CHARLES TOWN – Bushel & Peck is one of the few businesses experiencing strong business growth due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“We were overwhelmed at the beginning,” Todd Coyle, CEO of the nonprofit organic grocery store, recalled the beginning of the pandemic last spring. “We were one of the few places they could get good quality food from local farmers. Everything was clean and safe so customers can feel secure. They know where the food is coming from.”
Grocery stores had problems stocking shelves because of the pandemic’s disruption to the nation’s food distribution system, according to Coyle. “I saw it coming,” he said. “During an emergency, stores run out of supplies in about three days. Local distribution is more direct. You can drive to get what you need.”
Bushel & Peck gets it products from 55 regional farms and distributors all within 50 miles of the store. It features products like vegetables, meats, pastries and milk from small, independent producers.
“We’re locally and regionally sourced,” Coyle said. “We’re a hybrid, both a hub or central point for foods to come in and a retail space.”
Coyle said Bushel & Peck’s pandemic success has accelerated the co-op store’s future plans to expand. Recently the co-op store applied for a $177,000 federal grant to establish a food distribution center somewhere in or near Charles Town.
“We’re thinking of having a food distribution center in town, reaching schools and restaurants—possibly a [fresh foods] delivery system,” he said. “We are still working out what we need to do.”
Bushel & Peck applied for a grant from the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, a program that supports efforts to improve access to fresh, healthy foods in underserved rural and urban areas. The program is a partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services, the Treasury Department and the Department of Agriculture.
Recognizing its third anniversary in business this week, Bushel & Peck is located on the first floor in Charles Washington Hall, which the co-op rents from the City of Charles Town. The store is the sister organic food outlet to the popular and normally profitable seasonal Charles Town Farmers Market, which hasn’t faired financially as well as the store during the pandemic.
The store and the farmers market are run by the nonprofit Jefferson Growers, Artisans and Producers Coalition.
Customers could wander into the grocery store before the pandemic, of course. Now there is curbside grocery delivery only. Customers can see what’s available each day and place orders off the store’s Facebook page.
Bushel & Peck has a partnership with Ortega’s Taco Shop. Both businesses share the downstairs section of Charles Washington Hall. The two businesses have joint promotions, refer customers to each other, Coyle said.
“We watch each others’ backs and keep each others’ spirits up,” he added. “You have to adapt. think outside of the box.”