Officials with the new Pilot Mountain Pride storefront on Market Street in Mount Airy say you won’t find any “product of Guatemala” stickers on their fruits and vegetables, and that’s just the way they like it.
A little over a month after its grand opening celebration, Surry County’s Cooperative Extension Agent Bryan Cave says county residents are supporting the store with a steady flow of foot traffic whenever it’s open.
And no wonder.
Fruits and vegetables purchased in restaurants or grocery stores travel and average of 1,500 miles to get to the consumer, meaning preservatives and pesticides are needed for them to make the trek, he said.
But not at Pilot Mountain Pride, and Cave says he believes that fact, coupled with the desire to support local farmers, play no small role in the store’s success.
“The response has been good since the doors opened,” he said Monday morning. “We’re getting quite a bit of traffic and the people really seem to be supporting us. I was over there last week and people were constantly streaming in and out.”
Cave said that at this juncture in the growing season, he is pleased with sales.
“It’s going better than I expected, to tell the truth,” he said. “We thought sales might go down a bit as the gardens started coming in, but it’s stayed really steady.”
As word got out about how far retail outlets routinely ship produce, support for local products soared, Cave surmised.
“We had a whole lot of people who were interested in buying locally, so when we thought about where the Pilot Mountain Pride center is located, it wasn’t that easy for people to get to,” he said. “That’s where the idea for the Mount Airy storefront originated.”
And with the interest in shopping local, Cave said he thought a retail outlet might be just the thing to help farmers market their goods.
“This is all about the farmers, so if we can sell even a little of their produce for retail prices, it’s better for them,” he said. “Number one, we wanted to give the community easy access to fresh produce and number two, it’s a great marketing tool for the farmers.”
The cooperative extension agent said the store’s future is looking good.
“I think we’re getting to the point that we’re going to be able to keep the doors open,” he said. “We’ve had to learn a few things, and learn from a few things, but since we estimated the costs going in, we’re finding that with actual costs and sales that this can work.”
And while things are going well on Market Street, Cave said he wishes this year’s growing season was a little more cooperative.
“This wet weather has really affected what’s available and how good it is,” he said. “This has not been a good year for produce. Next year, we’re hoping to be able to offer a little more variety.
“We’ve had good, decent quality produce over there, but not the kind of quality we’ve seen in the past, and it’s all weather-related,” Cave added.
The store, located at 227 Market Street, beside Mayberry Shoe Repair, is open Tuesday through Friday from 1-6 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Store Manager Stephanie Wolford can be reached during business hours at 648-8000.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.