On a recent Sunday night, the Cracker Factory was the site a tasting event featuring a variety of food and drink products from around the Finger Lakes. It was hosted by Locavore, which is a new retail shop coming to downtown Geneva.
Bethany and James Haswell, who own Stomping Grounds downtown, are two of the owners and operators. They thought that Geneva was ready for a culinary boutique. But, they didn’t think they were ready to take on another store. Friends introduced them to Fay Botham and Tahlia Fischer. They were considering making a professional change and leaving academia. They’d started a food blog, but Fay says they hadn’t really thought about opening a store until they met the Haswells.
"We had chosen to come to Geneva and buy a house here four years ago even though we didn't know where we were going to be partly because we perceive that it was a very friendly business kind of place and we thought we don't know what we're going to do. We know that our passions lie within food, cooking and promoting local, local farmers, local vineyards, sustainable agriculture, all that kind of stuff. And we thought maybe there would be some way that we could make a living here."
The explosion of eating and drinking establishments in Geneva has drawn regional and national attention, which is probably not a surprise given the thriving wine industry and variety of agriculture. On any given night, downtown can bustle with people eating, and drinking, and listening to music. But, Bethany would like to see more of that happening during the day and she thinks more retail is key.
"Geneva needs a daytime downtown as well as a nighttime downtown. It's two different landscapes completely. They're both important. They're both economic drivers but we're underrepresented in terms of what's going on in the daytime."
Bethany and James and Fay and Tahlia were a little overwhelmed by the response to their initial tasting event. They described the night as having a strong sense of community, much like the one that brought them all together in the first place. They hope to make that sense of community a part of Locavore.
"Literally our neighbors are making these things. So you're you're meeting the people you see what they put into the to the product you see that it's no joke for them. They're living it and to be able to introduce the farmer to the retailer to the consumer is a magical thing. It's a magical thing."
"Yes definitely. And I think that was one of the ways that we connected. I think immediately when we met each other all of us. Because that was clearly a value that we all wanted to promote. I don't have retail experience like Beth and James do but when I think about what it is that we kind of want to accomplish with this business it's definitely among other things offering shoppers, local folks, tourists, whoever comes in an opportunity to have a local shopping experience in an actual store kind of old school."
Bethany has enough experience in retail to know that setting a firm opening date is hard, though they’re hoping for Fall. They’ve spent months finding locally produced foods including syrups, jams, and oils to stock the shelves. They also continue to choose the cookware, barware, and cooking gadgets they plan to stock. And they plan to invite the chefs, winemakers, and farmers that already draw so many people to the Finger Lakes to share what they do at special events throughout the year.
For now, they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign, which further explains what they’re planning and offers a first opportunity to take advantage of a subscription box service they’ll be offering not only to the local community, but to customers outside the Finger Lakes.