Closing the Gap, Featured, When the Coat Comes Off

When a Market Is More Than a Market

Rick Alba did not always think he would be selling baked goods in a parking lot at 28th and Market streets in Galveston, Texas every Sunday. Having worked in restaurants since he was a teenager, the 39-year-old native Texan studied anthropology in college to get out of the food industry. Now, he and his wife own Coastal Bake Shop which sells beautifully crafted baked goods at Galveston’s Own Farmers Market (GOFM) each weekend. 

For some Galveston residents, GOFM is a weekly farmers market. For others, it is a path to a better life. Since it was founded in 2012, GOFM has grown to include food access programs, local school gardens and educational initiatives. GOFM even accepts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at its markets. Through their innovative Market Match program, GOFM triples customers’ buying power when they use their SNAP benefits to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables. Using funds donated through community partnerships and local philanthropy, GOFM matches SNAP benefits dollar-for-dollar with two types of tickets — FreshBucks and BonusBucks — that can be exchanged for market products. 

Other GOFM programs also work to alleviate food insecurity faced by low-income Galveston residents. By delivering a free parcel of local foods from GOFM’s farmers and makers to local families, the FreshBox program addresses food insecurity exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Such programs support vendors like Coastal Bake Shop while providing a platform for them to give back to their community. 

Rick and his wife, Katherine, started Coastal Bake Shop in December 2021. At first, their goals were mostly profit-driven. They were looking for a way to earn some extra cash for their growing family. “It’s just been really difficult — you know — to live,” Rick said. “We wanted to be able to have some agency in our own lives. It’s been very stressful financially. We’re trying to live a life that we’re happy with.” He paused. “A life we’re happy providing for our kids.”  

When Coastal Bake Shop first started, the couple reached out to a few local farmers markets. “Because we were new and didn’t have any ‘street cred,’ no one wanted us, but GOFM was very positive towards us,” said Rick. “They were the first people that were excited to have us come.” Having surfed in Galveston for the past 20 years, Rick felt right at home. He eventually plans to move to the island and build a brick-and-mortar location for Coastal Bake Shop. 

Rick quickly came to understand that GOFM is, in his words, “so much of a unique gem.” “We feel so fortunate for finding it,” recalled Rick. “It’s so good. It’s so rare, and it just doesn’t exist anywhere else.” He explained how GOFM has influenced the business’ goals. “At first, we were just thinking ‘let’s open a business and make some money so we can have some extra security in our lives.’ But then it started to change.” GOFM asks their vendors to use ingredients that are as local and organic as possible. Because of GOFM, Coastal Bake Shop partnered with Barton Springs Mills which sources their grain from Texas farmers. Rick described how using local and organic ingredients has become part of their identity. “I think our mission has really changed for our business,” he said. “We buy local and organic because it makes an environmental and social impact. We want to help build a local food economy that’s based upon invigorating local businesses and people. GOFM planted that seed for us.”

Coastal Bake Shop has expanded Rick’s sense of community and purpose. Now, through contributing sliced handmade sandwich bread to the FreshBox program, he thinks of those who he will impact. “Every time I’m shaping this bread, I think about how I’m going to feed people in need,” said Rick. “It makes me feel like I have an impact — like I’m building a community.”

Image credit: Photo courtesy of Galveston’s Own Farmer’s Market

Leonard Wang Leonard Wang (2 Posts)


University of Texas Medical Branch School of Medicine

Leonard is a third-year medical student at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX. He graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science in honors biomedical sciences through a 7-year accelerated BS/MD program. Leonard is also currently an MPH student and plans to pursue an MBA while in medical school. He enjoys traveling, rock climbing, and exploring new restaurants and coffee shops in his free time. In the future, Leonard would like to pursue a career in pediatrics/genetics.