First, you have to find it. Provisions Culinary Outfitters in Ferndale is hardly visible from the street. It’s tucked into a storefront on Woodward Heights, and shares a space with Farm Field Table, a well-known butcher shop specializing in Michigan-grown meat. But if you need Persthellint Gouda from the Frisian Islands, which are just northwest of Holland, or Rózsavölgyi chocolate from Budapest, Provisions is the only game in town.
The obscurity will ease up soon though, when its partners William Werner and Zach Berg open a second location in Detroit. It’s something they say they’ve been planning since opening their first shop late last year. In addition to retail, Provisions also caters and does occasional pop-ups around town.
Zach Berg, left, and William Werner
The partners grew up just a mile apart from each other in West Bloomfield, but despite their similar backgrounds, Werner and Berg bring different strengths to the enterprise. Berg, 34, who majored in hospitality at Michigan State University, is a self-proclaimed “cheese man.” He’s been working in the kosher catering business since he was 12 years old, washing dishes at first, and graduating to cooking by 14. Werner, 34, who studied geology at University of Michigan, brings technical knowledge and discipline. He’s been researching the cacao bean since 2015, when he was living in San Francisco and, on a whim, attended a chocolate convention in Seattle. He says he was “captivated” by what he learned from the diverse group of chocolatiers he met there, and after returning home, landed a job at Gayle’s Chocolates and recruited Berg to work there, as well. Werner is what Berg calls “the chocolate curator” and has traveled to the cacao-growing country of Vietnam. He makes a note of the fact that, here in Michigan, the Belle Isle Conservatory and Meier Gardens in Grand Rapids each have a growing cacao tree in their botanical collection.
Provisions does much more than sell cheese, chocolate, and charcuterie. Their mission is rather to educate their customers about food, and the people and places that provide it — a cultural exchange of sorts. Or as Werner says, “[to] use food as a means of taking people on a journey.”
1030 Woodward Heights, Suite B. Ferndale; 248-468-4487; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tues.-Wed., 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun. Closed Mon.