Two Boone business owners aim to fill a gap in accessibility to local goods with a new community market.
“There’s not that good old-fashioned American convenience of a place where you can go when you want to buy fresh produce,” Joseph Mager said.
Mager is co-owner of Wildwood Community Market, which is set to open in the fall at 182 Howard St., Boone, in the fall. The 2,400 sq. foot market will offer fresh produce, meats, and prepared foods.
Mager and Sara Russell first envisioned Wildwood Community Market, more than a year ago, while working together at Be Natural Market. Both have more than 15 years of combined experience in the natural foods industry. Mager has managed health food stores across the nation and Russell has 8 years of experience as a wellness consultant.
“This has always been a lifestyle that I’ve lived and I think Watauga County and the Boone community specifically does a great job of cultivating that need (for clean food),” Russell said.
The two delayed “pulling the trigger,” on the new community market due to COVID-19, Mager said.
“We did not feel like it was a responsible thing to do to open a new public space in the middle of a pandemic,” he said.
As vaccines rolled out, Mager and Russell felt it was finally time to open a place where local food was clean, affordable and accessible. They plan to open the market in the coming months.
“Our buying structure is going to be clean first, then local, then regional,” Mager said. “Satisfying all of those requirements is a tall order, but hopefully through a variety of offerings we’ll have a little something for everybody,”
Both Mager and Russel recognize the variety of reasons for which consumers turn to farmers markets and local retailers. For one, Mager said, the negative environmental impact of large-scale industrial agriculture is a growing concern for people.
In addition to this, Russell said, foods that are mass produced pose all kinds of health risks and generate more waste.
And while alternatives are out there, they can be pricey, Manger said.
Wildwood Community market avoids all of this by partnering with local growers to offer clean, healthy, affordable alternatives to the community.
As a Boone native, Russell is enthusiastic about being able to support local growers.
“Most of these people are truly my neighbors, my mom’s house is right down the road from Against the Grain Farm,” she said.
Local food is very close to her heart, and has been from a young age. Russell attended Two Rivers Community School for four years. The school’s curriculum emphasizes environmental responsibility and connection to community.
“There’s a new generation of farmer cropping up here -no pun intended- and I’m hoping we can really help some folks out by buying their products,” Mager said.