Town has new ‘food hub’

Submitted photo Front Street Grocers & Kitchen, located at 122 E. Ave. in Thomas, offers a local choice for organic, regional food, and it is the town’s first grocery store in several years

THOMAS — Front Street Grocers & Kitchen has opened its doors in Thomas, and it is the town’s first grocery store since 1989.

The store offers customers a wide variety of organic and natural food, and it is locally owned and co-founded by Justin Doak, Trevor Reichman, Cory Banasso and Eva Gutierrez.

“We opened up the grocery store to basically become a food hub for the folks in this town, and also because we are more focused on organic and natural foods,” Doak said. “We’re filling a need that was missing up here on top of the mountain. Folks like myself and others were driving sometimes two hours (to get groceries). They would go to Elkins, Oakland, (Maryland), sometimes Morgantown and even Pittsburgh to pick up some things. We are helping to change the convenient access to fresh produce, greens and bulk.”

The store offers fresh produce, pantry staples, vegan items, grass-fed and pastured meats, dairy and eggs. It also offers beer and wine. About 50 percent of the vegetable produce is grown by regional farmers.

“We encourage any farmer in the region that has organic and good land practices to reach out to us, we would love to work with them,” Doak said.

“At any given time, we will have anywhere between 45 to 70 different types of fresh vegetables and fruits — almost all organic or grown by organic standards,” Doak said.

“We have a huge bulk section,” he added. “It’s a great way for a small shop to sell a lot of products without a lot of packaging and without a lot of shelf space.”

Front Street Grocers & Kitchen is located in a 1,000-square-foot building on 122 E. Ave. in Thomas. An extensive, six-month remodel was done on the building, and it is partially powered by a solar panel system. A kitchen was built in the back of the store, where fresh produce that does not get purchased can be turned into juices. The store also has a wood-fire earth oven to bake loaves of fresh sour dough bread.

Banasso and the other co-founders also hope to attract shoppers as well as diners.

“We are more than a grocery store. We offer a great space to congregate around good food and drinks and explore authentic Appalachian dishes, fire-roasted food bowls, soups, salads as well as global ethnic cuisines,” Banasso said in a news release. “We are especially excited about Bake Alley, a converted alley that now provides seating that overlooks our wood-fired brick over and bakery.”

Store hours are from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and Doak said all of the co-founders have worked together to bring the store to life and to make it a success.

“We mop the floors, help do dishes, check people out,” he said.