Specialty grocery to open downtownBy Alana Norris | 04/06/2015 10:53pm
Cravings, a local specialty grocery store, is coming to downtown Tuscaloosa today. The store will include a lot of all-natural, organic and gluten free products. CW | Hanna Curlette
The long, narrow store with high ceilings and wooden floors is located a few doors down from DePalma’s and just across from Glory Bound Gyro Company. Walking into 2320 University Blvd. feels like entering an old-fashioned grocery store decked out with modern finishes.
Dan Robinson, who owns Tuscaloosa Burger and New Orleans Fry House, is opening the store with the help of employee Eden Gosney and manager DJ Writesman.
“Honestly, we’ll have a little bit of everything in this store,” Robinson said. “A lot of it’s organic, some of it’s gluten-free, most of it’s all-natural, not all of it, but these are all small manufacturers who produce in small batches.”
Gosney, a junior majoring in restaurant, hotel and meetings managemen, lives downtown and said she understands the need for this type of store in the area. Writesman agreed, and said people who work downtown didn’t have a place to grab a drink and a candy bar before.
The counter is on the left with the snack shelves located on the right. Pastas, grits, peppers, bar mixers, chips and pickles are already on hand. Older brand and regional candies fill the shelves like giant Tootsie Rolls, candy buttons, chocolate bars, fudge, taffy, candy cigarettes, candy necklaces and Razzles to name a few. Many of these candies were once widely distributed but are now manufactured on a smaller scale.
“The candy is so cool, I love that,” Gosney said. “It makes me feel like I’m home.”
Just a bit further back into the store, past the counter, there are 12 chairs at three tables on the left for customers to enjoy their snacks and watch the flat screen television.
Past the seating area on the left are large shelves waiting to be filled with dry goods, dog treats and anything else customers request. A book will be kept to record what brands people want to see on the shelves.
Gosney said they will offer more hands-on customer service than most grocery stores.
“What the community wants is what we’re going to do,” she said.
Gosney and Writesman are dedicated to the store and said they will stay late if there are customers around after hours. They both are looking forward to trying new foods, learning about the inventory and making recommendations. They said they are happy to get out of the student bubble and get to know locals.
“I find this place interesting so I know I’ll be able to help people,” Gosney said.
Robinson said he put some thought into the limited parking downtown. They are willing to bring the customer’s bags out to his or car as he or she pull up to the front of the store. They may even offer delivery services in the future.
“We are going to cater to the customers,” Writesman said.
Robinson said the store has about 140 different craft beers, most of which are domestic, and can be ordered multiple cases for parties.
“Don’t be worried about what we have,” Robinson said. “If you don’t see something that you want, ask us, because most likely we can get it and most likely it will be cheaper than where you’re getting it from.”
One feature is the option to create a mix and match six pack. Customers can choose any single beer, in any quantity. Robinson said this way people who want to try a new beer, but aren’t sure if they will enjoy it, aren’t out $15 and stuck with five beers they don’t like.
The freezer at the end has small batch gelatos, ice creams by the pint and ice cream sandwiches. At the very back of the store is the wine room. They plan to have 50 or 60 different types of wine on opening day and will expand to 140 wines.
The store will be filled with products within the next month but won’t be fully stocked until September.
Robinson said in the future, he would like to start making baskets of food, wine, beer or any combination to be purchased for gifts. He wants to have cold sandwiches, pasta salad, quiche, po’boys, chicken and tuna salad that will be prepared at one of his other restaurants.
In the future, the freezer will also be full of local beef and pork and Cajun items like smoked sausage among others. Seafood will be divided in small packages for single-person meals as well as portions for families. A number of breads, like the New Orleans po’boy bread, will also be sold. Dressings, sauces and marinades, that they make themselves, will be available too.
“The first six months our stock is going to be constantly rotating, constantly adding to and taking away,” Writesman said.
Robinson said he enjoys the local flavor of downtown and appreciates the small town feel. He said he plans to stay here forever.
“We want to get to know you, we want to become part of the community,” he said.
Exact hours of operation will change regularly. As of now, they plan to be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. with the intent to extend those hours to 6 a.m. to midnight. They will be closed on Mondays for restocking.