Fresh, local and organic is as good as it gets.
Featuring local, organic food, Root Cellar is the new grocer on the block at 306 E. High St. Owned by husband-and-wife team Jake and Chelsea Davis, the store in Jefferson City is an offshoot of the one they’ve owned in Columbia since 2011.
“We refer to our stores as fresh format,” Jake says, “so you are not going to find many processed foods here. You’ll pretty much find everything you need to cook a meal from scratch.”
Fresh fruits, vegetables and locally sourced meats, including trout from the Lake of the Ozarks, beef, pork, lamb, occasionally goat, chicken and turkey, are available. Also on the shelves are rice, other grains, cornmeal, beans and dry goods.
Depending on the season, approximately 80 percent of foods offered are locally grown. The other 20 percent is made up of products that aren’t raised locally but are options that customers want.
“Say citrus is something our customers really like, so we buy it from California or Florida,” Jake says. “Whatever we purchase, they will be either organic or fair-trade products. This helps round out things for our customers, and if you want to pick up bananas, we have those for you fair trade.”
Weekly food box subscriptions are the store’s flagship, according to Jake, and can be ordered online and picked up. The three options include: the Bounty Box, which includes eight to 12 fruits and vegetables; the Barnyard Box with a half-gallon of local milk, a dozen farm-fresh eggs, two high-quality meat products and a handcrafted dairy product; and the Ploughman’s Box, offering a seasonal and hardy combination of meats, cheeses and vegetables. Weekly subscribers also receive an email newsletter filled with recipes and a variety of articles.
After college the Davises got involved working with nonprofits and farm advocacy. Their passions led them to support local food growers, which they saw as a growing industry. Shortly thereafter they decided to fulfill a dream of becoming farmers themselves and bought land near Millersburg, Missouri, where they still raise pastured pork, fruits and vegetables.
“Chelsea and I quickly realized it was difficult to make a living as a farmer,” Jake says. “We would go to farmers markets each weekend, hoping customers were there, and found it hard to sell enough produce in that short amount of time. We saw a model, community-supported agriculture (CSA), emerging in coastal cities like Boston, San Francisco and Chicago. We thought surely we could do something like that in Missouri.”
Coincidentally, the Root Cellar, owned by good friends, came for sale in 2011, and by all accounts, it seemed the Davises were destined to become the new owners.
“The previous owners were actually good friends of ours, and they were needing to make life changes that meant either transitioning
or selling the store,” Jake says. “We just didn’t want it to go away, so we bought it. It was the right opportunity for us to bring some of our dreams and passions together.”
What piqued Jake’s interest most about this business venture was the opportunity to expand a small food co-op that was in existence of about 20 families who got together, bought and shared produce from various local farms.
“The co-op concept was in line with our goal of supporting local farmers,” Jake says. “From this idea, we created the Bounty Box, which is a subscription of local fruits and vegetables. A year later, the same families said they would also like to buy meat and dairy, so we created the Barnyard Box.
The third option we have is a combination of those boxes, which is called the Ploughman’s Box and is meant for smaller households like couples or people who aren’t a full family. The program just continues to evolve as we get more subscribers.”
Jake says subscriptions are a way they are able to operate on a small retail storefront, keep the doors open and make sure local farmers have a secure place to sell their products.
“We contract well in advance for most of the products that go into our boxes,” Jake says. “Therefore, when farmers are making a trip to us, or we go to their farm to pick up, we can purchase other products they have available. We might be going to buy 150 pounds of asparagus, but if they have heads of cauliflower or broccoli, we are able to sell those as well. Both the retail establishment and the weekly subscription program drives what we do.”
Click here to try out some Summer Scrumptious Recipes from the Root Cellar!