If only I had made my visit to Five Rivers Market in Orangeburg before the holidays, it would have been the perfect spot to pick up a basket of South Carolina specialty food items for everyone on my gift list.
A farmers and gourmet food market opened in a 4,500-square-foot section of Five Rivers, and you can find every type of food here, from grass fed beef, pork and lamb to casseroles ready for the oven to fresh milk, cheese and eggs to jams and jellies. Almost all of the products are made in South Carolina.
Bert Shuler opened the main market of Five Rivers in April 2011, and it is a huge area where vendors sell antiques, jewelry, arts and crafts, furniture and more. It took some time for him to decide what to do with the other part of the market, but it has become a one-stop shop for Palmetto State foods.
Among the items for sale are: shortbread and dip mixes from Faithful Foods of Lexington; ice cream, butter and milk from Shumpert Milk of Lexington County; quiches, sauces and seasonings from Blue Moon of Spartanburg; all flavors of jams, jellies and butters from Rina's Kitchen of Summerville; cake mixes from Sugah Cakes in Spartanburg.
There also are steaks and ground lamb from Moss Hill Farms in Springfield and sausage from Sunny Cedars Farm in Sumter. Wines and craft beers, including several South Carolina brews, are available. There are several types of old-fashioned soft drinks, including Blenheim Ginger Ale made in Hamer.
An Orangeburg restaurant, Chestnut Grill, sells fresh chicken salad and several varieties of pimento cheese, including gouda pimento cheese.
The advantage for vendors, both in the main market and the gourmet food market, is that they can rent space to sell their products in the store, but they don't have to be there. The Five Rivers staff takes care of customers and handles sales.
During the holidays, Five Rivers let customers choose food items for personalized gift baskets, in peck or half-peck size. More than 100 were sold.
Shuler's background is not in retail but in commercial building and real estate. His interest in opening Five Rivers grew out of coming up with a new use for an old building.
In the future, Shuler hopes to open a Saturday morning Farmers Market, where farmers could set up their produce display on Friday afternoon but not have to be in the building on Saturday. He also is exploring beginning theme dinners for about 30, with a chef to demonstrate some items in a small demonstration kitchen, and would like to be able to sell coffee and pastries and perhaps some sandwiches at a lunch counter.