A Bountiful Harvest
I had the chance to interview someone new in the neighborhood who’s transforming the way we buy our food as well as our shopping experience. His name is Hunter Hopcroft and he’s opened a truly great grocery store here in The Fan called Harvest. It’s more than a grocery store. Harvest has locally grown food, a great selection of cookbooks as well as magazines and great wine.
Harvest is chock full of goodness, run by someone who understands what food and commerce are all about.
He happily granted me an interview and of course I’m going to share that with all of you. Thank you, Hunter.
Of all the businesses you could have started here in Richmond, why did you choose to open a cool grocery store? Should we even call it a grocery store?
One of the things I love about Richmond is how un-jaded it is. If you put a lot of thought into creating something new and compelling, the community really gets behind it. I wanted to open a grocery store for a few reasons — foremost, I love finding great food. Secondly, I felt like the area needed more food retail that existed between the farmers market and the supermarket. For local food to really find a place in peoples lives, they need to be presented with it on a more regular basis. I take a lot of pride in trying to be a full service grocery store- albeit an untraditional one. If you can’t come here and get everything you need to make a great home cooked meal, we haven’t really added any value. We are listening closely to our customers as we grow our inventory and evolve.
As a young entrepreneur, do you think that this city needs more people like yourself, especially in the metro area?
As I have gotten more involved with the local community I am continually impressed by the number of young people really committed to improving the city. Some are starting full-fledged businesses, others are organizing creative projects and non-profit initiatives, but they all share an interest in making a Richmond a better place to live.
What’s exciting now is that the traditional business community has recognized this and started playing a bigger role in nurturing these projects. It’s an exciting time. I think 10 years from now people will look back on these past few years as really crucial in determining the direction the city takes.
Was the Fan and being so close to VCU, an important location for you to open your store? Were there other areas you considered?
Finding a location that I felt would benefit from our presence AND be able to support the business was an agonizing task. In addition to the Fan I scouted places in Forest Hill and Downtown. The space we are in now had inexplicably been empty for a while, it’s guts were good but it needed a facelift. I like what we did with the inside and am really thrilled to be on Main Street. This business model is a throwback to an earlier time in a America and being on Main Street fits in well with that.
What’s the best thing about doing what you do?
Most people are so far removed from how their food is made, it is really satisfying to get the opportunity to close that gap. Sometimes farmer’s will be in the store dropping off produce or eggs while customers are shopping — that’s a powerful experience for people used to shopping in the supermarket.
What advice would you give or action you would recommend for anyone who’d like to start their own business?
As you begin working on starting a business and talking about it, a lot of people are going to tell you what a bad idea it is. You are going to wake up in the middle of the night convinced you’re crazy. The only way to not get discouraged is to do a lot of research. Knowing exactly what will be required to get off the ground and what benchmarks you need to hit once your open will keep you from doing things half-way and keep you grounded. There is a lot that is going to be beyond your control and having a firm grasp on the details will help you focus on the long-term and what’s important.
Thank you again, Hunter!