Covington has a long history of neighborhood markets dating back to the 1800s, when a lack of refrigeration required residents to shop for essentials almost every day. Shelly DeFelice-Nelson and her husband, Patrick Nelson, reignited this trend in the heart of MainStrasse Village with the opening of Dee Felice Market in February.
“There were over 200 neighborhood groceries in the Covington area years ago,” DeFelice-Nelson says. “We have pictures of them in our market.”
Thanks to the pandemic, the family had to close Dee Felice Café, a MainStrasse mainstay, last March. DeFelice-Nelson and her mother, Shirley DeFelice, began discussing the idea of renting out the restaurant to keep the space in use. Patrick, who has cooked at the café since 1988, pitched his wife and mother-in-law on the idea of converting the restaurant’s dining rooms into a market.
“With the two apartment developments going up in MainStrasse Village [RiverHaus and John R. Green Project], we both thought there was a need for a neighborhood grocery,” DeFelice-Nelson says. “We also wanted to continue to work together. A market seemed like the perfect way to do that. Patrick calls the market his ‘perfect pantry.’ ”
Whenever possible, the market offers local, organic produce, dairy, and “Kentucky Proud” products as well as Boar’s Head deli products and Sixteen Bricks bread and pastries. Kim Hoover of 513 Bagels supplies bagels twice a week and customers can find Weisenberger Mill grits and flour, canned goods, and more than 40 spices. The market also has a liquor license, so they carry a curated selection of wines.
The market adds an element of foot traffic back to the area that has been missing in the years since purchasing from larger supermarkets took over. “Before we opened, residents of the village had to get in their cars to get eggs or milk,” DeFelice-Nelson explains. “Since we opened, the response has been great. It’s so convenient for the residents of the neighborhood to pop in, and the ones who have are very happy.”
Dee Felice Market, 527 Main St., Covington
The DeFelice-Nelson family is currently renting Dee Felice Café to Another Round LLC, which serves some of the same menu items for dine-in and carryout. Patrick Nelson plans to continue making some of his specialties like cheesecake and homemade Italian sausage.