When CraftGrown Market closed earlier this month, it marked the end of one venture in the Castle Street retail space and the beginning of a new one.
The storefront at 603 Castle St. has been home to CraftGrown Farms, a hydroponic lettuce and microgreen operation helmed by Randy Rhyne, since 2020. Last fall, the addition of CraftGrown Market brought gourmet groceries to the location in a collaborative project spearheaded by local restaurant consultant David Scott.
The business’s customers noted the convenience of a local spot to grab groceries, Rhyne said, and his plan to replace CraftGrown Market with a neighborhood grocery store is intended to lean more into that niche.
“The market was a higher end, gourmet, $20-jar-of-olives kind of store, where what I’m trying to create is a neighborhood grocery store,” Rhyne said.
Rhyne envisions the new concept stocking essentials that neighbors might need to get a meal on the table, saving them the need to hop in the car and drive in what he called the “worsening Wilmington traffic.”
Rhyne is already at work sourcing inventory for the store: in addition to lettuce and microgreens, he currently sells butter, cheese, coffee, milk, pasta, pasta sauce and trail mix plus some take-and-bake options. His goal is to carry products that are as local as possible, he said, while still being affordable for customers.
“Sourcing hyperlocal tends to increase your prices dramatically, and I’m trying to balance affordability in the face of inflation that doesn’t seem to want to go away and a looming recession,” Rhyne said. “What I’m trying to build is a place where you can come and feel safe that your dollar is going to go as far as it can go for the highest quality I can get.”
Rhyne is also changing the footprint of the store to create more space for groceries. The front is already equipped with coolers and freezers to stock refrigerated and frozen goods. The back, previously home to his hydroponic growing operation, will soon display fresh produce from Feast Down East and two aisles of dry goods.
Some meat will be sold, but most of the offerings will be vegetarian or vegan based on community preferences, Rhyne said.
Rhyne will continue cultivating and selling lettuce and microgreens for both retail and wholesale customers. CraftGrown Farms stocks about five types of lettuce and between eight and 15 varieties of microgreens, depending on the season, plus a selection of herbs.
All of CraftGrown Farms’ crops are cut at the time of sale, ensuring a fresh product with maximum shelf life; Rhyne guarantees a week of freshness for microgreens stored in the fridge, and lettuce is sold with the root ball intact, and will thus continue growing if stored in water, at room temperature after purchase.
Once the store has completed its evolution, Rhyne said he hopes it will facilitate the creation of a renewed sense of community in the Castle Street neighborhood, allowing people to walk more and meet on the street to catch up.
“I’m trying to build community there, and food tends to make that easier to do,” he said.
Currently, CastleGrown Farms is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. By early May, Rhyne plans to open seven days a week for longer hours.
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