The Beat goes on — as a grocer
Carbondale restaurant switches to organic grocery delivery
It sounds like the place Jack Kerouac would buy milk and eggs.
The Beat Grocer is a new enterprise from the owners of The Beat restaurant in Carbondale.
Owners Lucy Perutz and Tobyn Britt now offer online ordering of roughly 200 organic products, with delivery in Carbondale for orders of at least $50.
Due to coronavirus concerns, the husband and wife team closed their restaurant even before it was mandated.
“My husband and I decided to close for dine-in service about a week before Polis required restaurants to do so. We take the health of our community very seriously and realized we didn’t want to aid in the explosion of [coronavirus] transmission, plus the pleas from hospitals really shook us to our core,” Perutz said.
Takeout wasn’t much more appealing.
“We quickly realized we couldn’t adhere by the ‘6 feet apart’ rule while working takeout service and felt we couldn’t safely remain open at all. We then took a three-week break to step back, stay at home and think,” Perutz said.
The time off led to a business transformation.
“It seemed like grocery stores were packed, running out of food and a hotspot for potential transmission. Our food suppliers have different distribution chains from grocery stores, so many hard-to-find items were easy for us to access. Offering groceries seemed like a good way to keep the lights on, pay bills and provide a service to the community. My husband and I aren’t the best at sitting idle, so this felt like a safe way to work,” she said.
One advantage over other area grocers is a more diverse range of products, Perutz said.
“We offer some products that are difficult to get your hands on in one place. For instance, we sell alcohol, biodynamic/organic wines, RFBC beer/hard seltzer, vegetable starts, local soil/compost, eggs, cheese, milk, organic snacks, bread, etc. We may not have as big of a selection as other stores, but I think we have a wider variety of items,” she said.
A synergistic aspect of the grocery is how it supports local farmers.
“We work with an amazing company called Farm Runners who supply us weekly with produce, milk, eggs, cheese, beans and soil from various farms in the North Fork Valley. We also have been directly working with local farms Two Roots Farm, Erin’s Acres and Wild Mountain Seeds. We plan to support as many local farmers as we can in the upcoming months,” she said.
A benefit to the farmers beyond having their produce sold is exposure.
“[The grocery delivery service is] another way for people to learn that there are vegetable farms in the valley,” said Two Roots Farm owner Harper Kaufman.
“The online marketing really catches consumers’ eyes right now. Even in just the past few days I’ve seen an uptick on visits to Facebook and Instagram,” said Erin Cuseo, owner of Erin’s Acres.
Perutz recognizes they are not fulfilling every shopper’s needs.
“We have adhered to our day one vegetarian ethos and do not sell meat or meat products. We do not offer many baby items, bathing products, household maintenance items, or extensive variations of single items,” she said.
It’s too early to tell if the grocery will be profitable, Perutz said.
“In theory, we should be making more money this way, but we’ve basically started an entirely new business from scratch — after only being open for a year as a restaurant — and any new business has to make it through an initial investment. It’s going to take a little time to see the returns from this, and that’s why we’re sticking with it,” she said.
Giving it a go also means not reopening as a restaurant in the near future.
“We will not be reopening as a restaurant until things go back to normal, however long that might be; we will not survive if we do. In our 35-seat restaurant, the new guidelines of operating at half capacity just aren’t going to cut it for us. We’re a new restaurant and super vulnerable to economic disruptions. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a scary situation to be in,” Perutz said.
But selling prepared meals is an option they’re considering.
“Our restaurant customers have reached out requesting prepped foods or meal kits, so we’re hoping to find a way to bring another team member back on to prep at night when we’re not present,” Perutz said.
Finding work for a restaurant employee would be icing on the cake.
“We wish we could bring our whole staff back. We are a pretty close group of people, and it’s been really hard for us not to be able to support them more,” she said.
“We really look forward to them opening back up [as a restaurant], but for now this is a really great way for people to support a local business,” said Cuseo.
Orders can be made at http://www.thebeatgrocer.com.
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