Returning to the roots

OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Roots and Fruits Market recently opened in the former Black Mountain Farmers Market building. Photo by Micah Wilkins
OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Roots and Fruits Market recently opened in the former Black Mountain Farmers Market building. Photo by Micah Wilkins

Black Mountain Farmers Market reborn as Roots and Fruits

Kyle Nuccilli spent a lot of time at the former Black Mountain Farmers Market, a small store that sold local, organic produce and other items.

“I’ve worked at a lot of health food stores, and it was like nostalgia for me,” he says. “There’s so much character in this place.”

Nuccilli’s dream was that the store’s owners, Harry and Elaine Hamil, would eventually decide to sell it to him. “Well, actually I wanted them to give it to me: That was my real dream,” he admits.

So when he heard a few months ago that they were planning to sell the place, Nuccilli called his mother, retired accountant and businesswoman Sheila Nuccilli, and within a week she was up from Florida scoping it out. “I could see the potential,” she says.

In late February, they bought the business, adopting a mission similar to the Hamils’ original vision: Sell local, organic, ethical products and support small, local farmers as much as possible. But the new owners planned to execute that mission with more energy, says Kyle, a senior at Warren Wilson College. “There’s more of us, and we’re a younger generation,” he says.

The Nuccillis, along with three other employees and groups of young community members, spent weeks cleaning up the mold and clearing out the expired products and the random objects accumulated over the years, infusing the space with a more youthful energy. Roots and Fruits Market celebrated its grand opening May 3 with music, free samples and more.

Local is the business’s top priority, Kyle reports: The market carries meats and produce from 20 local farmers. And most of the products, if not organic, are low-spray and GMO-free.

“We carry the highest-quality items,” he says. “It’s more expensive, but at the end of the day, it matters more how it affects you, your family and the community. People come in asking for things, and I have to tell them, ‘Sorry, it’s not in season right now.’”

They’ve also been busy developing an urban permaculture garden next to the store, complete with fruit trees, herb spirals and garden beds in the shape of a mandala.

“We’ve done a lot of landscaping,” says Kyle. “We were working with what was there, but transforming it. People can see what you can do with what seems like a small area of land.”

The garden’s role is still being worked out, but they’re considering an “everybody eats” policy where people pay what they can “so that everyone can eat healthy, organic food,” Kyle explains.

Future plans could include adding a juice bar, café and community library, where classes could be offered and music performed. Right now, though, “A lot of it is just getting our feet wet,” says Sheila. “It’s all about the youth: I’m trying to encourage them. They all have good beliefs and principles; it’s about providing them the opportunity and the mentorship.”

The business’s motto is “Growing community through food,” and Kyle hopes Roots and Fruits will become a sort of informal community center for Black Mountain residents. “We need a place to bring people together,” he says.

Tom Brody of Rise Up Rooted Farm, who sells organic greens to Roots and Fruits, says he’s noticed a trend among young people these days: “They all want to farm.” In other words, they care about where their food comes from, and they want to make a difference. “Harry and Elaine, they couldn’t do it. But these kids, they’ve achieved a lot in a short period of time.”

 

Roots and Fruits Market is at 151 S. Ridgeway Ave. in Black Mountain.

 

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About Micah Wilkins
Micah Wilkins began her time at Mountain Xpress as an intern while a student at Warren Wilson College, where she studied history and creative writing. After graduating in December, 2013, she continued writing for the Xpress as a freelancer.

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