To keep a family business afloat through an uncertain time takes grit, an entrepreneurial spirit, a clever plan, and social media skills. Wellesley resident Jeff Kotzen, the fourth generation to work at J. W. Lopes, a Chelsea wholesale produce company founded in the1930s, conjured up a way, with his wife, Elyssa, to sustain the business when the coronavirus pandemic curtailed deliveries to restaurants.
The two spearheaded a spinoff — New England Country Mart, a direct-to-consumer food delivery service covering a wide range of towns. “We already had the Chelsea warehouse and refrigerated trucks and drivers,” says Elyssa. And they had a network of produce suppliers. The couple reached out to small-scale New England food producers and cheesemakers, butchers, and fishmongers, and handpicked a quality assortment of goods — staples and other items you might buy at farmers’ markets and specialty shops. They fired off hundreds of e-mails to friends and acquaintances and posted on social media sites, offering daily delivery of their varied collection of groceries.
It seemed as if overnight the business soared, Elyssa said. “We connected with customers to give them what they wanted.”
On the website, you can order from among hundreds of items — organic and local produce, Jasper Hill cheese, Sophia’s sheep and goat milk yogurt, frozen fish from Red’s Best, New England Charcuterie’s salamis, dumplings from Dumpling Daughter, OMG bagels, Nutty Life oat milk, popovers by The Popover Lady — plus the company’s own prepared foods frozen. Customers now are busy families and those who just relish the cornucopia of products offered. Recently the Kotzens added wine and beer delivery, and opened a modest wine shop in Newtonville, where wine from small producers and craft beers line the shelves (no groceries) and are available to buy.
A computer sits on a table at the shop where Elyssa can walk you through the process for ordering groceries, if you choose. She might also show you gift baskets chock full of delightful items to ship. “It’s an unconventional approach,” she says. But it’s working.
New England Country Mart delivers to Greater Boston, Central Massachusetts, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, various communities in Rhode Island, and Southern New Hampshire. Next-day deliveries are free to certain areas. For more information and to order, go to newenglandcountrymart.com. The wine shop is at 811 Washington St, Newtonville, 617-812-5250.
ANN TRIEGER KURLAND
Ann Trieger Kurland can be reached at email@example.com.