By Colleen Leonardi
Living the brine life comes naturally to Charlotte and Shai Tzabari, owners of Olive My Pickle in Jacksonville, Florida. About 8 years ago, they started selling olives and lacto-fermented pickles bulk style from barrels at North East Florida farmers’ markets. Today their jarred pickles, kimchi, and other products are in 30+ stores throughout Jacksonville, Savannah, Gainesville, and Orlando. When the COVID-19 shutdown struck Charlotte and Shai embraced their fellow food artisans and farmers in the region to keep their community well-nourished.
Since stay-at-home orders halted operations for local farmers markets, Charlotte and Shai established a temporary way to get food to the people—the 904 Food Hub, a socially-distanced open air market. “The Hub was all about connecting 904 farmers and producers to the local community by creating a safe, stand-in sales channel while farmers markets are closed,” said Charlotte.
Small-scale, sustainable food artisans and producers have the advantage of being able to pivot in a time of crisis. Charlotte and Shai’s 904 Food Hub was a testament to how diversified and abundant a local food community can become when times get tough. For ten weeks, the food hub was a central location to pick up all of Olive My Pickle products, along with local food products from other artisans, vendors, and producers. Elderberry syrup. Check. Raw honey and bee pollen. Check. Locally baked flat bread. Check. You could stock your pantry in one go with healthy staples to help you weather this current invisible storm. They even had vegan lasagna by Garden Truck for the comfort foodie in all of us.
And while the positives proved plentiful for the community, there were challenges Charlotte and Shai faced.
“The initial challenge was the logistics of creating a retail store within a short time. We weren’t in a position to buy and hold inventory, so we created what we felt was a win-win,” said Charlotte. “We wanted to give the producer the majority of the sale (75%) and we used the 25% to cover the Hub’s cost of sales and operations, which ensured that we could scale it up or scale it out (in terms of time horizon) when and if we needed.”
The second challenge was getting the word out. “The truth is,” said Charlotte, “for a small business organic reach on social media is extremely limited.” They are incredibly grateful to their loyal customers and fellow farmers and artisans for spreading the word on the ground.
The inspiration gathered during the run of the 904 Food Hub wins out, though, for them both. From channeling their energy towards a positive outcome, to customers voting “for the kind of city they want” by choosing to buy local,” to creating a safe space for people to engage, the hub hosted a lot of pickle love.
“It’s given us deeper friendships,” said Charlotte, “with the other farmers and food producers involved.”
Click here to learn more about Olive My Pickle products and more.
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