waco Custom Meats & Seafood and Waco Custom Marketplace.

The marketplace opened up its doors on 425 Lake Air Drive in March 2018. After acquiring the space previously occupied by Vogue Cleaners, Waco Custom Marketplace jumped into about a year’s worth of major renovation.

Last year, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported that the upcoming business had “knocked down everything but one wall, [and] basically started with just a concrete floor…”

On that concrete floor now rests an intimate space that somehow captures the essence of a bustling marketplace. White walls are accented with black tile, wooden panel accents and canvases with word art. Hung high are black and white photographs of the Bauer family who began H&B Packing in Waco in 1940, establishing the family business that is upheld today.

After immigrating to Waco from France, where they owned a meat market, the Bauer family established H&B Packing during World War II. H&B Packing is the oldest running family-owned and operated cattle processing facility in Texas. Bauer and his father, who had worked at H&B for most of his life, acquired Waco Custom Meats & Seafood in 2014 which is now delivering meat products to between 150 and 250 restaurants every week, as well as student organizations and events, such as the Baylor Traditions Rally.

Last year they created Waco Custom Marketplace as a separate location from their wholesale market to dedicate toward retail and focus on the individual consumers’ needs, in addition to offering a special, holistic grocery experience to Waco.

“Just creating this place, that’s what we really strive to do — is cater to the Waco people,” Bauer said.

Dry goods occupy the center of the store, nestled within wooden display structures. A produce, deli and bakery reside in the corners of the space, each with glass display cases presenting products ranging from fresh fish to same-day baked goods. Included in their bakery display are daily in-house creations such as jumbo cupcakes, cake shots, custom cakes and huge kolaches weighing over a pound and a half.

“A lot of the products down here are one-of-a-kind,” said Bauer.

Waco Custom Marketplace has a small coffee bar, stocked with coffee from Waco’s Apex Coffee Roasters. There is also a section of craft beer and wine which is situated beneath a projection of the Food Network. Behind the walls of the showroom, reside an in-house meat smoker and full bakery.

“A lot of the products [in the store] translate to be able to create a whole meal, basically from start to finish,” Bauer said.

Additionally, there’s an office space and breakroom for all members of the Waco Custom Marketplace family, blood-related or not, to work and relax, which creates an atmosphere of community support and family that extends downstairs to the market floor.

“We’re family-owned and family-grown and we’ve been in Waco a long, long time,” Bauer said.

Being a localized family-run business with local partners, money made at Waco Custom Marketplace stays within, thus supports, the Central Texas community, dissimilarly to corporate or chain grocery stores.

“Your money is going to stay here in Waco…,” Bauer said. “You can really come here and enjoy yourself, get knowledge on what you’re buying, where it comes from, who you’re supporting and then really our biggest thing is quality.”

Waco Custom’s top-quality goods and shopping experience does not come with extra cost. In addition to prices rivaling chain grocers, Waco Custom Marketplace now offers a five percent student discount to any Waco college student with a valid student ID. That discount can be applied to anything in-store including fresh seafood, in-house smoked steak, freshly baked pastries and their seasonal boxes.

“I’m pretty food-conscious, so knowing what’s in my food and where it comes from is really important to me,” said Riley Howard, junior international studies from New York. “So, knowing there’s a place that offers that here in Waco and even has a student discount…. I’m really excited about it.”

Waco Custom Marketplace produces themed, pre-organized boxes of goods that have ranged from a Fourth of July box for the summer to a tailgate box for football season and don’t just include various meats and dry goods.

“Every box that I’ve sold that’s like a steak box will include charcoal [and] a six-pack of their choice if you want,” Bauer said.

Carried by the spirit of the family business, Waco Custom Marketplace is always looking toward the future. Bauer said they will always invite community members to join the family whether through hiring or shopping, and that he is also hoping to eventually offer delivery service in the future. The best way to stay up to date with everything is through their social media.

“It’ll be ever-changing,” Bauer said. “That’s my goal.”