Shopping streets all over Japan used to have their own yaoya: dedicated grocers that had special relationships with farmers and knew everything there was to know about the fruits and vegetables they stocked. They were fiercely utilitarian with an emphasis only on the quality of the products.
But with the popularization of department store basements (depachika) and their gourmet selection of foods, local yaoya fell out of favor and have become harder to find. Vegeo Vegeco is trying to change that. The company specializes in fresh produce grown by farmers in Kyushu, a southern island considerably warmer than the rest of Japan. They began online as a subscription service offering weekly or semi-monthly boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables. But earlier this year they made the leap offline and opened their first brick-and-mortar in the Nezu neighborhood of Tokyo.
The shop is a minimal, utilitarian space just large enough for only a handful of customers. A throwback to the good old days of yaoya grocers, it was designed to highlight the quality of the products. The interior was designed by Masamichi Katayama (Wonderwall) with logo and graphics by art director Naomi Hirabayashi.
But don’t mistake the company for being stuck in the past. Along with the new shop they also launched an an app called Vegery that promises fresh produce delivery in under an hour for select Tokyo neighborhoods. It would potentially compete with companies like Uber Eats (which recently launched in Tokyo) and Amazon Fresh. And their subscription service continues to gain popularity.