It’s a Tuesday morning, and as the staff of The Curb Market works to restock shelves left a bit bare by weekend shoppers, two dietitians from the Church Health Center (CHC) are conducting a tour of the recently opened Midtown market for a few clients with acute diabetes. In addition to picking up advice on what foods will best help them keep their diabetes in check, they’ll be taking home two baskets of fresh local vegetables, courtesy of the market.
Owner Peter Schutt shrugs off the praise for doing good, saying, “It’s just a charitable thing.” But making those local connections is what The Curb is all about, from its partnership with the CHC to its mission to support local farmers and agriculture.
The owner of Winchester Farm in Dancyville, Peter is also the president and chairman of The Daily News Publishing Company, parent company of the The Daily News, The Ledger, with Nashville and Knoxville editions, and Chandler Reports, a state-wide real estate data and analysis service. And while publishing has been the family business for generations, farming is a love he discovered following his graduation from college. Armed with a degree in psychology, he headed to the Pacific Northwest to work in a halfway house for mentally ill people. “It was out in the country and the main thrust of the therapy was that being out in nature is therapeutic for people,” says Peter. “Part of the model was growing a garden, and we had milk goats, we had chickens … so I learned how to garden in my 20s, and I just loved it and it stuck with me.”
Winchester’s main farming operation is livestock, specifically beef and pork. Peter was mulling the distribution options for his meat products when he read about the closing of the Easy-Way on Cooper Street in the heart of Midtown. “I thought that’s a perfect location,” says Peter. “The Midtown area is more of a walkable Memphis, and Easy-Way had a pretty loyal following to begin with. It was just kind of the right place at the right time that this thing came along for sale.” He bought the building in fall 2015, and while the structural and cosmetic changes were underway, he started reaching out to local farmers and food producers to find the right products for the market.
“There’s no agreed upon parameter for what’s local, but the USDA says within 400 miles of wherever you’re selling is local,” says Peter. “Our seafood comes from New Orleans, which is 400 miles, gelato from people in Oxford, cheeses from Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky.”
Produce and products from Memphis and the Mid-South are the backbone of the market. In addition to the produce from Delta Sol and other area farms, there’s Wolf River Honey, John’s Pantry spices, cut flowers from Whitton Farms, strawberries and other fruits from Jones Orchard and pickles from Old Apple Hill. Curb is the only retailer with a steady supply of chicken, duck, turkey and goose eggs from HillBilly Acres Farms. Daniel Watson, the grandson of Beneva Mayweather, who was a caterer in the ’60s and ’70s, uses her recipes to make cinnamon and yeast rolls that are sold at the market. Chef Ryan Trimm and his crew at Sweet Grass take Winchester’s pork and create house-made sausages; cured and smoked pork, steak and chops are also available. Locally roasted coffees from Dr. Beans, Relevant Roasters and J. Brooks are available, as are bath and body products from numerous small-batch producers including The Apothecary Fairy and breads from a Mennonite bakery in Whiteville.
One of the best features of the market is the impressive amount of grab-and-go options. There are ready-to-eat and ready-to-warm options, including Eneydi Lopez tamales and empanadas; spinach dip and sweet treats from Carol’s Cheesecakes; Beverly’s fresh smoked chicken salad from T and T catering; and offerings from Porcellino’s.
In just a few short months, The Curb has become a primary retail outlet for dozens of small, local businesses, proving that Peter understands growing from both an agricultural and a business perspective. “I think it’s good that we’re able to empower small business owners, for cottage industries to have an outlet, because you can’t just go to the big box stores and sell your wares,” says Peter. “But we’ll buy whatever they have.”
The Curb Market is located at 596 S. Cooper St., Memphis, TN 38104. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 pm.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m – 6 p.m.
Thank you to Lisa Buser for today’s beautiful photography.