2019 Outstanding Independents, Produce: Turnip Truck, Nashville TN
With a name like Turnip Truck, there can be no mistaking that the company’s two — soon to be three — stores are focused on produce.
“You walk into the building, and there’s no question that this is what we do,” says Kim Totzke, COO of the independent grocer based in Nashville, Tenn. “Produce is a core value of the company and [owner] John [Dyke] wanted his company, from the very inception, to be about the produce.”
The department has a mission statement: “Enriching our surrounding community by providing quality and responsibly sourced produce.” In keeping with that declaration, the company has strictly enforced buying standards, which are posted along with the mission statement in the department. The first option is USDA organic local (defined as within 200 miles), then USDA organic regional (within 400 miles), followed by USDA organic national, and finally, non-GMO.
“Our produce set is usually anywhere from 90 to 95 percent organic,” Totzke observes. “In the 18 years this company has been open, there’s never been a conventional apple sold in the building.”
Totzke and Skyler Glover, the company’s produce buyer, evaluate the relationships with farmers on a yearly basis to make sure that the farmers are still supplying the quality of products that the stores require. “[Skyler] is so nuts about quality,” Totzke says, noting that he emails vendors after every order is delivered, detailing what was right and what was wrong with the order or the products.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people in our community that they know that they’re coming in here, they’re buying that produce, and it can [remain] in their refrigerator for several days,” Totzke observes.