Almost six years of running 5 Points Market & Restaurant has only reinforced co-owners Jasper Ludwig and Brian Haskins’ passion for nurturing community through food. Many changes are brewing as 5 Points’ reach continues to extend.
Meanwhile, the mission to take care of people and the environment keeps growing stronger.
Neither Ludwig nor Haskins have formal culinary training, but they each found their commitment to sustainable foodways well before 2007 when they got together as a couple.
Chef, baker, and head of human resources, Ludwig grew up with four older siblings and another family of eight on 93 acres in mid-coast Maine.
“Going home now, I see how clearly my passion for food and food systems was borne of that fertile land and the adjacent bountiful sea,” she said. “It is a culture rich in seasonality and resourcefulness. I’m lucky to have grown up there at the time I did.”
Maine’s food culture is deeply embedded in her soul.
“Community spit roasts, lobster bakes, and baked bean suppahs; stitching up wounded livestock in the dark, snowy night with a lantern and herbal salve made from homegrown calendula; pickling fiddleheads; smooshing potato bugs; teaching myself to cook on our 10-burner commercial stove; and all of my jobs as a teenager in the industry” are just some of the ways she said her childhood experiences with food impacted her current perspective.
Haskins is a generalist in his role at the restaurant and market too.
Describing his duties, he said: “I try to make sure the bills get paid, the internet functions, and [I] drink three to seven cappuccinos weekly. I used to bus tables but we hired someone that is better at that than me.”
Ludwig elaborated on Haskins’ modest response. “Brian is the glue that holds it all together, the strong and calm leader, the handyman — and has done more of the culinary, retail and beverage development than he is taking credit for. He even roasts our coffee sometimes,” she said.
Haskins said he became interested in food paths and began thinking and acting on that interest in the 2000s while living in Olympia, Washington. “I read books like Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation and decided to change my part of the world by only using fair-trade chocolate chips and organic butter in my cookies (the Nestle Tollhouse recipe, of course!).”
In 2014, Haskins and Ludwig started 5 Points with little revenue. They decided to “do it right” with the resources they had to work with, and foster a healthy community.
“Our mission has always been to promote the health and well-being of the people that choose to take part in 5 Points,” Haskins said. “That includes our staff, our suppliers, and our guests.”
They pay their staff a living wage, offer health insurance, and strive to create a network of support. They even reduced their operating hours in 2016 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. to the current hours of 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., “so that people weren’t regularly spending 10 hours per day on their feet at work,” Haskins said.
The duo noted that they “hold the same respect for the farmers, artisans, and vendors that provide us with the lovely local ingredients and products that grace our plates and shelves,” according to Haskins. “They need to be paid well for their hard work and treated as the wonderful folks they are, not as commodities.”
The same applies to their guests. “When they trade their hard-earned dollars for a meal at 5 Points we want them to feel great, physically and emotionally, about that decision. I think that the care shown for each step of the process is detectable in that final presentation at the table,” Haskins said.
Haskins and Ludwig opened 5 Points on the premise of a neighborhood hangout where guests could get some great food and coffee as well as basic groceries for cooking at home. Since then, changes at 5 Points have stemmed from the couple’s endeavor to refine and improve. This extends from the supply chain to the menu to the market to the bakery.
“When we first opened our doors, and for the first few years we were in business, our heads were spinning trying to make sense of ordering small quantities from so many local sources,” Ludwig said. “One person who got especially dizzy from all the head-spinning was Erik Stanford of Pivot Produce.
Erik was co-managing our kitchen and doing the direct farm orders. He had a lightbulb moment where he realized that a local food hub connecting restaurants to farms would save chefs and farmers a lot of hassle and thus Pivot Produce was born.”
Pivot Produce allowed 5 Points to work with more farms than they had thought possible, and they still maintain direct relationships with many farms and vendors that have not developed exclusive relationships with Stanford.
Despite working with so many farms, Ludwig said, “We still have had the desire to grow our own specialty crops, heirloom varietals, and flowers.”
Luckily, her brother from Washington, DC, fell in love with Tucson and decided to buy a house where their mother could live. Ludwig and Haskins asked to start a farm.
“We enlisted the help of Sarah Brown, who became our first farm manager. Cameron Jones has since taken over and we are working to make Riverview an even more productive farm to feed our restaurant,” Haskins said.
Today, they compost 5 Points’ food waste and grow vegetables, herbs, flowers and some fruit on a very small lot. Their little market garden, micro-farm is only about 3,500 square feet but has grown about 4,000 pounds of produce per season.
Riverview Farm produce is featured in many dishes served at 5 Points and sometimes they sell produce at the 5 Points Farmers Market at Cesar Chavez Park at 750 South Stone Avenue on Sundays from 9 a.m. to noon.
In the summer, the farm yielded summer crops like tomatoes, basil, peas, summer squash, okra, chiles, eggplant, and Armenian cucumbers. They’re also still reaping the fall harvest with green beans, peanuts, rosemary, and winter squash.
