Boutique grocery and deli holding down Washington Park

by Joe Murphy

Washington Perk & Provisions co-owner Jayne Johnson serves a customer a cup of coffee. (photo by Joe Murphy)

Jayne Johnston and her children, Spencer and Melissa, scurry about Washington Perk & Provisions, stocking shelves and avoiding the ladder where a man is perched, hanging wire in the rafters.

When I first entered the coffee shop/grocery store/deli I was hoping to grab a sandwich. But the lack of customers, half-stocked shelves and a blank glass counter and empty display case with the appearance of a deli but with no meat or cheese made me think the place wasn’t open yet.

Co-owner John Johnston (with wife Jayne) explained to me that Washington Perk & Provision had its soft opening — the coffee shop and boutique grocery — July 17 and will open fully Saturday, Sept. 18. To celebrate the full opening, Washington Perk & Provisions will have a cookout, open to the public, with meat provided by local Guilford County producer Meadows Family Farms, who will also stock the deli. If you’d like to wet your whistle at the cookout, Washington Perk & Provisions will also sell beer and wine by the glass, or if you’d like a stiffer drink you can cross the parking lot to Swaim’s Grocery, a neighborhood bar the Johnsons also happen to own.

“We want to serve the Washington Park, West Salem and Sunnyside neighborhoods as well as the School of the Arts community,” said John, whose family lives in the area as well. “These neighborhoods are eclectic and diverse, and the closest grocery stores are three miles away. We asked our neighbors what essential grocery products they wanted better access to and they said local and organic, eggs, produce and meat.”

A stroll through the sparsely filled four aisles of the store reveals that they already have organic dairy, juice, frozen vegetables and vegetable chips, peanut butter, sugar, rice drinks and even chocolate syrup. In addition to getting their meats locally from Meadows Family Farms, Washington Perks & Provisions gets their dairy from Guilford County’s Homeland Creamery, their Chai tea from their neighbor and friend Chad and their fair-trade coffee from Larry’s Beans of Raleigh.

Larry’s Beans will be used for the coffee available in the caf’ and in bulk along the aisles. John is quick to add that despite their emphasis on local and organic products, they will also stock their shelves with the more conventional and affordable grocery store staples for the more cash-strapped consumer.

One aisle that is already plentifully stocked is the one against the wall on the far right side: the beer aisle. John admits that he patterned Washington Perk & Provisions’ beer selection after Bestway’s on Walker Avenue in Greensboro.

“Every time I’m in that area I stop by there to find and pick up a beer that I’ve never tried before,” he said. As someone very familiar with Bestway’s beer wall, I can attest that Washington Perk & Provision’s is the only comparable grocer one I’ve seen in the Triad in terms of high-end beer. For the beer snobs they have six-packs of Golden Monkey, Rogue Dead Guy, Stone Ruination, Bell’s Two- Hearted Ale, as well as Founders Dirty Bastard and Cerise. They even have a 100-rated four-pack of La Fin Du Monde (French for “the end of the world”).

Along with grocery store, coffee shop and deli you can also add unofficial public library to Washington Perk & Provisions’ denotations. Along a wall there is a bookshelf with a sign above it reading: “Book exchange: need one, take one, got one, leave one.” The shelf currently houses authors and books including Tom Clancy, Michael Chrichton, Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby and many entries from RL Stine’s Goosebumps series for kids. John attests that they will soon have to add additional shelves, as coffee-shop customers have already donated more books that aren’t on display and are currently housed in the trunk of his car.

I almost forgot to mention, they sell cigarettes, too.

wanna go?

Washington Perk & Provisions 228 W. Acadia Ave.