Charlottesville is no stranger to grocery stores where offering local is part of their business motto--and our options keep growing with places like JM Stock Provisions and RelayFoods.com.
Stepping in to JM Stock Provisions (Stock) on West Main St. in Charlottesville is like walking in to a smoker--the smell is delicious, and according to James Lum, one of the owners, “It pretty much always smells like smoke… but that doesn’t mean we’re burning down!” he jokes.
Stock, a whole-animal butcher shop and food market, has been open for a year and a half and has created a place for locals and local foods to connect. James says that choosing Charlottesville as the place to settle was easy, ‘Honestly, one of the reasons we picked Charlottesville was because we met Zach Miller of Timbercreek Organics. Zach produces a good product, and they’re responsive. They can meet our demands, which are pretty strict at times.”
Finding proteins hasn’t been difficult with so many great producers in the area--Stock also sources from River Oak Farm, Deep Rock Farm, Autumn Olive Farm, Wolf Creek Farm, and on occasion, Polyface when they need to fill in gaps. “We’re offering something different, a little bit more custom. We do a lot with the products we get in--cut it fresh to order, offer dry-age cuts, and make all our sausage, sliced meats, and bacon”, explains James.
Aside from meats, they also offer local produce in season (and during the tougher winter months, they try to offer only domestic and organic produce), local value-added products, local wine and beer, and in-house made prepared foods.
With plans to expand to floor-to-ceiling shelves, Stock hopes to become a one-stop shop and cornerstone of their community. “We don’t want to be an extra errand,” James says. “We would rather be somewhere you can buy everything you need to make dinner for your family, and a place that you just have to visit.”
RelayFoods.com began its evolution into an online grocery store with a strong local commitment here in Charlottesville. In this second floor office Relay staff organizes online orders that are bagged and delivered to 21 weekly pick up locations in the Charlottesville area--saving customers time and a trip to the grocery store.
Relay offers both national brand and local products, and the company estimates that close to 30% of an order will be local products. “It’s not just a good story--local actually does quite well and is competitive.” says Clare Bender, Relay’s Local Artisan Senior Category Manager. Her goal is to find comparably and competitively priced local products to challenge our inclinations to purchase national brands. “We want to provide a fabulous local alternative that supports someone in your neighborhood,” Clare explains.
To that end, Relay is proactive in finding local producers. Not only do they immerse themselves in the community and reach out to producers, they also have an online vendor interest web page and take customers’ requests for certain local products. Local producers are highlighted in their own brand page on Relay’s website in order to introduce customers to the producer and their products.
Producers who work with Relay are able to sell products for ‘inventory’ or as last minute ‘just-in-time’ sales, and Relay values the ability to work with a producer to plan out a season. Cassy Kelly, Relay’s Local Produce Senior Category Manager says, “During the winter months we plan with growers--what products we’re looking for and what volumes we’re going to need.”
“Local will always be a focal point for Relay,” says Cassy. Currently purchasing from over 200 local producers in their delivery region (Baltimore through the Research Triangle in North Carolina), Relay is offering their customers a convenient way to learn about and purchase local foods.