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.
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.”