by Eric Monson
Posted 2/10/2014 12:00 am
Since December, a small store in downtown Little Rock has been selling health in bulk. Matthew Cooper, who owns Dandelion with his wife, Priscilla Fincher, described the store as the biggest bulk dealer of white and black organic tea in the state, even as it shares a 500-SF space with another business, The Freckled Frog. “It can get crowded in here,” he noted.
In addition to tea, Dandelion offers more than 400 different medicinal and culinary herbs for sale, most of which are organic. Cooper, the executive chef and general manager of Cache Restaurant in Little Rock, also sells spices, seeing his store as a resource for his fellow chefs. “It costs about 50 percent less than what you can get at the [grocery] store,” he said, describing how his customers eliminate packaging costs by simply refilling their empty spice containers.
Like the Freckled Frog, which sells locally sourced clothing, jewelry and other items, Dandelion focuses as much as possible on locally produced items, such as Arkansas honeys, coffees and syrups. Cooper developed both his passion and his practical expertise for selling local and organic during a stint in Portland, Ore., where, besides working as a chef, he helped run a local food co-op.
He and Fincher returned to Arkansas in 2010 and, after securing a bank loan, opened Dandelion in December. Business has been good, and they hope to expand to a larger space in several years, employing an additional two or three people.
But to Cooper, growing Dandelion is more about building the right kind of business than a profitable one. Little Rock “needs an excuse to be healthier,” he said, “and in a sustainable, cheaper way.” They keep several reference books available in the store so customers can study the medicinal properties of herbs and teas. Fincher and Melissa Ayers, who runs the store while Cooper and Fincher work at other jobs, are also available to help find the right mix.
The store, at 419 President Clinton Ave., maintains a Facebook page at Facebook.com/DandelionLLC and can be called at (501) 850-0268.