Provisions by Sandy Creek, a new store at 2843 Millwood Ave., is bringing back an old-time grocery feel to Columbia.
Mary Sparrow, who opened the store with her son, John, on Monday said it reminds her of stopping into the market as a girl in the 1950s before mega-supermarkets became the norm.
The store – sort of a farmers market inside a retail format – is an offshoot of Provisions by Sandy Creek in Indian Land, opened last year by Tyler Jones. The store grew out of his business making bulk foods and spices based on the herb mixes of his “Nanny,” Frances Jones. The Sparrows and Jones partnered to open the Columbia store.
The Columbia location features an array of fresh produce and local products, such as Happy Cow milk from Pelzer, and B is for Butter, a Columbia startup selling flavored butters.
Being able to feature products like B is for Butter is one reason Mary Sparrow said she wanted to open the store.
“Her product is excellent. She just needs a break,” she said of the owner.
Sparrow should know. She is the face of Mother Shucker’s cocktail sauce. Sparrow said she got an education in developing and marketing a product since her family decided to bottle and sell it in stores three years ago. The process takes a lot of hard work, from traveling to various farmers markets to hosting myriad tastings to get consumers interested. Getting a new product on a store shelf is a big help, she said.
That’s one of the reasons Jones opened Provisions in a small storefront in his manufacturing facility and is expanding to other towns. Columbia’s store is the third location.
“I would like the Provisions brand to be a symbol for the support of local producers,” he said. “Our people are producers. … We’re all in this together.”
The Sparrows are not the only entrepreneurs involved in the store. Co-manager Erin Rast and her family grow the onions and peanuts that the store sells.
It was during a meeting earlier this year with Jones to get Mother Shucker’s into Provisions that Sparrow decided Columbia needed a store like that! (And that’s just how the enthusiastic entrepreneur says it, with the exclamation point at the end.)
The family also runs The Oyster Bar in the Vista, and Sparrow is the director of business development at Columbia-based ECI, which helps small businesses find new markets. She also serves on the board of the S.C. Specialty Food Association.
So it’s a natural that Provisions is stocked with products from local farms and small businesses, such as DiPrato’s pimiento cheese and Blue Moon breakfast quiche.
The store also features an array of Provisions by Sandy Creek-branded products. For example, a one-pound bag of dark chocolate ginger snaps is $7.29, a 4-ounce bag of dark chocolate coffee beans costs $3.79, a 12-ounce bag of red rice sesame rounds is $4.59 and an 8.6-ounce bag of edamame goes for $4.29.
Customers can get an array of gluten-free products, such as an 8-ounce bag of almond flour for $6.69, as well as a range of spices and gourmet oil and vinegar.
“What we’re trying to do is offer things that are different,” Sparrow said.
Dollie Savitz, a Northeast Richland resident who was shopping in the store Thursday, was planning to try one of those different items. She was picking up a bag of guacamole bites that Sparrow said have been a popular seller.
Savitz stopped by after seeing a friend post a colorful photo of fresh produce from the store on Facebook.
“When I saw that, I just had to come by here,” she said.