Fresh produce lines the cases at the new Radish & Rye Food Hub.
Story and Photo By Deborah Lynch
A couple that buys beef together, stays together. That’s the saying, right? At least, it could be in the relationship of Julia and Dusty James, who met in 2009, dated for a couple of months, and then made their first purchase together — a side of beef from a local farm. Their passion grew — not only for each other, but for local foods — into Radish & Rye at 1308 N. 3rd Street in Harrisburg.
The locally sourced food hub, which formerly held down 500 square feet in the Brick Building of Broad Street Market, opened its freestanding store last summer for pickup only, but recently opened its shelves to in-person shopping. The new space also includes a commercial kitchen, where the couple along with chef Mike Bates, are creating their specialties to sell along with produce, meats, cheeses, breads, condiments, spices, and all varieties of locally produced food specialties.
“We were local food hobbyists when we met,” Julia James said of herself and her then husband-to-be of the inspiration behind Radish & Rye. “We would go to farmers markets, go directly to farms. … I joined my first CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] in 2007. That farmer is someone that we work with now [Jade Family Farm].”
They loved Broad Street Market, which inspired a pipe dream of imagining things they wish the market had, but didn’t. It was more local food. “We said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place that pulled together food from local farmers — those maybe too small to devote resources to a three-day-a-week stand?’ I was especially interested in getting our hands on local cheeses,” Julia recalls.
A friend asked for permission to use their idea to which they said, “Go for it! We want to shop there!” and opened Harvest in the market. After a year-and-a-half, he decided to move on and sold it to the Jameses in 2015, who expanded the footprint and added freezers to what became Radish & Rye.
In 2018, they applied for and received a grant through the Local Food Promotion Program under the Agricultural Marketing wing of the USDA that allowed them to begin renovations on their freestanding store. What at first seemed as easy as “slapping a coat of paint on the walls” turned into a much bigger project to meet zoning requirements. Finally, early in 2020, they thought they were looking at a June opening. Then, Covid.
Their Broad Street Market stand remained open both in-person and online in the first days of Covid, but the online ordering system didn’t sync well with in-person inventory, so they had to decide to go with one or the other, and given the times, chose online. Despite hiccups with online inventory systems, they did brisk business.
Julia discovered that none of the online inventory systems for groceries work well to sync actual inventory, but she’s made it work as best she can — despite lots of extra manual work — and Radish & Rye plans to continue offering online ordering for curbside pickup forever. “The big trend in the industry is online ordering and curbside pickup,” she explained of the decision.
Noting that she and Dusty had been collecting ideas about foods they’d love to make with their products for years, Julia said that the products that most excite her in the store are those they are producing in their kitchen from the products on their shelves. “Slowly, but surely, we are preparing this line of foods from the same high quality ingredients that we sell,” she said. The first thing from their kitchen is a butternut and ginger soup (both grown locally). They will also always offer chicken and vegetable stock.
Some of R&R’s most important suppliers include Village Acres Farm in Mifflintown for vegetables and eggs; Rettland Farm in Gettysburg for pork and chicken; Apple Valley Creamery in East Berlin for milk; Three Springs Fruit Farm in Aspers for fruits; and Jade Family Farms in Port Royal, for produce they can’t find other places. They also supply their shelves through two local organic cooperatives — Lancaster Farm Fresh and Franklin Sustainable Farms.
Radish & Rye is open Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sundays 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed Mondays. Pickup is offered Tuesdays-Saturdays 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Pickup appointments are scheduled with online checkout. Phone 717-979-7574. To place an online order, click the Shop tab on their website at www.radishandryehbg.com.