Yelm-area resident Amy Malik started the business Small Town Veggies to promote local farming and address food insecurity in the region.
The store features a wide variety of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as crafts and other products made by local artisans.
The idea for the business came to Malik after she helped create a non-profit organization called Food Prosperity Central about a year before the pandemic. The organization held free potlucks at the Yelm Community Center for those struggling with food insecurity.
When the pandemic closed everything down, Malik started Small Town Veggies to address the same needs in the form of a roadside-produce stand, which has grown into a dedicated storefront on Highway 507.
“Winter was very hard because people, first of all, were not used to stopping here and getting produce,” Malik said. “And then, finally now that it’s become summer, it’s gotten a little easier and now people are coming in.”
She said the vision for Small Town Veggies is near and dear to her heart.
“The mission was to create a spot for (the) community, where people can come in and talk,” she said of the small store. “People can (ask) ‘what are you growing?’ ‘What are you eating for dinner,’ and also to get feedback on the produce.”
She said she asks customers what kind of food they want to see in the store.
“I’ve really built my variety on what people really need,” Malik said. “That’s the feel and the desire on my part, is to interact together again, to speak, to talk, to enjoy life again. We also realize that food is an important part (of that).”
She has tried to make organic food as affordable as possible.
“I would like people to really experience the difference and understand that (organic food) really does impact your health,” Malik said. “You feel a lot better when you eat things that don’t have any chemicals in them.”
To that effect, she has hand-selected organic produce from local farmers and gardeners for the business.
As Malik was speaking with the Nisqually Valley News at the store, one grower came to drop off his hand-grown zucchini.
Farmers or gardeners who want to have their products featured in the store need to speak with Malik during business hours and broker a deal with her. She does take a percentage of the profit to support her business, but Malik hopes that having an additional avenue to sell other people’s produce is worthwhile, she said.
“Right now, I am working with four or five farmers, but just like that man who walked in today, he had more than enough in his garden and never sprayed it or anything so, in my book, that’s good,” she said.
Malik said there’s a greenhouse just down the road from the store that produces the best Asian cucumbers, a product that has become a hot commodity for the store, with many people eating them for the first time after shopping with her.
“I want people to have different experiences with food,” she said. “Try things you’ve never tried before, like lemon cucumbers or the tomatillos I have now. ... I met someone who has an incredible garden of heirloom tomatoes and has gone very deep into the research about them.”
Malik also supports local artisans, offering shelf-space to crafters and food processors on a consignment basis.
“If they’re doing farmers markets and other things, they only have once in the weekend, or sometimes twice a week, (to sell),” Malik said. “I want to support people who are making local things.”
Small Town Veggies is located at 15425 State Route 507 S.E. and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.