Getting Earthwise Gardens ready for its opening day required some creative thinking and heavy lifting.
One of the biggest challenges in preparing the shop was fitting a commercial refrigerator through the front door.
“That was a project in itself,” said Denton resident Ryan Crocker, 31, who opened Earthwise Gardens’ storefront to sell locally grown and organic produce.
To get the 4-by-6-foot chest-style refrigerator in, Crocker and three friends had to enlarge the opening.
“I had to cut the wall and take it out so we could fit it through the doorway. We then had to rebuild the wall,” he said. “It’s built in here. It’s like a ship inside a bottle.”
Earthwise Gardens offers local, seasonal organic produce, naturally raised grass-fed beef, pastured pork and poultry, cheeses and fresh eggs.
Some of the produce — such as carrots, turnips and lettuce, currently — comes from Crocker’s own quarter-acre farm near North Branch Library on Locust Street. On Thursday, the refrigerator’s shelves held items picked that morning. Other items were produced within 100 miles of Denton.
The store also carries a range of local and regional food items, including local honey, Texas olive oil, locally roasted coffee beans from Bookish Coffee and sodas from Armadillo Ale Works, a craft brewery in Denton.
“I am hoping to get some chocolate items for Christmas,” Crocker said.
Since opening the storefront on Nov. 9, Crocker said he has received good response from customers.
“And people are just surprised that we are here,” he said.
Crocker and his family spent three months renovating the building —which also houses the family’s residence.
The house at 728 N. Elm St. has 900 square feet of retail space in the front of the property, with another 900 feet in the back as the family’s residence. With the renovations complete, the building now has new wooden floors, a remodeled bathroom for customers, and new walls to separate the business from the residence.
“Literally, we got our CO [certificate of occupation] the day before we opened,” Crocker said.
His sister, Katy Crocker, 29, said she likes the idea of supporting her brother’s vision, especially during the critical first year of business.
“I wanted to be here, when he needed us most,” she said. “I think we all did, because that is what family does.”
Katy Crocker helped create many of the designs for the business, including working with a graphic artist to creative a logo that includes four sunflowers — each representing a family member.
Ryan Crocker’s wife, co-owner Christina Treviño, 30, said the idea for an organic farming business began to emerge while they lived in England, where they saw people working the land. They also lived in New Mexico, where the couple adopted more of a simplistic and holistic lifestyle.
“It was pretty primitive. For the first 10 months, we lived in a tent, in a little adobe,” Treviño said, recalling their early days of organic farming near Santa Fe, N.M. “We had to heat our water on a wood-burning stove, and also haul our water from a well.”
“We had Internet, cellphone and electricity,” Crocker said. “But we had no running water, and no indoor plumbing.”
In 2011, Crocker, his wife and their two sons — now ages 3 and 6 — moved to Denton, where he began running a CSA, or community supported agriculture program. The food distribution model helps consumers buy local and seasonal food directly from growers.
Earthwise has operated a booth at the weekly Denton Community Market, which ended its season in October. In February, Crocker hosted a food festival and art exhibition to help offer a preview of the business as well as get needed funds to open his shop.
Now with his own storefront, his goal is to make Earthwise Gardens successful. “And make it a destination where people can find the freshest products available,” he said.
Katy Crocker said her brother’s business is helping people become more connected with what they eat.
“There is sort of a collective disassociation with food that happens at the grocery store. Obviously, you don’t know where things come from or how they are made. You don’t know why you should care about it, and you certainly don’t have any connection to it. It is like a bag of Doritos — what for me would be the worse type of food out there,” she said.
“What this does is — and I think the reason people respond to it — is that we connect you with food and why it matters.”
KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Address: 728 N. Elm St.
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
On the Web: www.earthwise-gardens.com