NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 3-21-07, By Rebecca Turman
``Small grocery store holds its own in a big box world
AVON -- "Impossible." That's one word that Liz Adamson and Barb Piscopo, co-owners of Carriage House Bakery and Market, have erased from their vocabularies.
In fact, they want area "mom and pop shop" owners to know that it is entirely possible for stores like their own to compete with the "big guys" like Wal-Mart and Heinen's.
"It's important for people to support local store owners because we're the ones who support them," Piscopo said. The two women, both Avon residents, owned a restaurant in Sheffield Village, Sips and Nibbles, for three years, but when the opportunity to become a part of Olde Avon Village on Detroit Road arose, the women jumped at the chance to open their own market.
"This particular store couldn't exist anywhere else but in the Village; it needs a context," Piscopo said ... "I think more cities will go this way (like mom and pop shops in Avon Village). You can drop people anywhere and find a Wal-Mart. But when they see this, they say, `Oh, this is Avon,'" Adamson said.
According to Adamson, who also owns the Pear Tree Gallery in Olde Avon Village, the Carriage House attracts customers throughout Northeast Ohio, with loyal shoppers from Solon, Chagrin Falls, Akron and Canton making the trip religiously to the store once a week.
The reason for the Carriage House's success in the specialized grocery market, according to Adamson and Piscopo, all comes down to stepping outside of the "box." ...
"There's a movement where people want to eat locally and know what they are eating," Piscopo said. "People really like to know the fact that they can meet the chefs, meet the owners (at the Carriage House). They love that."
The Carriage House offers several "extras" that most chains couldn't compare to, the women said. For example, the store offers a service called "Center Plate Direct," where customers can simply order meat, fish and other seafood one day and pick it up the next.
"People can now have all this wonderful food in their home," Piscopo said, "Rather than going out to eat all the time ...
Along with carrying a wider variety of products, Carriage House also provides many unique items. "We have a lot of signature products," Adamson said. "Things that you can't find anywhere else locally."
Another perk of owning a small store is that the owners have more time to educate customers about their products. At the Carriage House if something is in the store, you can bet that either Piscopo or Adamson has taste-tested it.
"I've even had my pets sample the pet food," Adamson said with a chuckle. "We sample things to death, whereas at the larger chains, there's just not that customer service," Adamson said.
"There's an excitement there," Adamson said about the reactions to food. "You'll hear someone say, `You have to try this cheese, it's so good.'"
Though Piscopo, Adamson and their employees are quick to answer any questions that shoppers may have, they admit that their customers are usually quite sophisticated and know more about food than they do at times.
"Our customers are two kinds," Adamson said. "First, the `foodie,' who watches the food channel. Sometimes we learn from them. The other kind is simply looking for something unique." "Our customer is a little more sophisticated," Piscopo said. "People who want to eat more healthy, whole foods."
"We've been asked if we want to open other locations, and the answer is no," Adamson said. "We want to do this location really, really well. We want to be to the West Side of Cleveland what West Point Market is to the south. The best compliment we've had was, `This is like a little West Point Market.'"
The Carriage House currently works with 17 local purveyors to deliver the ultimate product to customers. The newest additions to the store are Two Peas in a Pod, from Lakewood, and Mexican food from, "Cascabel Cuisine."
Adamson said the store would be starting up its own cooking school in the middle of April. Two Peas in a Pod will teach the classes. "It will be in my home," Adamson said. "The idea is most people don't cook in an industrial kitchen."
"It's something we've wanted to do since the beginning," Piscopo said, adding that the idea was put on the backburner since the store opened during one of the busiest times of the year, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"We have such a small footprint (store space wise) and have a lot of regular customers," Adamson said. "We have to be creative or it gets boring."
Adamson said sometime in May  she's planning on starting a farmer's market in Olde Avon Village ...''
For more information about the Carriage House, visit the store's Web site at www.carriagehousebakeryandmarket.biz or contact the store at 934-2998.''
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