Celebrating 90 years in 2018
Schenck Foods is expanding their tradition of supporting the Blue Ridge Shenandoah Valley by reaching out to our farmers. They will offer them both a distribution system and an opportunity to reach the locals 7 days a week. If you interact with Schencks, you’ll be able to tell straight away that they live and breathe local resourcing, as well as community and relationship building.
“We definitely agree with the mission of Taste of Blue Ridge with a goal to make the region a destination for food. Schenck wants to partner with restaurants to provide their customers with quality products at great prices, while giving them great service!”
It’s almost like Schenck Foods was specifically crafted to fit our mold here at Taste of Blue Ridge and Go Blue Ridge Travel. But they’ve got an impressive resume of roughly 90 years in business, so it’s more like us fitting their mold!
Schenck Food Co. is a family run business, just like it was almost a century ago. True to their word, true to their mission, and true to their customers. Eat local, shop local.
Introducing Jason Huntsberry: Owner and CEO of Schenck Foods
Jason Huntsberry now leads in the tradition of the last three generations. Today, the company continues to thrive with more than 5,000 items in stock. We are a full-service distributor that can also special order to your needs. We also provide outstanding commercial coffee & beverage service and warewash and laundry equipment service – proudly serving more than 4,500 customers within a 100-mile radius of Winchester, Virginia.
Where were you born? Did this impact what you decided to do with your life?
I was born in Winchester. Because it is a small town, I longed to get out, experience the world. I spent 15 years working, traveling and doing just that. But in those travels, I came to respect, appreciate and even miss my home town. Perspective is a powerful tool.
Why a small town food distribution business if your background is corporate America?
Whether it was politics, consulting, PR, or corporate America, I was often hired/retained to solve problems. I believe (humbly) I have a knack for getting dirty and fixing things that are broken. Schencks, while not broken, was in need of a recharge. While certainly not where I thought I would be at age 40, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead an amazing team on behalf of my family. Goes without saying that it’s a privilege to lead a company and follow in the footsteps of my great grandfather, grandfather and father.
Describe to me a typical day at Schenck Foods for you.
This just made me laugh. Not because it’s particularly funny, but because there is no such thing as a typical day here. Ironically, that’s what I love about it. Never a dull moment!
Commitment to locally sourced food…
What is your passion for local sourcing?
Schencks cut its teeth selling, growing and existing locally. With this new effort on local, organic and farm-to-table, we are getting back to our roots. We were boosted by the support we were given 90 years ago from the local community and have strived to give back since then. Too many amazing products are never brought to market because folks don’t have the resources, distribution network or marketing to make their dream a reality. We hope to play a small part in that effort.
How are you promoting this new direction in your business? How many years do you see this transition will need to succeed.
We have taken a three-pronged approach to the rollout. Traditional media – have you seen our new commercial? We have done some radio and print as well. We are also adding in Social Media – we recently revamped our website and have added a softer backdrop reminiscent of local, organic and farm-to-table movements. And finally, our greatest assets are our customers and employees and we are using these two to help spread the word. If you’re growing, you’re NEVER EVER finished – whether that’s personal OR professional growth, but would like to see a fantastic and sustained foot-hold by 2020.
Love of food….
I’ve heard that you are a food person, do you cook yourself?
Haha, I DO cook. And would absolutely consider myself a “foodie.” I cut my teeth under a local former Chef, Mel Piper. He owned and operated Piper’s restaurant in Creekside Village. I was just a baby and Mel and his wife, Renee hired me with a work permit to bus tables. They were SO generous. Mel and Renee fed me and allowed me to learn how the restaurant business works. Part of that was watching hours on end Mel work his magic in the kitchen. Would like to think that, combined with my mom’s delicious, but no frills, country cooking, and endless cooking shows, set the stage for my interest in cooking. While no “chef” for sure, I certainly enjoy being in the kitchen.
With the growth and popularity of Virginia wineries, breweries, and distilleries, which is your beverage of choice to complement a meal?
This is a interesting one for me. I am unabashed about my openness around being a recovering Alcoholic so I have not been fortunate enough to embibe. BUT, many of my friends and colleagues are impressed and enamored with the movement so close to home. While I certainly pass, I believe there are amazing compliments to seafoods, proteins and vegetarian dishes via these impressive new Virginia-based spirit ventures!
What is your favorite food personally?
I was a transplant to Texas, so I have a fondness for Mexican food, but certainly enjoy many vegetarian and ethnic dishes. I was raised on delicious, but basic meat and potato dishes, so you can’t go wrong with a delicious roasted chicken and fresh asparagus. AND…I would describe myself as a healthier eater. Let’s just say this…I plan all of my vacations around the cuisine at the would-be destination! Spent two weeks in France this past summer eating may through all parts of the country. Amazing!
Moving Schencks forward – a small fish in a big pond…
Tell me a little bit about Abby
Where to start?!? Abby is young. Why is that even worth mentioning? Because when I was Abby’s age, I was driven but certainly not as poised, focused or inspired as she is. She’s passionate about food, and especially the local movement, so she is the best person to lead this effort. We are very fortunate to have her as part of the team.
Being a small fish in a big pond, what is Schenck’s strengths that makes it competitive?
My Great Grandfather began this humble business with two key ingredients in mind – world class customer service and quality items. We have ensured that these two elements have pervaded and sustained for ninety years. While we have and will certainly make mistakes, we ALWAYS make it right because we keep our eyes on the prize. The customer is the most important element. People stay with us because they love our people, lead by our top-o-the-heap Sales team.
What is your view of the small farmer and their distribution issues for success.
It’s sad…I think we have seen the country-wide decline of the small and family farmer, but I’m heartened by what I believe to be a resurgence. I only know what we hear. That these amazing small farmers have a world-class product, but no way to get it into the hands of would-be customers. Schencks has 90 years of distribution experience and the most talented drivers in the business. Revamping our walk-in area to focus on local products, we feel we can partner where the “big dogs” and even our competitors won’t. It’s an investment, but a worthwhile one.