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Food & Drink

‘Stores don’t buy local like they used to.’ So Morro Bay produce seller stepped in

 

The small blue building with the half-painted sign is unassuming from the outside. But inside, The Avocado Shack is bursting with life.

The Morro Bay produce market’s floor-to-ceiling shelves are filled with fresh, mostly local fruits and vegetables. A continuous flow of people streams in and out of the business.

Owner Michael Wolfe greets every customer with a smile and talks to them like they’ve been friends for years. And when a farmer walks in, he says “Let’s talk numbers.”

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“Each neighborhood used to have a local market, but with the consolidation of the food industry the prices go up and the quality goes down,” Wolfe said. “The idea (at The Avocado Shack) is to give the best produce for the best prices.”

The Avocado Shack, located at 2790 Main St, had a soft opening in December 2019.

Wolfe said people kept asking him to open — so he did, even before he finished putting up the sign. It reads, simply, “NEW.”

Wolfe said he sees about 200 customers per day and operates on cash sales and ‘I Owe Yous.’ He said he has had help from his friends but serves as the sole primary operator and is looking to hire people soon.

The Avocado Shack sells primarily local produce within a 40 mile range of Morro Bay. Cassandra Garibay cgaribay@thetribunenews.com

“I thought it would take six months to a year to get to this point,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe said his goal is to sell produce grown within a 40-mile radius of Morro Bay to provide the community with the freshest food grown in their own backyard.

Wolfe sells everything from apples, avocados, lettuce and berries to kiwano melons, citrus and cherimoya. He said he is looking to start selling local olive oil as well.

When Encino Grande Ranch manager Kephas Neuhs walked into the Avocado Shack to buy produce, he began talking to Wolfe about selling the Cayucos grower’s citrus at the market.

Wolfe quickly jumped on the opportunity and the two looked at potentially making a deal outside of the Avocado Shack.

The Avocado Shack owner Michael Wolfe and Encino Grande Ranch manager Kephus Neuhs “talk numbers” just outside the Morro Bay produce market while customers browse the shelves inside. Cassandra Garibay cgaribay@thetribunenews.com

Neuhs said he saw the Avocado Shack one day while driving by and wanted to reach out because Encino Grande, one of the oldest citrus groves in San Luis Obispo County, likes to deliver to local stores.

“Stores don’t buy local like they used to,” Wolfe said. “I’m just going back to what I was trained to do.”

Wolfe, who grew up in Los Osos and Morro Bay, began his career working at Williams Bros. Markets before Vons purchased the grocery store chain. He went on to work as the produce manager at local supermarket Cookie Crock for 12 years before retiring to become a farmer at McCall Farms in Cambria.

With the Avocado Shack, “I feel it’s completing the circle,” Wolfe said. “I needed to understand what it was like to be on the farmer’s side of it. It’s hard, it’s risky. And it helps when I make deals with farmers to say ‘I’ve been there.’”

The Avocado Shack is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

For more information, visit avocadoshack.net.

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