A local fresh foods business is bringing its passion for handcrafted edibles to the state’s emerging craft brew scene.
Two years after it began delivering ready-to-eat bar snacks to breweries in the Cape Fear region, The Veggie Wagon, 608 S. Lake Park Blvd. in Carolina Beach, has expanded its reach to three Triangle-area alehouses: Bombshell Beer Company, Compass Rose Brewery and Nickelpoint Brewing.
Fittingly, the idea first came to Veggie Wagon owner Max Sussman and his wife and business partner, April, while they were sipping suds.
“We’ve gone to breweries a lot, and all these breweries are making beers that they put all this passion and craft into. And when you’re drinking a couple beers you get hungry,” Sussman said. “We were drinking at a brewery and looked around and went, ‘Well, we can have Doritos or we can have Lay’s.”
Inspired to pair high-quality beers with homemade creations, the couple put “many man hours and brain hours” into the concept before partnering in 2014 with Mike and Emily Barlas of the Brooklyn Arts District’s Flytrap Brewing.
“We just cranked along with those guys. Mike and Emily were so welcoming to the idea,” Sussman recalled. “Then, we started to add some more [breweries] locally to see how distribution would work with that model and now we’ve gone to Raleigh with it.”
True to The Veggie Wagon’s commitment to fresh, locally sourced goods, all items – including flavorful dill pickle peanut – are created in house. Other offerings include pimento cheese, spinach artichoke dip, spicy cheese dip, hummus, pretzels and “brew-nola” bars made with beer grain.
“We’re roasting our own peanuts. We hand mix that flavoring…That’s what makes it so much fun, really putting your hands on it and putting your passion behind it,” Sussman said.
And that kind of dedication to and love for both the process and the end product might just be why The Veggie Wagon has been a natural fit with brew houses that aren’t interested in expanding into the restaurant business.
“People who go to breweries are normally looking for…more of an experience. And that’s we aim for: to create a brewery experience,” Sussman said. “Every brewer we’ve talked to has said they definitely want better food than chips…We add the food passion to their beer passion. It creates an experience at a brewery that you can’t get off a Snickers bar and bag of Lay’s.”
Compass Rose co-owner John Coulter would agree.
“This gives us a food alternative for our customers without getting into the food business,” he said. “They made it really convenient and easy for us, and now we can focus on being a brewery. Not having a kitchen allows us to stay dog-friendly, too.”
In addition to its retail market and brewery service, The Veggie Wagon, which began in 2009 as a roadside produce stand, also operates a wholesale business and delivery of community-supported agriculture baskets. Some of its products can also be found at Whole Foods in Wilmington and Winston-Salem and smaller regional retailers. The Veggie Wagon was most recently added to the online marketplace, Overstock.com.
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.