Specialty couple: Feast! gets honored

She’s a foodie and he’s a handyman. Together, the couple created one of the nation’s best premium food stores.

Kate Collier and Eric Gertner’s store, feast!, was named one of five Outstanding Retailers of 2013 by Specialty Food magazine for its commitment to stocking fresh local food and to serving its community.

“We were super excited and honored. It felt great to be considered outstanding in such a large field of national businesses,” Collier says.

The store, which started primarily as an artisan cheese shop with some produce, has expanded three times to include a variety of local and seasonal produce from Virginia farms and a café. The store continues to thrive thanks to the work of Collier, Gertner, and their staff.

“I think it’s [mine and Eric’s] complementary skills that have really enabled the store to grow, along with a combination of really smart people that have worked there,” Collier says. “One of the people who was our cashier at the beginning became our graphic designer and has created all of our icons.”

Gertner and Collier, who met while developing the store and are now married with a child, are not only committed to selling fresh and local foods, but to helping the community. They formed the non-profit, Local Food Hub, after recognizing the challenges farmers face when selling their produce to the public. The non-profit facilitates the sale of produce from small local farms to nearby hospitals, schools, and restaurants.

Honored to receive such a prestigious award, Collier and Gertner vow they won't become complacent.

“It’s a full-time job to stay on top of all the innovations that are coming out in the food world,” Collier says, adding that customer requests are one way they decide what foods to bring into the store.

“You never know what’s going to be the cult favorite. One big one is our sea salt caramels. People sometimes get irritated if we’re out of them even for 10 minutes,” she laughs.

In addition to continuing to provide quality food, feast! is also planning to expand seating in the café area as well as offer classes on foods, like Italian cheese, for interested customers.