Three locations serve shoppers seeking fresh, organic items
The Turnip Truck in Nashville, Tennessee, has been dedicated to providing fresh and organic products since 2001. What began as a 2,800-square-foot organic shop now has three locations that also offer prepared foods and a full deli, among other features.
Founder and CEO John Dyke was working in medical sales when he opened Turnip Truck, according to company CFO Adam Williams. Dyke had been travelling across town to another store to find organic products to help him fight allergies.
According to Williams, Dyke “became a regular customer of theirs…what he was finding [was], the more he went over there, the more he’d see his neighbors. He said, ‘You know what? East Nashville deserves something like this.’”
East Nashville has taken to the stores like “bees to honey.” The Turnip Truck boasts about 30 percent local inventory across all departments in all locations, Williams said. Some of the biggest draws are locally sourced meat and produce.
During the store’s early years, Dyke would routinely set up farmers’ markets out front. It helped foster good relationships with local producers but also allowed farmers direct access to consumers.
The company maintains those relationships with local vendors. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams said that more farmers are taking their products to customers, limiting the potential for larger selections at Turnip Truck.
“It’s really unfortunate because we kind of feel like produce is the heart and soul of what we do. It’s just the reality of it,” he said.
As of mid-February, the company switched to Four Seasons for organic produce distribution. But its locally sourced meat continues to be a touchstone. In fact, Williams said that Dyke recently purchased a farm from a former vendor and raises cattle to be sold in stores.
No matter where the products are sourced, Williams said that natural and organic are the focus of what goes on the shelves.
“A lot of things in the natural channel weren’t impacted [by supply chain issues] in the same way as some of the larger conventional channels. We felt really fortunate in that,” Williams said.
As an example, he cited the egg shortage. “We’ve been working with some of the same egg suppliers – some local farms – for years, and we got an Amish outfit that provides a lot of our eggs. And then there’s another farmer in West Tennessee who provides a lot of our eggs, and they haven’t had to raise their prices at all,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean the company is immune to disruption, Many of its center store items or larger brands have been “stopped up.” The Turnip Truck has taken to switching brands or using products it can get its hands on.
Traditionally, the Turnip Truck shopper is more often than not a “daily shopper.”
“They want to see what’s fresh, they want to see what fresh produce came in from the local purveyor or what fresh meat. They’re trying to make as few trips as possible,” Williams said.
For more produce news from The Shelby Report, visit theshelbyreport.com/produce.