Written by Lia Hobel / Photos by Michael Butcher
Food connoisseur and businessman Rachid Saad has adored Middleburg ever since he first visited the town. And, for the last three years, he’s been on the hunt for a location to launch his next food venture. Finally, the timing was right, and Middleburg Gourmet came to fruition in December of 2022. “Who doesn’t love Middleburg?” Saad says about his East Federal Street food boutique that offers teas, spices, oils, and other worldly and local culinary products.
Originally from Morocco, Saad came to the U.S. in 2007 to work in IT but has always been a foodie at heart. Like any dedicated cook, Saad had a desire to find the best saffron in the Washington, D.C., area. When he could not locate one to his liking, he saw a business opportunity and launched Moroccan Saffron in 2014. Under the brand label, Saad created spice mixtures and carefully chose food products that would appease the toughest food critic’s palate. The brand is carried at D.C.’s Eastern Market, and Saad also sells his products at farmer markets. Now Moroccan Saffron is sold at Middleburg Gourmet, his own brick-and-mortar store, which received a warm welcome from the community right from its launch. “I’ve been in the food business for over 10 years, and I would say this community in Middleburg is crazy amazing,” Saad says. “People are supportive. They discuss our products. They take the time to write a review on our Google page.”
With a bright yellow interior, Middleburg Gourmet has a happy ambiance. Comfy chairs by a window invite customers to relax and enjoy their shopping experience. Often, Saad will offer guests a free espresso as they look around the shop and he makes himself available to offer up a wealth of product knowledge or make suggestions. “When they walk in, we want them to try some of the products,” Saad notes, who is not shy about opening a package for a customer to sample before buying. “That’s part of the business and marketing,” he adds. Being able to try products before purchasing is also a way that he sets his boutique apart from large, corporate chains. Saad says he had a customer who tried every single energy bite that he carries in the store and then purchased every single variety.
Saad also focuses on importing items right from the source, such as caramel and nougat from a bakery in France and truffles from Italy. The shop also supports local artisans, including a pasta made in Virginia. Saad also has an ongoing partnership with a Shenandoah-based farmer who supplies honey. He says the honey is a popular purchase. Teas are another specialty at Middleburg Gourmet. He works with organic suppliers as well as small vendors to assure only the best tea is sold. “I make the [customers] smell the teas and I tell them the benefits of some of the herbs themselves,” he says.
Over the next few months, Saad plans to add cheeses, a fresh bakery that includes French baguettes and croissants, as well as ice cream. “I want to have a place [where] customers and neighbors can get a gift, grab a pasta and a sauce, and cook an easy dinner.”
In the spring, Saad plans to make his brand a fixture at markets around the DMV area and says he will employ individuals who enjoy chatting with customers and the outdoors so he can focus on Middleburg Gourmet. As for his new brick-and-mortar, he says, “I wanted a store for many reasons; for people to know where we are and to visit us Monday through Sunday.” ML
Middleburg Gourmet is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday; 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
10 East Federal Street
Middleburg, VA 20117
Published in the March 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.