Califonia Bountiful

It's a bountiful life: Building on her heritage

November/December 2018 California Bountiful magazine

Entrepreneur's homesteading skills propel business concept

The Heritage Pantry is more than just a store, says owner Lindsey Hickman. It's also a community gathering spot. Photo: © 2018 Fred Greaves

For new-business owner Lindsey Hickman, The Heritage Pantry in downtown Dixon represents a natural extension of her personal heritage. The farm store and education center sells local and organic goods—nearly all purchased directly from the people growing and producing them—and offers classes on topics such as cheese and butter making, sewing, canning and preserving, and sourdough bread making.

What inspired you to open the business? My husband and I have always made truly local, real food a priority for our family. For a long time, we sourced what we could, and grew most of our own meats and milked our own cows and goats here in Dixon. We would trade things we grew, for things other people grew, and were able to build a really great community around just that. Although nothing we produced was eligible for retail sales, many producers we became close with had products that were. When a small space for lease was presented to us, we went to those producers and asked if they wanted to be a part of what became our store. This was March 5, and we opened the store on April 5.

What compelled you to offer classes? I developed a lot of relationships while I had my farm. I was milking my cows, making cheese and yogurt, butter, sourdough bread, soaps, canning, preserving, etc. It wasn't uncommon for us to have friends over so that I could show them how to do some of the "homesteady" things that my grandma taught me. Pretty soon, I had strangers asking me to teach classes. So, when we launched the store idea, we knew education needed to be a large element of the foundation.

How has The Heritage Pantry changed? We thought this was going to be a small hobby store and maybe a few people would trickle in; we were pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. We have customers coming from about a 30-mile radius. Because of this, we realized quickly that the 500-square-foot, Craftsman-style house we opened in was not functional for the demand. Albeit adorable, it did not offer enough classroom space and was too cramped for our customers to shop around in. We were able to find a larger space about two blocks from our initial location, moved in August and are still expanding with the need.

What do you enjoy most? Some days are really long, operating the store all day and teaching classes after we close. But what keeps us going is satisfaction of helping other people lead healthier lives and supporting local farmers who are working hard to get their food into the hands of others.

What's your business philosophy? We want people to cherish the local farmers, understand what it means to eat seasonally—and how to preserve things that are in season for the offseason for the maximum nutritional benefits—and value the land's sustainability.

Hickman chats with Sara Algood, another local business owner. Photo: © 2018 Fred Greaves

What's next? With the large educational element of the store, we have become a bit of a gathering place for like-minded and inquiring community members. So, with the large, newly acquired space and now being located in the heart of downtown, we are building out a coffee bar within the store. The plan is to expand the brand to become The Barn & Pantry, offering specialty coffee and groceries. We have a great shabby-industrial, barn-like meeting space and a large patio facing downtown Dixon, so it feels like the perfect addition.

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