A different kind of pantry.
“Entrepreneur is a buzzword. It’s like saying, ‘I’m wearing clothes,’” quips Reggie Milligan—one half of the monthly food subscription service Mantry. When he, a former chef, and Tony Hancock, who has a background in mechanical engineering and coding, met in Toronto in 2012, the Portland-via-Brooklyn artisanal food movement was dawning. “All of a sudden, everybody started pickling, making mustard, doing barbecue sauces, and hang-drying salami. And we were like, ‘A lot of magazines will write 10 products to try. Why don’t we just ship to people’s doors directly?’” reminisces Milligan. Hence the name Mantry, a portmanteau based on their catchy slogan, “the modern man’s pantry.” Each month’s crate features six full- sized, all-American items, handpicked by the duo and united by an overarching theme (past crates included the all-bacon- everything “Bacon Nation” and the calorie- count and protein-obsessed “Health Nut”), as well as a booklet that explains the food’s origin and suggests what to do with it. “We fly to Savannah, Nashville, Austin, and we meet all these purveyors face to face. I think that translates to the box. We also have a mental pantry of every one of our subscribers. Every single month when we decide what to put in we’re like, ‘OK, when’s the last time we sent mustard? They must be running out,’” says Hancock of their selection process in a world where food subscription services are a dime a dozen. Having invested more than $500,000 in small-maker food, Mantry is proud to pay full prices, give exposure to local businesses, and send sharable-sized nosh to their devoted subscribers.
Although the endeavor is in its second year and on its 28th crate, it’s not yet completely devoid of the woes of your average start-up: Only a week ago, Hancock received a delivery of a thousand pounds of broken crackers that arrived on the sidewalk of their NYC headquarters instead of their warehouse in Chicago. He had to sit on them through the rain until the carrier showed up 10 hours later. However, the pair seem certain that it’s all well worth it as they speak of Holy Smoke, a smoked olive oil out of Charleston, South Carolina, their favorite artisanal food item of the moment. “When people are not good at cooking, the food movement can be really intimidating. And a product like that, if you just get a local tomato, slice it up, add a little salt and the smoked olive oil on it, you can serve that at a dinner party, and people will lose their minds,” says Milligan excitedly. “You don’t have to be this crazy cook—the artisan is super skilled.”
Text by Busra Erkara. Photo by Eric Helgas.