he Story of Southern Season
A Southern Season's original 800 sq. ft. store opened in 1975 as a tiny coffee roastery and had one employee, owner Michael Cooper Barefoot. Driven by an intense love of food and a deep respect for quality, along with a healthy measure of down-home horse sense, Michael set his vision on introducing specialty foods to the Research Triangle area of North Carolina.
Initially operating on something less than a shoestring budget, projections required average daily receipts of $312 to keep the doors open. Posted hours during the first year were 9am-9pm, but the shop never closed until sales had reached $312, sometimes past midnight.
Customer enthusiasm and demand for a more extensive selection of gourmet specialty food items prompted a move to its larger Eastgate Shopping Center location in 1978. Numerous expansions have occurred since, including a major 1992 renovation which expanded the Eastgate store to 28,000 sq. ft.
A Southern Season has been dedicated to excellence - the finest products and service, and a public image of elegance and taste. Featured in The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, Southern Living, Gourmet Retailer, profiled in a "Food Finds" segment on FoodTV Networ, and featured in a “Blue Ribbon” segment on Turner South, A Southern Season was declared "wall to wall and floor to ceiling ... a visual and gustatory delight!" after a visit by Craig Claiborne (1921-2000) of The New York Times.
In September 2003, A Southern Season opened a new flagship gourmet emporium at University Mall, just down the road. At 59,000 sq. ft., the landmark market nearly doubled in size, becoming one of the largest specialty-only gourmet markets in the US.
In its current location, A Southern Season features CLASS, Culinary Lessons at A Southern Season, a state-of-the-art cooking school with plans to offer at least 250 class/demonstrations featuring approximately 50 visiting culinary experts and 25-30 celebrity chefs each year.
Today A Southern Season employs more than 250 people and enjoys sales approaching $31 million. Its popular Weathervane restaurant showcases an ever-changing menu of creative seasonal fare using many of the store's specialty products.
From a separate 80,000 sq. ft. facility in Hillsborough, NC, A Southern Season operates a fast growing mail order and e-commerce business, along with Carolina Cupboard, a wholesale distributorship. Each year, over 2.5 million catalogs are distributed nationwide.
Online since 1997, the company web site (www.southernseason.com) features current catalog selections as well as store specials, café menus, a monthly newsletter, a calendar of in-store events, CLASS offerings and employment opportunities.
A Southern Season is one of a handful of upscale retailers with boutiques at RDU International Airport. Located in terminals A and C, the two stores are operated in conjunction with The Paradies Shops, one of the country's leading airport retailers. These outlets feature some of A Southern Season's more popular treats, and travelers now can fly with Carolina Cupboard Cheese Straws and North Carolina Peanuts tucked into their bags.
Consistently recognized locally and nationally with "Top Ten" and "Best Gourmet/Specialty Store" awards, A Southern Season was named "Outstanding Retailer of 2004" by the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT). The gourmet market also received the 2004 Gourmet News Retail Leadership award for its focus on education throughout its new 59,000-square-foot store at University Mall.