LOCAL HERO AWARDS
HEROES ON AISLE 7
STORY AND PHOTOS BY SARA CALVOSA
Locals know it, and visitors to Mount Shasta City can’t help but notice the market’s stunning mural as they drive south on Mt. Shasta Boulevard. Twenty years ago, on the Winter Solstice in 1993, Berryvale Grocery opened in its current location. Chief Operating Officer, General Manager, and second generation shop owner, Sean Doyle has grown up with groceries and the store that has become a cornerstone of his community.
Berryvale is a twenty-year old family-owned, Mount Shasta institution with roots going back to the mid-seventies. The store was started by Doyle’s parents, who began their journey as members of a food buying cooperative. When that no longer had any momentum, they took the spirit of the co-op and moved into a little corner grocery store just outside of town, across the street from the cemetery, stocking natural foods next to Budweiser and Snickers bars until eventually the natural foods took over. “It was called Pine Grove Grocery. Many people have lost track of that name because it doesn’t really exist anymore, but we have people that have been shopping with the family for thirty years. There’s a pocket of people that remember us from before,” says Sean. Clearly this is a community that values the store. “Interestingly enough, we have grown up with people’s awareness of natural foods and organics. I know my parents didn’t have any concept that [Berryvale] would become what it is. They were just following their values, trying to eek out a living doing something that they believed in.”
In the past decade, natural foods have blown straight into the mainstream with big box chain stores developing their own brands of organic products in response to consumer demand. But chain-store brand organics are still no replacement for the mom and pop natural food store. Sean explains why: “Everybody that’s here is part of our community. We have staff in our wellness section, the supplement and vitamin component, who are extremely knowledgeable and love to share that knowledge and love to interact with people that come in and have conversations. It’s a personal connection that is becoming harder and harder to find, you know?” It’s a connection missing not just at big box stores, as Sean points out. “As things become easier and easier to find, going on Amazon or Google, the pieces that have become harder to find are those personal connections and the direct human to human service pieces that small stores like ours can provide.” There’s a level of connection happening at Berryvale visible among shoppers in the aisles and between shoppers and staff. It’s evident how much the staff loves connecting with people and serving the community.
They also take their service to the community beyond the grocery shelves. Berryvale actively seeks out groups and causes that are doing good work in their community. Sean leverages the success of the store, which ultimately comes from the community, and directs it back into supporting what people in town value. “In a small community like ours, there aren’t that many dollars in circulation. As a successful business we’ve felt that it’s our obligation to give back to the community.” Sean understands that the grocery’s success is because of its customers. “The dollars that we have left over after we pay all of our bills,” believes Sean, “aren’t really our dollars. They’re our customers’ dollars. So what do our customers believe in? What values do they hold? We kinda have an ‘Always-Say-Yes’ policy when it comes to groups or projects in our community that are trying to accomplish things and are asking for donations.” The Siskiyou Land Trust, Mount Shasta Nordic Ski Organization, New Frontier Theater Company (a new local theater group), and the Mount Shasta Education Foundation are all thriving community groups, and Berryvale has supported them as the rest of the community has. “I don’t think there’s anything that’s not worthwhile,” Sean says. Every time Berryvale has an opportunity to keep dollars circulating in the community, he considers it a win for everybody.
Mt. Shasta is no longer a well-kept secret when it comes to recreation opportunities, and tourist dollars are finally becoming a source of revenue for this small alpine community. Lovely lakes, hiking, cycling, skiing, rockclimbing, fly-fishing, river rafting are drawing people from all over to the volcanic locality, not to mention the people seeking spiritual pilgrimage, drawn to the palpable majesty of Mt. Shasta. And though Berryvale Natural Foods Grocery and its popular Café are busier due to this increase in tourism, for the most part the grocery sells food to the people who live there. It also supports food producers in the community by carrying as many locally produced items as possible, including bread from The Oven Bakery down the street, Mowat Apiaries Honey, colorful socially conscious clothing, and of course, Mt. Shasta Chocolate Bars (all proceeds going toward local trail projects). Produce is a little more difficult. Because of the mountain climate pocket, the growing season is very short and finding produce within a ten mile radius can be challenging. Though Sean may have to look a little further, he has been able to nurture relationships with farmers in adjacent valleys to ensure that the market is always well-stocked with gorgeous produce year round. “We think the success of the people we’re getting products from is vital to this equation as well,” says Sean.
So what are the plans for the next twenty years? Sean speculates. “It’s been a constant evolution. Every year, for the last twenty, we’ve been busier and busier, and it continues to be true. We’ve kind of grown concerned that our physical space can’t support a whole lot more. We loosely talk about what we might do to accommodate increasing demand, and nobody is indicating that the growth of organic and natural foods is going to slow down. So we may have to get creative, build up, down, and sideways.” As for right now though, the loyal customers of Berryvale Grocery are content to bang elbows in the aisle while waving at and chatting it up with employees and each other.
Berryvale Natural Foods Grocery is located at 305 S. Mt. Shasta Boulevard in Mount Shasta, and staff keep an active Facebook page.
Sara is a locavoracious reader and writer, fascinated by California’s food stories. Sara has never met a food she doesn’t like, although she considers brussels sprouts a frenemy.