Retailer: Cherry Sprout Produce
Cherry Sprout Produce is a 2014 Local Hero Award nominee in the Retailer category. Read about the Local Hero Awards and the nominees. Voting is now closed. Winners will be announced at Summer’s First BBQ on June 12 – get your tickets today to feast with the Pacific Northwest’s finest!
When Amanda Wiles found out that the store she had worked at for nine years, Big City Produce, was going out of business, she and a fellow employee acted fast. The two made a quick decision to buy the business together, renaming it Cherry Sprout Produce. This North Portland market packs a big mission into a small space, with an eye toward providing affordable, healthy foods and a community space to a rapidly changing neighborhood.
We spoke with co-owners Amanda Wiles and Katie Nichols about what makes Cherry Sprout special.
What is the mission of Cherry Sprout?
Amanda: In early 2009, a small group of people got together and came up with our mission statement. We wanted it to be obvious to the neighborhood that we’re familiar with its history, and we believe in it. Although it’s changing, we truly believe in the community that is North Portland. Cherry Spout is here for affordable, healthy food first and foremost – but we measure our success a little bit differently than some larger stores. We’re happy when all of the employees are taken care of and when the neighborhood is happy. We have tried to stay true to the community and keep the things they buy as affordable as we possibly can.
How do you work toward meeting your mission?
Katie: We try to serve our customers, small businesses, and farms in the best way that we can. This means buying produce directly from farmers, dealing with small food preparers, and giving start-ups a place to first sell their product. By buying directly from farmers, we’re able to pass on that savings to our customers. We might take a smaller margin on those things – to help the farmer get more product to us and to help the customer be able to afford more local produce.
What do you think sets you apart from other food retailers?
Katie: One of the things is the mix of produce that we have. A lot of stores only carry 100% organic produce, and part of our mission is to remain accessible to a diverse group of people. While we have as much local produce as we can at one time, maybe only 25-35% of it is certified organic. I think that that’s something that can keep us accessible – to be able to walk that line, to know farmers well enough that we can feel good about their practices without having an organic stamp on it.
How is Cherry Sprout involved with the community?
Amanda: We do a lot of different things with the neighborhood and community. Every month we put on a rotating art show with a local artist. We’ve also done shows with Jefferson High School, where the students and their families come in and share their art and talents. They’re really great, positive events where that community feels like they’re connected with the store. The events that are here are community collaborations. A lot of the artists who show here are neighbors – people who work here or deliver here. It’s really spontaneous and community-driven in that way.
What do you enjoy most about working at Cherry Sprout?
Amanda: It’s generally a bright and happy place to be. We’re happy to see the person we’re working with and to check out the new products coming in each day. We’re happy to see our neighbors’ faces and their cute dogs or kids. It just feels like a nice little community market.
Katie: I love being a part of an organization working to keep a community hub alive and to support the regional food economy. That’s really important for me in my life to be working for that. In a more personal way, I really love the people who I work with – not just the staff, but also the customers – and being able to share food stories with people and learn a new recipe or share with someone a vegetable that’s unfamiliar to them.
What kinds of challenges do you face in your business, and how do you work to meet them?
Katie: We face a big challenge of trying to grow with the community, along with navigating the reality of gentrification in this neighborhood. That means trying to remain true to our mission to serve a diversity of people and catering to the newer residents of our neighborhood to stay alive and thrive. I think we’ve done pretty well just by bringing in a good mix of products and being really hands-on with our business. We’ve established close relationships with a lot of our customers and our staff, so we have a good idea of what people want from us, and what they’d like to see change about us. Keeping up with those changes is a big challenge.
Are there any trends in your industry that are encouraging to you?
Katie: I think the proliferation of small farms in the area is really inspiring. I also feel really lucky to be a part of a community that is so supportive of small farms and small retailers. That’s not only with customers who are willing to come here and support us, but also in terms of business outreach programs that are out there and willing to help.
Cherry Sprout Produce
722 N Sumner St.
Portland, OR 97217
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