WINTERVILLE — A business that opened to connect farmers and artisans with customers is a family affair and a showplace for local agricultural and one-of-a-kind artisan pieces.
The Village Market at 5036 Winterville Parkway opened March 6 at the former location of Creative Gardens nursery. The business was created by three couples with a passion for supporting local business.
“We are trying to bring as much exposure to local artists and farmers as we can,” said Justin Lawrence, who operates the market with his wife, Sarah, his parents, David and Leigh Lawrence, brother Clark Wallace and Clark’s girlfriend, Cayla Vernon.
“It is a family affair,” said Sarah, who describes the business as a retail shop-farmers market. “It takes the whole family. Everybody has a role, and everybody fills in when somebody else has something going on,” she added.
Agriculture is important to the three families. Justin and Sarah hold degrees in agriculture from N.C. State University. Sarah teaches Agriculture at Bear Grass Charter School in Martin County.
“We are a couple of generations removed from being farmers,” Justin said “We like finding local and fresh things we think everybody else will enjoy too.”
Products such as Lanoca Coffee from Farmville, Mackey’s Ferry Peanuts from Jamesville and Sam Jones and Skylight Inn barbecue sauces from Ayden line the store’s shelves. Local honey comes from two miles down the road. Pottery by Ayden artist Cindy Letchworth is found throughout the store.
They also stock treasures found from the beach to the mountains and in between — such as outdoor furniture made in Carteret County, JOY Filled Foods from Goldsboro and Ashe County Cheese from West Jefferson.
Jams and jellies made in Elizabethtown range from maple bacon jam to pineapple pepper jelly and cherry-apple bourbon jam.
“We try and get things as close to home as we can,” Justin said. “It is nice to have those products here because people who have had tried them and like them find they are not always easy to access.”
Cheese and meats sold at the market have been popular with customers. Fresh produce offerings depend on the season.
“We highlight our farmers so people can see who is behind a product. Consumers really like to understand who they are supporting when they buy from here,” Sarah said. “It gives them a connection to where their food comes from. ... We are always trying to get produce as local as we possibly can.”
Creative Gardens was a popular business and the Lawrences hope it will prove to be a great location for them.
“A lot of people still remember the nursery center,” Sarah said.
Justin added, “My dad worked at the nursery right out of high school. He just retired from the City of Greenville and is right back here working again.”
“We were excited to bring some life back here,” he said. The nursery had been closed for a while when the families bought the property.
“We’ve had a lot of customers tell us they are glad here is something here again,” added Justin.
David and Leigh are the heart and soul of the place, Sarah said. “They are the ones here doing all the tough stuff — although, everybody has their own role.”
She and Justin are “products of 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America)” she added. “We have a passion for agriculture — we just don’t live on a farm. This is one way to express our appreciation.”
All of the family business owners, except David, have full-time jobs elsewhere.
“Among the six of us, we try and keep it covered and work our full-time jobs at the same time,” Sarah said.
Justin said they try to plan big Saturday events at least once a month. This month’s event is Christmas in July on July 31.
“We will have several vendors outside — local artisans, craftsmen and farmers,” said Sarah.
The plan is to be open year-round and have more Saturday events in the future, including an antique car show and a pig cook-off.
“We want to get to the point where we have food trucks here every Saturday,” he added.
“There are all kind of exciting ideas bouncing around,” Justin added.
“Our space is always open for anyone local,” he said. “We have this great space and we want everyone in the community enjoy it.”
The Village Market is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. For more information on outside vendor space (available on Saturdays), or product placement, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, visit villagemarketnc on Facebook, or call 756-7788.