The holiday season is the time many of us can expect surprises, but one local business is delivering just that to its customers year-round.
Housed in a simple, unassuming brick building at the corner of North 65th Street and Third Avenue Northwest, New Roots Organics, the 6-year-old, home-delivery service provides varied arrays of organic fruits and vegetables straight to its customers' doors.
Proprietor Carolyn Boyle has operated her business here for the last two years. She hand-picks seasonal produce every week for delivery to homes in neighborhoods throughout King County.
From their door to yours
Previously rented out for a small textile shop, New Roots Organics now calls 6259 Third Ave. N.W. its home base.
Boyle, with the help of two full- and four part-time employees, assembles and delivers individual and family-size bins containing a balanced mix of 12 to 15 fruits and vegetables to homes once every other week or weekly, based on customer preference.
Winter assortments vary, but often include items such as apples, pears, bananas, cooking and salad greens, onions, potatoes, broccoli and carrots.
Also, included in each bin are recipes using at least one or two bin items. The recipes are meant to introduce customers to produce that may otherwise be foreign to them.
She also provides recipes on the New Roots Organics website, as well as information on the benefits of buying organic produce and supporting local farmers.
"I do try to educate people about new produce in general and also about where the food comes from," she said.
Boyle also encourages customers to try new things. "It's an economical way to buy produce if you are committed to organics and you like the produce you're getting," she said.
The surprise inside
Diane Thompson, a New Roots Organics driver, has found that many customers consider every delivery a special treat. "Customers often say it's like Christmas when they come home and open the bin; it's always a surprise," she said.
Jen, a customer, expressed her own satisfaction with the service: "We are really enjoying all the lovely fresh, delicious produce and the variety and the recipes. I am always amazed when we open a box each week. It's just like a gift every two weeks."
Boyle also caters to the holiday season by enclosing traditional holiday produce. She includes items like cranberries, green beans and root vegetables.
Gift certificates and fruit boxes also are offered as holiday gifts.
Finding success in Seattle
Boyle decided she wanted to pursue her own interests in starting up a business after working for her brother's produce distributing company in Vancouver, B.C., and learning the ins and outs of the wholesale business.
"I think I just took my brother's advice. He said, 'Just do what you like, even if you're not making a lot of money doing it.' And now it led to this: a sustainable business," she said.
Boyle moved to Seattle in 1999, when the market was ripe for a home-delivery service; only one true competitor existed in the area, she said. She started out small, renting space in West Seattle by the hour.
She then moved Ballard, where she shared space with a baker. Business increased enough that she was able to move into her own warehouse in Phinney Ridge.
"This is the first time that I have actually been in a physical, visible location with my own sign," she said.
New Roots Organics has found success in part to maintaining a low overhead, keeping prices down and increasing consumer consciousness.
"A lot of people are concerned about where their food comes from, and they want to know they are getting good-quality, organic produce," she said.
Boyle builds her customer base through mailing coupons and cross-advertising with other local businesses.
Thompson, who has worked for Boyle for close to four years, began as a customer. A vegetarian, she tried the service after receiving a coupon in the mail.
"It was the level of service and a quality product that made me think about working for her," Thompson said.
While she now has a location people see, Boyle continues to rely strongly on word-of-mouth: "Just having a really good product and giving people something to talk about - that's always helpful," she said.
Abby Lund writes about places Off the Beaten Path on the third Wednesday of the month. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.