NORTH FORK — North Fork is about to welcome a long-anticipated business to downtown – a local, natural, seasonally changing market – the “Gnarly Carrot.”
Everyone involved with the Kern Family Farm has been working for the past several years to make this dream a reality, and on Apr. 1, their grand opening will celebrate all that hard work.
The Gnarly Carrot will be open seven days a week – 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends, with hours changing seasonally and according to traffic.
Through their co-op (known by members as the Cellar), the Kerns have long provided mountain area residents with the freshest, locally grown produce available, partnering with T&D Willey to ensure the widest selection. Last year the Willeys sold their 800 member CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to OOOOBY (Out Of Our Own Backyards), a new organization whose mission in part is to make healthy food available to areas determined to be “food deserts” around the country.
The Gnarly Carrot will be stocking products from both the Willeys – who are famous for the quality of their organic produce – and OOOOBY. And of course they are always working hard to provide as much product off the Kern Family Farm as possible, keeping it as local as they can.
“We’ll be showcasing many new producers,” says Hansel. “Part of our store’s theme will be introducing you to our suppliers so you know where your food comes from.”
For those who are already members of the Kern Family Farm’s co-op, there will be a 5 percent discount on all purchases. Members will also get Sue’s weekly e-mail update and Hansel’s newsletters. New members are always welcome to join.
The new phone number, once the store is open, will be (559) 877-8400, and it’s already listed in the Ponderosa telephone book.
There are shopping carts and baskets, plus mason jars and other reusable bags and containers for sale. And they’ll soon have a smoothie bar for those who’d like a quick refreshing smoothie or fruit drink to go.
They are also committed to offering the products most in demand from the community.
“We intend to stock as many locally produced and organic products as we can, so we’ll have a suggestion box where you can give us ideas and contacts for other local producers and products you’d like to see us carry,” says Hansel.
Anyone who knows Hansel, Sue, Aaron and Becky Kern is well aware of their ability to engage others in very productive partnerships, and the Gnarly Carrot is truly a team effort.
First was the partnership with Ed and Margo Fey who own the building, and took a leap of faith in undertaking the expense and patience-testing process of the planning, permitting, regulatory and construction aspects of the project.
“We’ve had equipment stored in their dental office basement for more than two years and we’re so grateful to them for being so supportive of our Cellar, and for believing in us enough to give us this opportunity to create a very special place in this wonderful little town,” says Hansel.
Those who’ve watched the process over the past many (many!) months know that they had to basically take this building down to the foundation and start from the ground up.
Next, there was David Olney, Margo’s son and the contractor who built the store.
“After Aaron, our crew and I tore the old building down and back-filled the pit, David took it on from the foundation up,” says Hansel.
Then Lisa Gilardi created a fundraising video for Indigogo, and she and Becky painted a beautiful mural for the interior wall. Lisa also designed logos, signage and labels, contacted suppliers and sourced products, compiled the first big inventory list and much more.
Two of the most striking things about the store are the front door and the window grates.
Daveed Paris offered his talents when the Kerns suggested combining security with art by producing the beautiful junk art sculptures that have been turning heads on Main Street North Fork since they went up.
“He went through our bone yard and blew our minds with what he came up with over five long weekends since last June, all in exchange for keeping him in food and drink while he was here,” Hansel says.
Local builder Harry Stott has done wonderful wood work both on the farm and in the Cellar, and has left his imprint on the Gnarly Carrot as well. Always willing to take on another “out of the box” challenge, he has created beautiful shelving, window trim and a stunning sunburst design, along with hand-crafting the front doors from recycled lumber.
Billy Swigart also jumped in and used his professional skill as a cabinet maker and finish carpenter extraordinaire to build the smoothie b ar cabinets and check-out counter tops, also trading his skill for veggies.
The family owes a big thank you to Victor Leos for “squeezing us into his busy schedule, working on weekends and evenings putting all this wonderful stainless steel equipment together, and making some difficult changes, including jackhammering the slab out twice to put in floor sinks that we didn’t realize we needed.”
Then there’s Joan Constable (aka “Joan of Art” and Connie Carpenter) who is busily working on one of her masterpieces to hang on the walls of the new store. Joan has been such a gift for all she’s done to bring art to this little town, both with her own creations and through her teaching and mentoring of area children.
The store also features beautifully modern, super-tight cabinetry for the bulk bins, and old world carpentry with mortise-and-tenon joinery, crafted into a wonderful center display table, lovingly created by boat-builder and furniture maker (among other talents), Larry Wave.
Speaking of old world carpentry, Marc Mandel at Crossroads Lumber supplied all the old recycled lumber for the front doors and interior rustic finish work, as well as the pine slabs on the counters and display table. Marc and Mia are also by far the Kern’s biggest shoppers and have done a lot of trading over the years.
Brook Igleheart just stopped in one day while the Kerns were working on the store and offered his services, which were gratefully accepted. He constructed the outside plumbing boxes, finished the bar top and put siding on the exterior of the smoothie bar, among other miscellaneous projects.
Their friend Bruce Gillette, a very talented guy in many fields, “did this wonderful acid etch stain on the cement floor that came out so nice and earthy. He was so patient and flexible with us having a few false start dates, fitting us in amongst his busy schedule and out-of-town travels.”
Then there’s Hansel Heiss, a distant relation by marriage who is an expert tile man. He too fit the project into his busy schedule, trading his time for store credit and making the smoothie bar area both beautiful and compliant with environmental health requirements.
Michael Muscato of Art Rout Signs created the very gnarly sign now gracing the front of the establishment, and is also donating a banner welcoming everyone to the grand opening.
And finally, Leah Shelton, Becky’s childhood friend, will soon be the first store employee. She’s already taken over the job of keeping the Cellar clean and tidy, and will be helping Becky run the new store.
Though the project has taken much longer than expected, and required some unanticipated hoop-jumping, Hansel says the pace has given them all time to really think things through and orchestrate the many artful touches that are being incorporating into the design.
“For our family, this is like a surreal dream,” he says. “We have no idea how to run a retail business, but we’re learning, and are committed to getting it right. There may be a few bumps along the way, but with your support and love, and help from our advisors and County officials, we’re going to make a cool thing happen here in North Fork!”
The Grand Opening of the Gnarly Carrot will be Friday, Apr. 1, and everyone is invited and encouraged to stop in, shop a bit, and see what a beautiful little market has grown up in downtown North Fork. It truly took a village!