Grocery store set to plant itself in the Fan

Harvest Grocery & Supply is taking over the former RealiTea space. (Photos by Michael Thompson)

Harvest Grocery & Supply is taking over the former RealiTea space. (Photos by Michael Thompson)

It was a moment of “disenchantment and inspiration” that led Hunter Hopcroft to leave the world of downtown finance to try his hand as a neighborhood grocer in the Fan.

Hopcroft, a former analyst for Canal Capital Management, is setting up shop for his new venture, Harvest Grocery & Supply at 1531 W. Main St. He signed a lease for the 2,000-square-foot space in October and plans to open the store in January.

Hunter Hopcroft

Hunter Hopcroft

Harvest Grocery & Supply will sell produce, some frozen foods and traditional home goods, such as cutting boards and ceramics. A combination of local producers and national distributors will supply the store.

“There’s a segment of the population in Richmond that likes the idea of going to the butcher and the fish store and is slightly more thoughtful in the food they buy,” Hopcroft said. “You can see that in the success of the farmers markets. I’m trying to recreate that experience on a daily basis.”

Hopcroft, 25, said he expects it to cost about $80,000 to get his store up and running. The West Main Street space had been occupied by RealiTea before the teashop closed in April. Hopcroft will look to hire two employees to help him run the store.

The Richmond grocery market is full of competition, with big names such as Kroger, Martin’s, Food Lion, Walmart and others vying for market share. There are also more specialized grocery chains with local footprints, such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Fresh Market.

Harvest Grocery will aim for more a niche clientele, Hopcroft said.

“I don’t expect a majority of the customers to buy their weekly groceries [from Harvest] or for a family of four,” he said. “My vision is people that once or twice a week try to do a real nice home-cooked meal, or maybe there’s a special occasion.”

Hopcroft is betting that he’ll be helped by his shop’s location on the east side of Boulevard.

“This side of Boulevard, there is Kroger on Broad and Farm Fresh [at Tobacco Row],” Hopcroft said. “The other side of Boulevard is almost over served.”

The catalyst for switching from dealing with financial products to fresh produce came this summer when Hopcroft was in Los Angeles interviewing for a job with a large investment firm.

He noticed a lot of small neighborhood grocery stores around town. He said he was particularly impressed by a small store called Cookbook that styled itself as a “neighborhood green grocer.”

“I thought, ‘Someone is going to do this in Richmond,’” he said.

When the investment firm had a hiring freeze, Hopcroft said he was forced to evaluate whether he wanted to deal with that kind of job uncertainty for the rest of his career. Today, Hopcroft is a full-time grocer and entrepreneur.

“We are entering a phase when our habits for grocery shopping are up for grabs,” Hopcroft said. “The nice thing about this business is that everyone needs groceries and there are so many niches for grocery stores.”

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Tim Schoenman
Tim Schoenman
7 years ago

Hunter Hopcroft: Congratulations on the new grocery venture in the Fan!! It sounds very exciting…look forward to being one of your shoppers in January!

Tim Schoenman
Long & Foster Real Estate

Alex Crouch
Alex Crouch
7 years ago

Hunter- Congrats and best wishes on your new endeavor. I look forward to stopping by.

Jamie
Jamie
7 years ago

surprised the articles doesn’t mention Ellwood Thompson’s as a potential competition, which seems like the most likely direct competitor.

Gillan Ludlow
Gillan Ludlow
7 years ago
Reply to  Jamie

Hunter points out that the area opposite of Boulevard is over served. That’s referencing Kroger, Ellwood Thompson, Martins and the Fresh Market.

Hunter picked a good spot because a lot of the VCU students don’t have cars and if they do, they prefer not to travel if they don’t have too. I fell under the latter. I only used my car for work. The location is accessible by bike or foot and a lot of college students can get to it. It’s easier to get there than one of the stores in Carytown 🙂

Brent Barcomb
Brent Barcomb
7 years ago

Congratulations Hunter!!! I will definitley be by to shop and to wish you the best.

Will Clark
Will Clark
7 years ago

Hunter, long time no see mate! My sister sent me this link this morning. Good luck with everything all the way from Australia. I think you might be onto something there. Will

Wendy Anderson Williams
Wendy Anderson Williams
7 years ago

Congratulations! I’ll be sure to visit!

Stephanie Auld
Stephanie Auld
7 years ago

We do not need a grocery store in the Fan.

I will celebrate the day when someone builds a grocery store near the poorest people in the city (I’m thinking most about people in housing projects), most of whom do not have adequate transportation to get to the grocery stores so they are forced to pay more for less-nutritious convenience store food or fast food nearby.

Hunter Hopcroft
Hunter Hopcroft
7 years ago
Reply to  Stephanie Auld

Stephanie, I wanted to address your concern regarding my store. When I was looking for locations, I spent a lot of time scouring the USDA’s Food Desert Map (available here: http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas/about-the-atlas.aspx#.UnrSF5SxM2s) in hopes of finding a location that both made good business sense and could provide at least some access to the demographic you reference in your post. The USDA defines a food desert a low income census tract where a significant number of residents live more than a mile (in urban areas) from the nearest supermarket. While my store is by no means a supermarket, it does lie within… Read more »

Joe Williams
Joe Williams
7 years ago

Congratulations Hunter! I’m very excited about this new addition to the Fan for 2014! Best of luck!
Joe Williams
Four Corners Communications