Grocery shopping is NOT one of my favorite chores, yet if my family wants to eat, it is something I need to do frequently. I often find myself in a rut, going up and down the same aisles, tossing the same processed and prepackaged foods into my cart, along with some colorful produce so I can attempt to create a balanced meal.

Can any other mamas out there relate?

Before you grab your grocery list and head out to one of the Big Box stores yet again, consider one of the amazing alternative grocery stories in Hendricks County, Indiana. Not only will you find specialty items for every unique palate and dietary need, but you will also discover a world of new taste sensations and plenty of Indiana-sourced products.

These locally run stores also pull out all the stops when it comes to customer service and shopping options!

The Hayloft in BrownsburgThe Hayloft grazing box

Sarah Adams opened The Hayloft in May 2017. Initially, she wanted to open a wedding barn that would also include a farm-to-table store, restaurant, winery and more. But when those plans fell through on the property she had in mind, she set her sights a bit smaller and opened The Hayloft. The Hayloft has built a loyal following, and even in this difficult year, the customer base has doubled.

The Hayloft prides itself on being a specialized store, so they don't carry some of your everyday products but instead focus on local and gourmet goods.

I can attest to their phenomenal grazing boxes and dessert boxes after devouring the delectable contents during a recent at-home virtual wine tasting party! The grazing boxes are basically a charcuterie board (in a box) that you can take to go and are filled with tons of tasty treats. The boxes are made to order, so they are always fresh.

Cupcakes at The Hayloft (Photo courtesy of The Hayloft Facebook page)The Hayloft specializes in cakes, pies, cheesecakes, and coffee cakes, but their cupcakes are their bestsellers and with good reason! Cupcakes are made fresh daily with the assortment varying between their more than 90 scrumptious flavors.

The Hayloft also does special order turkeys for Thanksgiving and hams for Christmas and Easter. The meat selection at The Hayloft is phenomenal. According to Sarah, Once you try any of our beef, pork, chicken and turkey products you won’t ever go back to a regular grocery store for meat!

Throughout the pandemic, The Hayloft never completely shut down but Sarah did add some new ways to serve her customers. Both curbside and delivery options were added and continue. Online ordering is also available for those not ready to shop in person.

The Beehive in DanvilleThe Beehive market

Betsy Bassett started The Beehive about eight years ago when she was just 22 years old. The Beehive serves up baked goods, salads, soups, sandwiches and a full espresso bar on the cafe side for those who want to sit and eat or for those who prefer a grab-and-go snack or meal.

On the market side of the store, The Beehive offers honey, maple syrup, kombucha, beet kvass, elderberry syrup, eggs, tea and coffee as well as handmade gifts. Betsy strives to make everything in-house and sources their items in the market side locally whenever possible.

The Beehive Market Danville Indiana Town SquareWhen COVID hit, the biggest surprise for Betsy was how much the casseroles from their freezer took off. The Beehive used to offer just one type of casserole a week in the freezer section, and now they offer around five different options each week. Just some of the rotating casserole options found in the freezer include lasagna, chicken alfredo, bacon cheeseburger and chicken enchilada.

Customers love to grab the ready-to-cook casseroles for a loved one or for their own family on a busy work night! Betsy is grateful for the tremendous community support The Beehive has received during the pandemic. She credits the local community for rallying behind the store and ensuring they had plenty of business during this challenging time.

To help meet the various needs and comfort levels of their customers, The Beehive offers call-ahead ordering with carry out as well as in-house dining. I know I will be heading to The Beehive soon to pick up a tasty casserole from their freezer!

The Real Food Shoppe in PlainfieldThe Real Food Shoppe storefront

Tabatha Starr purchased The Real Food Shoppe in Plainfield five years ago after being a stay-at-home mom and previously working in health care. Her youngest daughter experienced developmental delays as well as stomach issues and skin issues, made worse by products the family was using and the foods her daughter was consuming.

The family transitioned to a healthier lifestyle, and Tabatha credits the food and supplements for the positive changes in her daughter’s life. When Tabatha saw The Real Food Shoppe was available for purchase she jumped at the chance to buy it so she could help other families as well. Over the past five years, she has fully transformed the store and made it their own.

Customers of The Real Food Shoppe are much like Tabatha’s family. They are everyday families trying to live a healthier lifestyle and need to do it on a budget. Keeping costs down is top of mind for Tabatha.

The Real Food Shoppe houses a wide variety of health food products, including keto, vegan and gluten-free options. Tabatha plans to expand the home and kitchen section of the store, but that will have to wait until after the pandemic dies down.

The Real Food Shoppe specializes in products for a healthier lifestyleMany customers are dealing with chronic pain, stress and anxiety, and The Real Food Shoppe carries a variety of vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory medicines. CBD oil, turmeric and ginger are some of the most requested items. The shop also has an extensive bulk herb and spice section with more than 75 options, which customers commonly utilize for improving immunity, mixing in teas or just for the cost savings.

During 2020, Tabatha made accommodations to assist her customers as much as possible, including conducting personal shopping sessions via Facetime with curb-side pickup during the two months when the storefront was shut down to walk-in customers.

Like many small business owners, Tabatha has gotten creative with how to stay afloat and meet her customers’ needs. Unlike big grocery stores, when you call The Real Food Shoppe you get an actual person, usually Tabatha, who can answer questions, find what you need and make suggestions.

If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that having food staples on hand is a really good idea, especially if family members require specialty food items. The Real Food Shoppe is happy to assist customers with bulk shopping and offers a generous case discount for those who wish to stock up.

The Real Food Shoppe is keeping its staff small to limit exposure during COVID. They currently offer in-store shopping and are happy to provide curb-side pickup as needed.

Remember to Shop Small

Based on my interactions with these three small business owners, I can attest to their commitment to the community and their gratitude to their loyal customer base in Hendricks County. Please continue supporting these amazing alternative grocery stores and all the small businesses that make Hendricks County a great place to call home and visit.