Businessman urges buying from local suppliers

Published 6:26 am Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Special to the Daily News

BELHAVEN — James McKelvey, owner of Wine &Words/The Back Bay Cafe, wants something very specific when it comes to the food he serves.
He wants as much of that food as possible to come from local suppliers.
“We are a small, local business. Whatever money you can spend locally, (it) stays in your county. A lot of these people that are suppliers from one side are also customers from the other side,” McKelvey said.
McKelvey and his wife, Yvonne Sedgwick, are members of Slow Food International, a nonprofit, member-supported organization founded in 1989. The movement strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and promote the farming of plants, seeds and livestock.
Slow Food International was founded by Carlo Petrini, an Italian who campaigned against the fast-food chain McDonald’s opening in Rome in the 1980s.
McKelvey and Sedgwick also are part of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. They have attended conferences in the Chapel Hill area that promote locally grown food. McKelvey noted the Lantern Restaurant in Chapel Hill as a place where many local farmers go for meetings.
McKelvey’s suppliers for his two businesses come from across North Carolina.
Capt’n Buc’s, owned by David Davis, is one supplier that has helped McKelvey throughout the years.
McKelvey’s described the process of getting food from this particular supplier.
“We call and ask him what he has coming in Thursday afternoon that is fresh. We go over there on Friday mornings and pick out the whole fish. He fillets it for us, and they are on the menu Friday evening,” McKelvey said.
This summer, McKelvey has bought shrimp, blue-crab meat and tile fish from Davis’ business. McKelvey wants the seafood he serves to be seasonal and purchased from local fishermen.
The Wine &Words owner said meeting his goal of using entirely locally produced food can be challenging.
“We’ve had people come in and tell us how good our crabcakes are. They tell us that we should have them all year around. But we tell them you can’t get fresh crab meat all around, and we are not going to serve frozen crab meat imported from China,” he said.
McKelvey also draws blueberries from Susie Boardwine, a local grower in the Grassy Ridge area. Petals &Produce, a business owned by Tom Van Staalduinen, provides Mattamuskeet Sweet Onions, heirloom tomatoes other fresh vegetables.
When it comes to other local businesses buying locally produced food, McKelvey hopes others will join that bandwagon.
“We would like to find someone from the next generation who would like to take over from us. We have done all the hard work and heavy lifting, but now it needs someone younger who would just like to keep it going.”