For Wilson Richey, partnering with local producers is a cornerstone of restaurant ownership. “Working with local farmers, artisans, and foragers is the very pinnacle aspiration for my personal life and that of all my businesses,” he says. Owner of six eateries in Charlottesville, including The Whiskey Jar, Will has ample opportunity to seek out these types of producers, and he does so with gusto.
The Pie Chest, which Will co-owns with head baker Rachel Pennington, sources wheat flours and cornmeal from Byrd Mill in Ashland and Woodson’s Mill in Lowesville. As often as possible, the bakery sources fruit—such as berries, apples, and peaches—for its pie fillings from local orchards and farms, including Will’s long-standing relationship with Chiles Peach Orchard in Crozet. Savory pies also offer a wealth of local sourcing opportunities, including mushrooms from Sharondale Farm, chicken from Shenandoah Valley Organic, and sausage and eggs from Frog Hollow Family Farm.
At The Alley Light, Will notes, Bar Manager Micah LeMon’s innovative style for crafting cocktails lends itself perfectly to the inclusion of natural products, such as roots, dried fruits, herbs, and barks, some of which are foraged by Digger Jays Wild Edibles of Verona, Virginia. “Micah uses all these things to create mixers for the various drinks he fashions,” Will says. “They are a delight, echoing the natural flavors of our region.”
Will hopes to expand the collective understanding of how local economies can thrive through the support of local producers. “Folks don’t always know how hard the farmers, cultivators, foragers, craftsmen, and artisans in our culinary arena work to bring excellence to the table,” he says. “I am glad to have a place to help tell that story.”
In Our Local Commons, Vol. III, The Whiskey Jar sponsored a story about The Pie Chest and a tutorial on craft cocktails. Order the book today to learn more about these businesses and try out some excellent pie and cocktail recipes.