Specialty Food Magazine

MAY-JUN 2013

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Eric Gertner and Kate Collier feast! History…Just a few weeks into dating, Kate Collier and Eric Gertner learned of a development project to transform an abandoned building in Charlottesville, Va., into a market hall for independently owned food stores. Having grown up around food—she on her family farm with a bakery and seasonal restaurant, and he in the heart of Wisconsin's dairy farms—they saw a niche for a food shopping experience that focused on service, quality and buying local. The couple leased a 1,200-square-foot space, and began collecting refurbished equipment. "One of our first dates was to a refrigeration junk yard," Collier says. Applying his background in carpentry, Gertner built shelves from old doors and created a bright yellow paint for the walls. They commissioned pieces from friends and family, including the store's focal point, made by Collier's brother: a round table with a base of bent and welded steel rods shaped like an olive tree. Collier, who attended Fancy Food Shows in the past for her mother's bakery, connected with food producers to create feast's initial selection of 40 artisanal cheeses, 10 cured meats and an array of local produce. "The main idea was to sell products that we knew tasted great and that we wanted to share with other people," she says. In 2002, feast opened for business and has since expanded to three times its original size to include a cafe, a larger produce department and a tasting area. K ate Collier and Eric Gertner's idea of a date was to transform a Charlottesville abandoned building into a specialty market. More than a decade later they've transformed feast into a showcase for local products that highlights Virginia's vibrant food scene. Points of Distinction…Collier and Gertner have created an environment where shoppers are encouraged to taste products and connect with their community. The store features six to eight daily tastings, including two cheeses and a complementary jam or chutney, and weekly wine tastings on Fridays. Saturdays in the summertime include the Farm to Feast summer series, where local farmers visit the store to talk with shoppers. "There is always something to taste, music on, it smells good and there is a friendly face," Gertner says. In 2009, Collier and Gertner started the nonprofit Local Food Hub after hearing complaints from local farmers that they were spending too much time on the road delivering small orders and not enough on their farms. The couple wrote a business plan and received a grant to develop a sustainable local food distribution model where small farms in and around Charlottesville could sell their produce to larger markets like restaurants, hospitals and schools. Today Local Food Hub buys from 75 local farmers, works with 52 schools in the community, and purchased close to $1.5 million in food since 2009. How It Keeps Innovating…At the heart of feast's values is buying local and supporting food producers who make superb foods and beverages. The staff meets regularly to taste new products and decide if they represent the feast brand. "We have built our reputation on a curated collection," Gertner says. "There's nothing here we don't like the taste of." "Something has to come off the shelf for something to go on, so it gets harder and harder over time," says Collier. But local comes first. "If there's an exceptional product from Virginia, that is the one that we pick." New products are also selected for seasonality. One example is Bone Doctors' BBQ Sauce, a 2011 sofi Finalist for Outstanding Food Gift. "There is a huge food culture here—from local farms, artisan food producers and the Virginia wine scene—which has grown over the past 10 years," Gertner says. "Virginia has a vibrant food scene, and it's fun to be at the heart of it."—S.N. 62 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE ❘ specialtyfood.com Year Opened: 2002 Outstanding Features: Location: Charlottesville, VA Extensive local offerings, Local Food Hub sustainable food distribution nonprofit, Farm to Feast summer series Type of Business: Specialty food store and cafe Contact: Kate Collier feastvirginia.com

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