Foods of All Nations has been in Charlottesville, Virginia, for more than 50 years. Located in the downtown area, it is next to the University of Virginia. President Geoffrey Garbaccio has been with the company about seven years.
Garbaccio grew up in the food industry, working at his parents’ gourmet food store in New Jersey. After a brief stint in the clothing industry in Manhattan, he returned to run the family business. After the decision was made to sell, he worked at Whole Foods in the Northeast, becoming a regional associate coordinator for its specialty department in the mid-Atlantic region and then moving into store management. He later went to work at Foods of All Nations.
“We’re right in the heart of UVA, and we’re surrounded by different stadiums and track fields,” Garbaccio said. “We’re right in the heart of Charlottesville. We do everything, but we specialize in a lot of European confections.”
While Foods of All Nations is a conventional grocery, it offers much more. Garbaccio said the store does everything in house and offers a lot of value-added items. It also does “a huge catering business, not only with the university but with the local businesses and residents.” And it has “great customer service.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, part of that customer service became offering curbside pickup. Garbaccio said the store, being older and smaller, did not have advanced POS systems, but he developed one where customers could call and place orders.
“We shopped the order immediately, called them back and told them what we had, didn’t have, and then [would] get their credit card information. They would have to come right away because we couldn’t refrigerate it; we don’t have the facilities to do all that.”
The system worked “extremely well” and several other businesses in town adopted the model.
“The curbside was very, very strong for us to the point where we had our entire cafe filled with shopping carts with orders in them. And the customers appreciated that. I think that gained the loyalty that they have for us.
“There are people that still do curbside,” Garbaccio said. “I’ve got loyal customers that call me every week and have me shop for them.”
Foods of All Nations continues to face some pandemic-related issues, such as supply chain woes. For example, Garbaccio said the store couldn’t get Old Bay seasoning for a long time. “Then, the next day it comes in and then there’s something else that we can’t get. It’s very strange. But for the most part, everything has kind of leveled off.”
Labor also remains an issue. “No one wants to work,” he said. “Because we’re in the heart of the university, they raised their minimum to $15 an hour. We had to pretty much do the same, just to be competitive.”
One of the advantages of the university being so close is that it attracts students and faculty from other countries. “They come to our store to find things that they can’t get elsewhere,” Garbaccio said.
Foods of All Nations is invested in the community and supports local nonprofits and UVA’s athletic teams. “Many of the athletes do come in our store.”
A fixture in Charlottesville, Foods of All Nations has a loyal following. “We’ve got customers that do their full shops with us and have been doing it for 50 years,” Garbaccio said.
For more information, visit foodsofallnations.com.