Photo for Nashville Business Journal by Martin B. Cherry
By Julia Masters Reporter, Nashville Business Journal
The Turnip Truck has been a Nashville favorite since 2001 when John Dyke opened the first store in East Nashville.
Last Wednesday, the grocer — which sources from over 80 local vendors — announced its fourth location in Midtown, set to open in 2023.
Dyke — raised on a farm in Greene County, Tennessee — has expansive growth plans for the next chapter of Turnip Truck that go beyond his new Vanderbilt neighborhood location.
“I have a map and it has about eight different spots … I know where I want to go, I know the areas,” Dyke said in an interview. “A couple of the spots that I am look at right now would be Madison, Franklin, Mt. Juliet and there are about three or four others.”
When planning a new location, Dyke gets demographic reports on areas he is eying. He will then look for opportunity in a specific piece of property.
“Our vision is to be Nashville’s most local, trusted grocer. To me, Nashville is Metropolitan Nashville, I don’t look at the core,” Dyke said. “Our next venture, and we are looking at it in several different angles right now, we need to create a central commissary-type kitchen.”
The commissary would allow Turnip Truck to have consistency in both recipes and food service across its different locations.
If a large enough piece of real estate is found, Dyke would like to create a store, commissary and warehouse at the same location.
“I could have better buying purchases, better patrol over food, better consistency and be able to look at how we provide these services and build a culture where people that want to grow with the Turnip Truck, we can take care of them,” Dyke said.
The new Midtown location, creating around 100 to 125 jobs, will become a much-needed service in the area, both as a place for professionals and students to grab a quick meal and shop. The Turnip Truck’s space between Lyle and 20th avenues has around 80 parking spots for customers.
“That area, there’s really not many grocery stores and the one grocery store on the other side of Vanderbilt is getting ready to shut down,” Dyke said.
Located in 23,500 square feet of Vanderbilt University’s new graduate and professional student housing, the store will have increased food service offerings in addition to traditional Turnip Truck inventory.
There will be an expanded coffee and juice bar, fresh pizzas, acai bowls, fresh sushi and a build-your-own-burger bar.
A large part of the Turnip Truck’s success is its commitment to high quality produce and its business model of being a reflection of customer feedback, Dyke said.
“We have not waivered off why I set off to do what I did 21 years ago, and it’s always been about this passion of produce. It’s been about local produce, but mainly around organic produce,” Dyke said. “I think sometimes we forget what food is about. … We forget as individuals to slow down and enjoy food.”
Dyke referenced the fresh strawberries he just got in, picking one up, feeling its texture, looking at its color, before just biting in.
Beyond produce, Dyke has 60 grass-fed black angus steer raised in a manner that regenerates the soil and has honey-bee hives at the East Nashville store.
Today, most people that frequent Turnip Truck don’t know it by any other name. But when Dyke opened the store, it was called The Good Earth Market.
Later the name was changed after Dyke said the old Southern expression, “I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.”
“My favorite part is watching people come in and want to change their lifestyle and eat a healthier way, and watch them keep showing up,” he said.
Though Dyke was determined to get away from his farming background, graduating from The University of Tennessee, he eventually came back to the values it instilled in him: hard work and dedication.