From a Fruit Stand to the Farm Basket

Issue: August 2011 by in Inside The Magazine, Retail

Step back in time to nearly 50 years ago. In the year 1964, Perkins Flippin, the owner of an orchard in Nelson County, brought her hail damaged apples to sell at a fruit stand on the side of the road in Lynchburg. From that small entrepreneurial endeavor, a seed was planted and, much like her apples, it grew to become what is fondly known of today as The Farm Basket.

By building on the original property of that fruit stand, the Flippin family was able to grow what has now become a destination landmark for the Lynchburg community. When entering the doors leading into the gift shop, customers are greeted with the seasons. Flowers in spring, produce in summer and pumpkins in the fall all add to the warmth flowing throughout this charming shop. It is as though you are being greeted by a picture postcard upon each visit.

The family that originally owned the place also owned a farm and produced jams, jellies and what became the “Gift & Market” section of the current store. Today, visitors can find designer labels, fine gifts and accessories, jewelry, custom invitations, specialty foods and an array of Virginia made products. The quaint creek-side location also adds to the charm of this locally owned icon and indicates that some things in history are still preserved.

In August of 2007, the Flippin family transferred over 40 years of ownership to the committed hands of Rie Godsey, who is known throughout the area as the owner of the former restaurant, Meriwether’s, and the current Italian hot spot, Isabella’s. Upon this change, Kerry Giles, General Manager, joined The Farm Basket family. Giles was a small business owner herself and had much knowledge and experience to bring with her career move. As the former owner of The Patch & Co. located in Amherst, she brought with her a background in gifts and gardening, and knowledge of how to run a small, locally-owned business. This insight has helped to build upon the foundation that was established by the original family nearly 50 years prior.

These days, Giles says that they have “worked hard to maintain the real core of that business” as they are still specializing in locally grown produce. In fact, some of the flowers and produce that are sold in the shop still come from the Flippin farm.

As owner and president of the locally based catering company, Meriwether Godsey, Rie Godsey brought a new level of service to the business when ownership transferred.

“The parent company is all about food service and has a major influence in who we are today. The cafe has grown tremendously since we’ve been here,” Giles said.

A little-known secret is the off-site catering that the staff services every day. From August through May, the staff delivers to Holy Cross School for lunches and services two of the largest medical offices in the area on a daily basis. Giles explained that the market is “in the heart of the medical community that we are servicing, and that is very convenient.”

“The community has grown so much in terms of student population and we are trying to respond to that. Looking for ways to reach out to them is key,” Giles said, noting that The Farm Basket now offers Wi-Fi and dining space in their upstairs and outdoor deck.

The Farm Basket also focuses on personal touches, including a bridal registry and courtesy gift wrap. It is these small services that many visitors say really set them apart.

“We are about fine gifts,” Giles said. “Brands people have come to trust.”

Currently, those brands include Simon Pearce, Beatriz Ball, as well as Crane, Caspari and Vera Bradley. The fact that The Farm Basket carries some of these leading labels exclusively shows that they have been a “retail product leader” for a long time. And their offerings are about to expand. Giles is excited to announce that they will soon be adding Lilly Pulitzer to their collection. In fact, the paper store will relocate into the main shop to make space for the expansion.

In many ways, the shop has become an icon to the area. The Farm Basket is known for its wide array of gifts, specialty foods, wines and even catering services, and this charming little shop continues to be named among the “Best Of” in local, reader-voted newsprint and magazine contests. So, it comes as no surprise that the location is being sought out more and more for events and weddings. In recent years, they have begun hosting small parties and rehearsal dinners on the outside deck that overlooks Blackwater Creek and have even accommodated small, intimate weddings on the lawn. They are already booking weddings for 2012, evidence that their endeavors just continue to increase.

Like the fruit stand that grew because of its patrons, The Farm Basket has grown because of generations of support. This quaint shop is connected to the town that supports it, and to the people who live there. It is the people that comprise the character of a small town and it is the people that have helped to define the personality of The Farm Basket. In fact, Giles says that one of her goals for The Farm Basket is to be one of “those kinds of places that define the culture in a community.”

“It speaks of who we are because in the time we’ve been here, we’ve gotten to know our customers,” she said. “We know them by name and appreciate their likes, keep them in mind and can help them through a phone call.”

To learn more about The Farm Basket, visit www.thefarmbasket.com.

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