Who We Are
We are Dusty and Julia James, a husband and wife team passionate about good food — especially local food!
Both of us were interested in sustainable agriculture and small-scale local food production before we met in 2009. As partners, that interest became a shared passion and hobby, and one of our first major purchases together was a side of grass-fed, organic beef from JuJo Acres. Before we settled on our purchase, we did extensive research on different local farms, breeds of cow, and animal welfare certification standards. When we first introduced meat at Radish & Rye, we were proud to offer JuJo beef.* We have similar stories surrounding many of our farmers and artisan producers — we first encountered them when we were seeking out the best food around for our personal consumption, and are happy to be working with those same producers now to bring their goods to a broader audience.
Outside the stand, we live, work, and play in the city of Harrisburg. Dusty is a builder, tinkerer, and armchair economist. Julia is a computer geek, poet, and integral education advocate. Both of us love to cook and eat.
*Sadly, Jonas & Judy of JuJo Acres have since retired. Today, we carry meats from Rettland Farm and Pecan Meadow Farm — both of whom we love as well!
Content under construction -MH
A Brief History of Radish & Rye
The Stand [Older picture?]
Radish & Rye began as a small produce stand in Harrisburg's historic Broad Street Market. It was originally called The Millworks Farm Stand (owned and operated by TKTKT). Early in 2015, we were presented with the opportunity to buy the stand and had about three days to make the decision. Although had plenty of experience seeking out good local food for our own consumption, but we had no retail experience. We loved the Millworks stand, but had had never thought about doing something similar ourselves. Those three days we spent thinking and talking about it were hard, and may have been the biggest test of our marriage up to that point (we’d been married for just shy of two years, so in fairness, we hadn’t encountered many tests prior to that!). But, as you know, we went for it!
We continued to operate for about a month and a half as the Millworks Farm Stand. At that time, Julia was transitioning out of a part-time job and hoping that the next adventure would offer more flexibility. Since we already knew we could make things work financially on my part-time salary, we thought as long as the stand generated about enough income to replace that, we’d be fine. Dusty, who was self-employed and already had a flexible schedule, would work on Thursdays and Fridays until Julia's schedule opened up a little bit more, and then she could handle the rest of the week, and we would both be there on Saturdays. We thought it would be something like a hobby that would hopefully generate enough income to replace Julia's part-time job.
We were so wrong.
Rye & Radish
Dusty did work Thursdays and Fridays alone for the first few weeks, though Julia often tried to duck out of work early on those days to provide him some relief. At first, he didn’t really need it — the market was quiet enough that he could receive deliveries, bag lettuce, and sometimes even run to the restroom between customers. Once Julia's schedule opened up — right around the same time we changed the name to Radish & Rye (Dusty's Rye and Julia's Radish) — the long-term plan remained that I would mostly take over on Thursdays and Fridays. Dusty stuck around for those days at first while I got up to speed on all the things he’d mastered by that point, but neither of us hesitated to schedule meetings or other off-site commitments, knowing that there was nothing that couldn’t be handled by one person.
I’m not sure at what point we gave up on the idea that Dusty would work elsewhere on the weekdays, but I know that I really appreciated his help receiving deliveries on Thursday mornings, and really appreciated being able to take breaks when he was there, and, perhaps most importantly, I know that we both really loved being at the market. Several new stands opened in early June 2015, and the market was getting a lot of favorable attention, and traffic started to pick up, slowly but steadily. We started having to cancel other commitments we’d made during market hours, and gradually we stopped scheduling anything that would keep us from being at the stand. This little hobby had become a full-fledged business. It had become our life.
In 2016, we were elated to find that sales had doubled in the first year. It meant we could afford to make it our primary work.
By 2017, we could no longer staff the stand with just the two of us. We hired three employees, and most of the time at least one of them was on-site.
2018 was a watershed year for us. We still had just three employees, but now we usually needed two or even all three of them on-site during Market hours. Running the stand with 3 to 5 staff on weekends was tight quarters. And despite taking over the spot left empty by a former vendor, we were really starting to feel we'd reached the limits of our space. We were also feeling limited by the Market hours. So we started to dream bigger.
We wrote and were awarded a grant that would help us open a stand-alone store.
By 2019, we found that we had doubled again those 2016 numbers — that is, we’ve more than quadrupled the sales we were doing when we started. Plans to open the stand-alone store on Third Street were slowed by the red tape of permits and the fact that we were doing most of the work ourselves.
When did the market go to being 3 days a week?
When did you buy the building that the store is in?
I'm a little fuzzy on the timeline of the grant. Also I'm sure there's more about construction and obstacles to opening the new store you could include. ]
Early in 2020 we were making modest progress toward opening the stand-alone store. Then COVID-19 hit. Like most businesses, we had to shift quickly. We fast-tracked an online ordering system and curbside pickup protocols. Because the Broad Street Market was temporarily, we began offering pickup 7 days a week. This was in part, a service we had always wanted to offer, and a motivation for opening our own store. But it was also the only way we could keep up with demand. Supply-chain issues of quarantine, and Harrisburg's And it was exhausting. Our small crew was working overtime and the limits of our space at the Market became more and more clear as we tried to prep and store orders.
In late June the as the Broad Street Market was gearing up to something-like-normal in-person shopping, we were forced to make another quick decision about the fate of our business. We had been contemplating how to move forward, and realized that we didn't have the capacity to manage an ongoing e-commerce/curbside business on top of two in-person operations. In addition, we'd realized that our stand at the Market always relied on density to succeed — squeezing as many products and as many people into a small space as we can. And yet now, density is something to avoid. Our love for the Broad Street Market was the original impetus for this business, and that love remains strong. But we believed that we could no longer operate safely inside the Market without making significant changes— changes that would affect our customers' experience of Radish & Rye, and that would threaten our viability as a business.
And so we made the heartbreaking decision to close our Market stand at the end of business on Sunday, June 28, 2020. For the first time since opening, Radish & Rye was closed for a week. But then starting Tuesday, July 7th, we've been open (for curbside pickup) at our 1308 N 3rd Street location.
Here We Are [Picture!]
We've been steadily increasing our staff, including cooks! We've been working to integrate point of sale system that works nicely with the e-commerce side of our business.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it was like back in the beginning — when one of us could work alone for hours at a time, even occasionally leaving the stand unattended for a bathroom break; when we could get all our prep work done during business hours; when we when we struggled to meet order minimums and felt like the farmers we worked with were essentially doing us a favor by bringing our paltry orders into the city.
So many things have changed since then. Our location, a lot of the farms and producers we worked with in the beginning are no longer operation, many employees have come and moved on. TKTK growth. But the key things, the core of us, stays the same. The reason we started [take it away, J].