Tastemakers 2019: Amanda Smith Anderson, Wine and Cheese Director at The Hills Market Downtown

G.A. Benton
Amanda Smith Anderson at The Hills Market

After earning a bachelor’s degree in music from Capital University and serving as the development director for the Columbus Children’s Theatre, Anderson began to pursue a vastly different path at one of Columbus’ best specialty-foods markets.

Why She’s a Tastemaker: Anderson wears multiple hats at The Hills Market in the Discovery District. In addition to wine and cheese director, she oversees the market’s social media presence and coordinates in-store restaurant pop-ups and wine tastings. She also champions talented, often lesser-known underdog vendors with interesting, uncommon wares.

Skittles and Popcorn: Empathy seems to come naturally to Anderson, who suffers from food allergies such as gluten intolerance. “I’d think it was all in my head, then I’d eat a biscuit, and my body would go in full attack mode,” she says. “It got so bad that I was only eating Skittles and popcorn because they didn’t make me sick. Then I saw a doctor who confirmed my sensitivities.” The silver lining for shoppers: Anderson is always hunting for tasty gluten-free, vegan, ketogenic and other specialized-diet products.

A cheese plate at The Hills Market (Photo by Tim Johnson)

The Small Cheese: Unsettled by a rise in xenophobic rhetoric and reactionary politics that disregard underrepresented groups and people in need, Anderson says, “I’m in a small position of power to change things for the better, to make a direct impact with the small budget that I spend on cheese, wine and other groceries.” Passionately following her principles—like when she added a “support women-owned businesses” sign to promote delicious, locally produced Darista Dips—turns out to be good for business at a local-focused Downtown shop like The Hills. “We started selling a lot more,” Anderson says. “And people started asking about other women-owned businesses. So I started researching women-owned wineries, female winemakers and wineries owned by people of color.” Savvy bargain-hunters can taste the fermented fruits of Anderson’s labor at the $1 wine tastings she leads every Saturday.

What’s in Store: “I like people who cook interesting food and have an interesting story,” Anderson says about the monthslong restaurant pop-ups she books. When a woman who fled Iran recently asked if she and her wife could start an in-store stand, Anderson tasted her good food—like lamb-and-lentil-filled meatballs— and Charmy’s Persian Cuisine began its ongoing Tuesday lunch residency at the Grant Avenue market. 

Age: 36

Hometown: Columbus

Always in her fridge: At least 10 different cheeses

Favorite drink: Gin and tonic

Go-to Columbus spot: Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails

Prediction for the local dining/drinking scene: “More zero-proof  cocktails (possibly a bar with no alcohol), more local sourcing and better vegan and vegetarian options”


Amanda Smith Anderson