Years of working in the restaurant business led 27-year-old entrepreneur Jamie Pacheco to claim that she would never do so again. However, years of experience in the nonprofit sector with food systems, a winning business model at the 2015 Maine Innovation Challenge and the opening of her own locally-sourced, low-profit eatery all under her belt have helped to change her mind.
Pacheco explained that if it were not for the mission of the New Beet Market, she and her spouse and business partner, Nate Wildes, wouldn’t be there.
The Market draws exclusively from local farms, enlists the help of students from local schools and parcels two-thirds of its earnings out to its nonprofit partners Seeds of Independence and the Harpswell Coastal Academy (HCA), both of which run youth programs and sustainable farms.
The market also hires students from HCA as interns so they can garner entrepreneurial, kitchen and customer service skills.
Pacheco believes that New Beet Market’s local sourcing is what attracts customers to their business.
“It means that the farm you drive by, that farm and that family are making a living and feeding their kids and then in turn, contributing back to the community and making our economy stronger, healthier and happier,” she said.
HCA and Seeds of Independence asked the couple to combine Pacheco’s experience in the nonprofit food industry and Wildes’ knowledge of business consulting to create a model that would combine both organizations in a food-based enterprise. The two pitched their plan at the Maine Innovation Challenge, which Bowdoin hosted this past fall.
Pacheco and Wildes did not expect to win, let alone turn the pitch into a reality. In fact, the two were originally hesitant when HCA and Seeds of Independence approached them. But before they knew it, Pacheco and Wildes became the co-owners of New Beet Market which opened on March 21 during a snowstorm.
The market is spacious and filled with tables and couches, perfect for a peaceful study space and a place to enjoy a locally brewed Bottomless Mug of coffee or their specialty beet chips, made fresh every day.
The name, according to Pacheco, was a spontaneous creation during the early stages of preparing the pitch for the contest. As she and her team threw together different words, New Beet Market arose and stuck.
From the name came their various beet-infused innovations, from beet juice mayonnaise to beet juice whoopie pies and roast beet salad. According to Pacheco, customers will often come in claiming an aversion to beets and leave having been converted after trying the cafe’s signature products.
So far, the market has been overwhelmed with the positive responses from the community.
“People love that we have kids in here fulfilling hands-on learning projects, entrepreneurial learning and workplace development programming and that high-risk youth are working in gardens and doing projects,” said Pacheco.
Belle Hall, an employee at the market who moves fluidly throughout the store to take orders, make sandwiches and coffee, work the cash register and chat with customers, applied for a job there after strolling in one day when volunteering at the neighboring preschool. Hall, like the rest of the staff, loves working in a placed rooted in community outreach.
In the past week and half of business and a three-week trial period, both Hall and Pacheco have noticed one hiccup in the process—when HCA is not in session or has a snow day and students can’t come in to work.
“When the kids are here, they’re great,” said Pacheco. “They work hard, they smile, they do whatever we ask them to, and right now that’s what the internship is.”
Although the market has received some complaints about the pricing, Pacheco uses these as educational moments.
“It costs more to source locally,” said Pacheco. “When they make that comment, I explain why we source the way we do. It costs more to do that, and it’s very important to us because that strengthens Maine’s economy.”