By April Skye Balough
A neon beach scene decorating the walls, an upbeat Pandora station dancing through the isles, and a tiny blonde with a high-pitched greeting are three guarantees upon entering the Beachside Fresh Market in Indian Rocks Beach. Tammie McCall’s positivity radiates from every interaction with her customers, while her husband, Joe McCall, matches her warmth from the kitchen. Next to the register, a framed picture entitled “How to Build Community” hangs on the wall, with quotes like, “Greet people,” and “Share what you have.” Tammie and Joe embody this conduct daily in their market.
The McCall’s envisioned this business idea in June of last year, started construction in December, and opened their doors in February of 2015. After owning a mortgage company together for ten years, they wanted a change. They needed to start fresh, to do something that made them happy. “We decided to open the market because we wanted to bring freshness to the beach,” Tammie stated, with Joe adding, “We wanted to bring back the customer service that’s been long gone in several industries.”
BeachsideFreshMarket.com has a section entitled “Our commitment to you…” which includes promises like ‘providing customers with the best service possible’ and ‘wanting people to leave a little happier than they came in.’ Tammie said they uphold those commitments by acknowledging everyone that comes in the door and learning the names and stories of both the locals and the tourists. “We’ve only been open for six months, and I already have a lady making me a quilt!” Tammie gushed.
Jennifer Kaczmarski, 41, first visited the market in June, and has been a loyal customer ever since. She says that there are several reasons why she keeps coming back: “The freshness of the product, the friendliness of the owners, supporting the local market, the pricing is very economical, and the convenience factor, because I live right here on Indian Rocks.”
Luke Gargan, 33, is also a patron “about five days a week” at Beachside. “These two for sure keep me coming back—their coconuts, and the IRB Green Flash smoothie. It’s like brushing my teeth, it’s mandatory. If I don’t come here, I feel dirty. Nobody has what they have!”
The McCall’s of course like to support local farmers as much as possible, but freshness is their ultimate goal. When working in a retail space, products with “hazardous ingredients”—milk, cheese, egg, or even cut fruit—need to be produced in a commercial kitchen that has been state approved, which limits their options. The main supplier of Florida jams, for instance, uses corn syrup and other artificial ingredients, so the McCall’s opt to purchase delicious, all-natural jams from Amish Country in Millersburg, Ohio.
Also, sometimes locality isn’t an option due to demand. Before Joe McCall pursued country-wide options, he attempted to find farmers from Tampa Bay to meet his needs. “A guy in Largo just doesn’t have the ability to supply our customer base. We buy probably 30 pounds of carrots a week!”
When it comes to produce, direct delivery is essential. A tomato that appears in Beachside Fresh Market was picked yesterday, delivered into Hillsborough overnight, and is featured for purchase today. A tomato you would find in a chain grocery store was picked unripe, ripened during the long transportation period, and potentially even gassed to rush the ripening process before it hit their shelves. The Fresh Market offers the juiciest fruit, ripened right on the vine, versus the mechanically assisted flavors of supermarket produce.
Aside from doing their best to provide their shoppers with the highest quality product available, Beachside Fresh Market is also actively involved in the community. They sponsor several events whose proceeds go back to local charities. The annual IRB Greenfest is a key event, full of eco-friendly vendors, family fun, and education on how to be gentler on your carbon footprint. The McCall’s also donate produce monthly to the Beach Community Food Pantry at Calvary Episcopal Church, and have working relationships with many local businesses, referring patrons back and forth on Gulf Boulevard.
When asked about their goals for the future, Tammie explained that their short-term goals are to hire part-time employees, and carry more fresh-prepared (“grab-n-go”) items. Another goal is to get their beer and wine license, so that they can import cheeses and pair them with bottles of wine.
Joe said their goal as a company is simply, “To get back to where food used to be, and where food should be. Healthy, good for you, not piled with so much crap. The movement is gaining ground where consumers are demanding that. Our job in my mind is to get it as fresh, and as local as it can be. We’re based more in quality than quantity, a different kind of format.”
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