My friend Lloyd Allen is crazy. At least that’s what people said years ago when he decided to go into the fashion business (yet wound up igniting a rage for trendy rain ponchos), publish a book about former neighbor Martha Stewart (despite the fact that she had just been indicted) and, two years ago, re-open his 1980s farm stand, the Double L (in a ramshackle red-barn structure in Southport).
Still, when Lloyd gets an idea into his head, there’s no stopping him. Perhaps it’s his “just do it” quality that makes people root for him against all odds.
So when the rickety red building that housed the Double L was finally too dilapidated to be useful, Lloyd teamed up with Michael Van Haaften and set out in search of a site where they could create a year-round indoor farm stand, complete with four sturdy walls, a real roof (rather than a plastic tarp), a big walk-in fridge, shiny stainless food-prep areas, air conditioning and working bathrooms.
He found such a spot at 730 Post Road East in Westport, next to Calise’s Food Market. While sourcing fresh produce and installing fixtures, he hung up a handmade wooden sign and did a soft opening on Memorial Day weekend (with last-minute construction in full swing). His operating philosophy: If you build it, they will come.
On a recent visit, I marveled at the steady stream of fans, farmers and friends dropping in to get a peek at Lloyd’s latest incarnation—a big-time magnet for small local farmers and Fairfield County foodies.
Part of the reason the Double L is so popular is that Lloyd doesn’t stand on ceremony. His affable nature and love of farm-fresh and organic foods draws a wide array of fans and suppliers from near and far. When a farmer from an organic farm in Wilton walks in with two boxes of gorgeous radishes and turnips, Lloyd swoons and gives him a bear hug. When partner Michael unboxes the team’s first delivery of ripe nectarines from Amish Country, Lloyd passes them out to everyone in the store, gushing, “Can you believe these beauties?” The fruit perfumes the air and, soon, juice is dribbling down all of our chins.
Lloyd’s childlike enthusiasm is contagious. It creates the Double L’s relaxed, friendly vibe, which extends to the “décor.” Instead of a fancy, sterile build out, the “stand” resembles a rough-hewn barn, outfitted with reclaimed oak panels, hand-carved signage, galvanized tins bursting with local produce and wooden crates brimming with juicy peaches, nectarines and strawberries.
This is the kind of place where people mill around and linger and, in the process, get to know about the farmers in our midst. Lloyd nods to Ben Saunders of Wilton’s Ambler Farm, and says, “Ben here is supplying us today with rainbow chard, beet greens, salad greens—all of which are organic.”
He points to the amber clover and dark tulip-poplar honeys that line the walls: “These babies come from Bob Saber, a Fairfield resident.”
He walks through the aisles, ticking off a list of local purveyors:
“Nancy Grant on Redding Road has a big garden and supplies me with lettuce, peas, onions, potatoes and tomatoes—all organic. She cultivates flowers too.”
“We get terrific greens from John Betar of Newtown Farm. And we also get cool organic produce, like tatsoi (similar to bok choy) and red sails lettuce, from Patti Popp of Easton's Sport Hill Farm and, in turn, we supply her with organic fruit that we find in Amish country.”
It’s all very chummy, casual and neighborly. It feels like a throwback to a better time, when people really knew the people who produced their foods. But Lloyd isn’t such a stickler that he dismisses good goods from other parts of the country. The Texas watermelons, the Pennsylvania nectarines and the Georgia peaches are in stock because Lloyd realizes that while he is a major supporter of the local foods movement, he isn’t a locavore lieutenant.
Not surprisingly, when I told Lloyd about my new farm-to-fridge venture, GRAZE, delivering artisanal cheeses, grass-fed beef and other fresh edibles directly from small Vermont farms to Westporters’ doors, he didn’t say, “You’re nuts.” Without missing a beat, he turned to me and smiled. “Goat cheese? Are you kidding? We’ve got to sell it here, too!” By July, you’ll find our farm-fresh chevre and grass-fed beef as part of Lloyd’s lineup.
So before you head out to the market for your next barbecue, make a point to stop by the Double L. Say hi to Lloyd and Michael and ask what’s good. You’ll wind up with a box of incredible seasonal bounty and, undoubtedly, a few new pals.
Double L Farm Stand, 730 Post Road East, Westport; 203-557-4705.