In life, good fortune sometimes takes you by surprise.
Julia and Dusty James had long planned to open a seven-day-a-week grocery store, building upon the success of their stand inside the Broad Street Market.
But, a few months ago, their project accelerated unexpectedly after they learned that they would receive a substantial, three-year federal grant, which took effect almost immediately. Now, they had to make their plan happen—right away.
“It did make us move faster than we thought we would originally,” said Dusty.
So, yes, the pressure is on now, but that’s OK with the Jameses, who are eager to convert their storefront on the 1300-block of N. 3rd Street into a second location for Radish & Rye Food Hub.
If all goes according to plan, the store should open this summer following a complete renovation of the 2,800-square-foot space, which will be split almost evenly between front-end retail and back-end production and storage.
Notably, the new store will include a full kitchen, which will produce baked goods and an array of prepared and semi-prepared meals. Otherwise, customers can expect to find the same types of local, organic and seasonal food sold from the cozy stand at the Broad Street Market, which will continue to operate.
“We think that, in order to be a viable option for people’s grocery shopping, we need to be open more than three days a week,” said Dusty.
That realization occurred to them quickly after they opened Radish & Rye in 2015. So, Dusty began checking out the storefronts near the market, occasionally walking into a building and seeing if the owner might be interested in selling.
In June 2017, they closed on a deal to purchase the retail and apartment building at 1308 N. 3rd St., which, on the ground floor, had housed many businesses over the years, including JM’s Thrift & Vintage. The idea was to rent out the location until they were ready, in a few years maybe, to open their own brick-and-mortar.
“We knew we wanted to be in Midtown,” Julia said. “Proximity to the market meant more parking in the area and access to our established customer base.”
Then, in September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture notified them that their application had been approved for a $333,410 grant under its “Local Food Promotion Program.” According to the USDA, only about 16 percent of applications for the grant program are funded.
After the initial surprise wore off, the couple began planning out the details for their store and helped their tenant, Alyce & Tre’sures Hair Gallery, find a new spot for her salon just two doors up the street.
The federal grant will go a long way toward getting the new location up and running, paying for such things as equipment, marketing and some wages. The Jameses are responsible for a one-third match of the grant amount, and the grant money does not cover building renovation costs, which will be substantial. Because Dusty is an experienced builder, he plans to act as his own general contractor, which will help both logistically and financially.
Dusty and Julia said that they’re optimistic that the community will embrace their new grocery. Yes, they expect to offer the organic and sustainable goods from the Pennsylvania producers they already feature—names like Apple Valley Creamery (East Berlin), North Mountain Pastures (Newport) and Calicutts Spice Co. (Hershey). But they believe that they can reach a lot more people with a seven-day-a-week schedule, greatly expanded options and prepared foods.
“Each day gets busier and busier (at the market),” said Julia. “Given our limited space and hours there, it feels more and more that we are at capacity.”
The market stand, they added, proved their concept as a business. It also has prepared them well for this next step, in terms of sourcing, product mix, customer service and the knowledge needed to run a busy grocery.
“With this store, we can offer greater convenience to our customers by bringing more items into the city and keeping prices low,” Julia said. “We want to make [our products] as accessible as possible.”
Radish and Rye Food Hub is located inside the brick building of the Broad Street Market, Harrisburg, with plans to open next summer at 1308 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.radishandryehbg.com.