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‘The 7-Eleven of organic foods’

Amy David January 18, 2011 0

A local organic restaurant is adding an online delivery service.

Kathleen Richardson, owner of Urban Farmhouse Market and Cafe, hopes to offer convenience and a variety of products to customers with “Organics to Go,” an online organic food co-op.

The service will be an extension of Urban Farmhouse – her Shockoe Slip restaurant/coffee shop – where people will be able to order products normally served at the restaurant and pick them up at the new store or have them delivered to their office or brought to their car.

“It will be kind of like the 7-Eleven of organic foods,” Richardson said. “It’s all about convenience.”

Instead of searching grocery stores for organic or natural foods, people will be able to shop online for the items they need, and they can buy in bulk.

“It’s for the loyal customer that wants to eat healthier, especially those interested in bulk items or items that are difficult to find,” Richardson said.

The business signed a lease on an empty space in the same building.

The idea was in the works from the beginning of the Urban Farmhouse.

“When I was developing the concept, I knew there would be a marketing component for this. I wanted to offer the foods people are already enjoying and a place to buy them,” said Richardson.

The concept sprung from her experience with Organic Food Depot, an organic and natural food supplier that has several locations in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

“I’d heard about them and admired what they were doing and thought their model was incredible,” she said.

She talked with owners Jim and Jenny Jacobs for more than a year and a half, learning the basics of how their business worked.

“I went down there and actually worked to get a feel for it, and we talked about how I could bring it to Urban Farmhouse.”

After training with the Jacobses, she licensed software from Organic Depot and began work to make Organics to Go part of her business.

The Urban Farmhouse Market has several hundred organic foods for purchase, but the new site will offer over 40,000 products.

Richardson said Organics to Go will be more of a grocery store, and Urban will be more specialty.

“We will use some of the same organic suppliers that other places use. It will be a combination of normal grocery stores, but we will supplement with local organic suppliers.”

Organics to Go will be run like their newly introduced catering service, which primarily delivers to the downtown Richmond area by foot or by bike. Richardson uses a local bike delivery service to transport the products and plans to add a car delivery service.

“A lot of people work down here and live elsewhere,” she said.

“As we build, we’ll be utilizing [the bike service] more.”

Within the next month or so, Richardson hopes to have the online organic food co-op up and running and plans to bring on about 10 people to add to her 25 regular employees to staff the office.

“My goal is to launch this, hear what customers have to say about it and go from there.”

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