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Specialty food store in Lutz relying on loyal customers to survive COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 7:47 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 19:48:55-04

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Not all grocery stores have 20 aisles and dozens of employees. Small independent grocers are facing the challenge every day of staying open during the pandemic.

The Main Ingredient in Lutz has more than 100 varieties of specially blended teas and spices, just one of the ways they are trying to set themselves apart from the big box grocery stores.

“The biggest challenge for me is getting people out of the big box stores because you get so consumed you only want to go to one place,” said owner Christina Sweet.

Sweet said she wouldn’t be open without a loyal customer base that spans across the country.

“These are families that are right here locally that have shared us with their family members that are out of state, or our snowbirds that come down and they are no longer here because they went home to stay in their own house and they are still ordering from us,” said Sweet.

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It really is a community effort. The Main Ingredient is also depending on local restaurants.

“A lot of them use our spices, a lot of them use our teas, and we are very fortunate with that,” said Sweet.

Sweet hopes the rest of Tampa catches on to what her regulars already know — that her tea is the perfect remedy for a society in fear for their health.

“A lot of them have to do with calming your nerves, vitamins and minerals to keep your immune system up,” said Sweet. “So we are really happy that people are calling and telling us that the tea is really helping bring their spirits up and relax them from the situation.”

The grocer’s revenue is down about 60% in the past month. So far, they have been able to keep all seven of her employees.

“Remember, we are still here, and we are working 100 times harder,” said Sweet.

For more information, go to themainingredient.org.