JN: Most of our local suppliers are farmers with whom we’ve done business for many years. We maintain our connection to these “tried and true” farmers because their product is reliable, of excellent quality, and available in the quantity our stores require. It’s very important that farmers are able to meet these base line criteria; otherwise, we are not able to offer consistent high quality product to our customers.
Occasionally, a grower will approach us about purchasing a certain fruit or vegetable. Sometimes, we receive a phone call about a just-picked crop, or a farmer simply drives up to our dock with goods in his or her truck. Our buyers do a quick assessment, which would of course include inspection of the items offered, if possible, or close questioning about quality and condition. If the product meets our standards and is something we know our customers will purchase, we will negotiate a price and pass on the season’s local bounty to our clientele.
Because we have done business with a core group of growers for so long, our produce managers/buyers know just about when product will be available. We touch base with our local suppliers as harvests are due – or hear from the farmers themselves when they anticipate the “due date” of their products. We infrequently seek out new growers unless our established farmers experience crop failure or an unusual interruption of availability.
If customers don’t see a locally sourced fruit or vegetable that does indeed thrive in our climate, it’s generally because we have had lengthy experience trying to find a reliable supplier with no success. It can be frustrating for both our produce department and customers alike to find spotty availability, large price fluctuations or quality that varies significantly from day to day.
In summary, we follow these base line requirements: we need our farmers to be able to provide a steady supply of healthy, fresh, attractive products which have proven over time to sell well. We may occasionally make exceptions for exceptional products or circumstances, though overall our connection to local growers in a well-oiled machine built of many years’ experience.
The special events department represents Guido’s at several area events including Cultural Pittsfield’s Third Thursdays, Truck Day and BerkShares Bash in Great Barrington, community health expos all around the county, environmental and economic development expos, and more. We have two basic setups: an information based setup and a “market” based setup that sells a few kinds of produce and a few healthy beverages. We love being in the community, seeing our favorite customers and meeting new ones too! We post our participation in community events on our website.
Another type of Open House Guido’s hosts is to benefit the community. In Spring 2008 and 2009, we put on wine tastings to benefit area non-profits. Also, we have hosted Chamber of Commerce networking events in the past and look forward to hosting two more this fall in our Great Barrington store.