JAFFREY — Doodle Eats owner Darci Hammer is taking a new approach to reopening her storefront at the Monadnock Plaza in Jaffrey.
After unlocking the doors for the first time since March last weekend, visitors to the new General Store at Doodle Eats will not only find Hammer’s gluten-free pies, breads and pie crusts, but a selection of other gluten-free items from both local companies and other favorites from around the New England region.
When Hammer closed down the retail portion of her business in March, she continued to bake and sell her products through online and wholesale orders. At first, Hammer said, the online orders skyrocketed as people stayed home and avoided going out to stores, but on the flip side, the wholesale orders slowed way down as retailers cut down on products with a short-term shelf life.
In the seven months that followed, Hammer said, the online sales began returning to a pre-pandemic level, while the wholesale side of the business has “started to pick back up a bit.”
“It’s been kind of like a roller coaster, up and down,” she said.
As she eyed reopening, Hammer had the opportunity to reevaluate what she wanted her Jaffrey storefront to look like.
“I didn’t want to reopen as just Doodle Eats,” Hammer said. “There’s not enough traffic for just my products to reopen. It didn’t seem reasonable to do it at all.”
She knew through the store that there was a strong interest in gluten-free products in the region and felt that by expanding her inventory to include other companies would not only help bring more people into the store, but also help other companies that may be dealing with declining sales due to COVID-19.
“I’ve been going through the companies I enjoy, as well as companies that are local, and reaching out to them,” Hammer said. “Everyone is struggling and my goal is really to help them out.”
What resulted is a small but varied selection of gluten-free and allergy-sensitive products that Hammer said will evolve over the ensuing months as she figures out what sells and adds more to the shelves.
“The idea is to highlight those kinds of products,” Hammer said. “I totally have that following already.” To deal with what she expects to be an increase in foot traffic, she hired Meg Hamblen to run the operations, so Hammer can still focus on the baking side of the business.
Currently, Hammer stocks baked goods from the Saxy Chef in Antrim, whom she has provided gluten-free pie crusts to for one of the company’s gluten-free options.
“We’ve been working together for a while, so that was an easy one,” she said.
She also offers fresh bread and pasta, a couple options for ice cream and popcorn. There are also preserves, nuts and dried fruit, tofu, cheese, pizza crusts and more. She stocks artwork by family and friends, and as the holidays approach, she’s looking into the possibility of adding gift baskets.
“I want to keep adding more to support the customers and the community that supports me,” Hammer said. “It will be an evolving process that will continue, especially given the current environment.” One brand she started carrying has already closed its doors.
Some products come straight from the companies, while others she secures through a distributor.
When Hammer decided to open Doodle Eats, she had a specific idea for how her business would operate – focusing on online and wholesale orders, while adding the storefront merely because she had the space to do so.
“Wholesale I thought was really the way to go,” she said.
Since March, that thinking has shifted.
“COVID has changed my mindset that people want more of a connection to the food they get,” Hammer said.
She doesn’t view her new model as a grocery store, “but more of an idea of having great food in the community to eat.”
The General Store at Doodle Eats is open Wednesday, from 2 to 4 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more, visit https://generalstore.doodleeats.com/
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