Jones has put some other crops in the ground, too: cilantro, carrots, fennel, cabbages, salad greens, more radish varieties, daikon, chard, and collard greens.
In 2018, Ludwig and Haskins created a farmers market in response to hearing that every farmers market in Tucson charges farmers a tabling fee or takes a percentage of their sales.
“Where I grew up in Maine, farmers pulled their trucks into a field and sold produce to the people with no middle man,” Ludwig said. “I understand that with coordination and marketing for these giant markets (or even just paying rent!) people need to get paid for that work, but our interests lie in creating a free-to-sell food and sustainability-focused farmers market. It’s small and grassroots, but growing bigger every week.”
Forbes Meat Company, Pivot Produce, Baja Arizona Bread, and Urban Grove Dates and Citrus are a few producers represented.
“We have raw milk from Golden Rule Dairy and eggs from Beck’s Best. Fresh pastries and hot coffee is available at the 5 Points table. Folks can follow along @5pointsfarmersmarket,” Ludwig said.
Haskins added that this season several new vendors have joined, including Cero, Maiz Tucson, and Jennifer English. “If people are interested in vending they should reach out to Jeremy for an application via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Upon entering, you can expect a bustling, busy restaurant and sometimes long wait for brunch. Meanwhile, you can enjoy (mostly) local art on the brick walls and shop in the small market or mosey to the farmers market if you’ve timed your visit during Sunday morning hours.
5 Points’ chef Ken Julian has taken over most of the culinary development, with some input from Ludwig and Haskins.
“Ken is so wonderful and approaches food without hard and fast rules. He’s incredibly innovative, and a very patient and calm leader,” Ludwig said.
Regular menu items that customers can’t get enough of — and will stand in line for, especially on weekend mornings — include the Huevos Rancheros, Forbidden Rice Chilled Pudding with ponzu cashews, and the Smoked Beet Sandwich. The kitchen has a way with meat, as well: get the Pork Torta which uses locally raised pork shoulder on homemade ciabatta bread.
However, 5 Points periodically switches things up. The following new menu items are anticipated in mid-December:
The bakery became part of 5 Points about a year after it opened. Initially, they sourced baked goods from Garst Bavier.
“When he closed his production business, there wasn’t another bakery I was willing to source from, so on our one-year anniversary, I started teaching myself to bake,” Ludwig noted.
“Now we’re producing wedding cakes, laminated pastries, and breads, and using the bakery as another venue to showcase our ethics surrounding food,” she said. “We use alternative grains, incredibly well-sourced ingredients, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. We process and preserve as much of each season as we have space for. Our baking team will be happy if they don’t see a peach until next summer!”
Until 5 Points expands into a larger space, Ludwig notes that the bakery is a bit limited, and “we are shrinking our offerings slightly to have a more consistent selection of offerings including hand-laminated croissants and our specialty herb chevre cream cheese-filled Kouign-amann.”
While the restaurant accounts for 90 percent of its revenue, 5 Points is expanding its small market so people can cook healthy food using sustainable sundries at home. They recently hired market manager Jeremy Collins to help curate a shopping experience in the market’s small footprint, Haskins said.
While 5 Points’ market is small, it’s mighty and growing, both with regard to the products they carry and the power of the producers.
It also carries items otherwise locally unavailable. They source retail items that are backed by a strong mission, prioritizing women- and women of color-owned businesses. They buy from businesses that are “empowering and uplifting folks throughout their supply chain, local and sustainable makers, and products promoting well-being and self-care,” Ludwig said.
Market items sourced from vendors include:
Local makers coming soon: La Brxa, Sonoran Rosie, and Mother Mountain Herbals. They’re putting together gift boxes of sustainably sourced foods and other specialty products for the holiday season as well as bringing in specialty holiday candies and gifts.
“I’d like to think we’re inspirational,” Ludwig said. “I’ve had other young entrepreneurs tell me that 5 Points inspired them to follow their dreams and open the doors of their own brick-and-mortar. I’ve gotten texts and postcards from past employees in Europe and New York thanking us for having high standards, crediting their current successes with lessons learned at 5 Points.”
In addition to expanding the bakery, farm, market, and food menu, and possibly starting a CSA, 5 Points has many more irons in the hearth.
A liquor license is in the works. They are in the beginning stages of a rebrand after having bought out their silent partners who are no longer involved. They’re even thinking of opening a Maine branch.
“[5 Points] continues to be a process full of peaks and valleys, but even in hard times a little perspective and reminding ourselves about what’s important has been successful in keeping us on track and our team motivated,” Haskins said.
“While our reach is far, our focus is and always will be near. We’re doing a lot because we care, and people are responding really well to it,” Ludwig said. “I hope we’re helping people to deepen their relationships with food and understand the correlation between flavor, nutrition, and sustainability.”
January 6, 2020, will mark 5 Points’ sixth year in business.
“Time has absolutely flown by. We are considering having our grand opening sometime in the spring,” Haskins half-joked.
5 Points Market & Restaurant, located at 756 S. Stone Ave., is open from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. daily.
For more information, visit 5pointstucson.com.