How big is the local food scene in North Carolina? It takes two Edible magazines to cover it all.
The first, Edible Piedmont, was started by Fred Thompson and Belinda Ellis five years ago.
The second, Edible Charlotte, started just over a year ago when food blogger Cat Harris made a phone call and took a chance.
Five issues later, Edible Charlotte is celebrating its first anniversary. It has increased from 10,000 copies for the first issue to 18,000 now, and it’s on track to grow to five issues a year in 2014 and six in 2015.
You can find free copies in racks around town, or get a year’s subscription for $28 at www.ediblecharlotte.com.
Harris admits starting a magazine wasn’t the sanest thing in the current media climate. When a friend showed her an issue of an Edible, part of a chain of magazines around the country that focus on local food, Harris waved it off: “Who starts a magazine these days?”
Then she picked up another Edible while she was on a trip and used it for everything from restaurants to shopping. She started to understand.
At age 35, she was running out of the time when she could take a risk and recover financially if it didn’t work. So she took a chance. She called Thompson, who held the franchise for the Charlotte area, and said, “I think there’s room for both of us in this state.”
Thompson had been thinking the same thing. “I’ve got too much to write about – Greensboro, the Triangle, the Triad,” he says. “I really wasn’t giving Charlotte its due.”
Before she became a publisher, Harris was a blogger. She worked in business consulting and spent her free time cooking, gardening and writing her blog, The First Oyster. Her life was “a lot of hobbies that seemed to go together.”
To make it into a career, she joined with another local writer, Melissa Bashor, who had graduated from Queens University of Charlotte’s masters writing program.
Bashor is the editor. Harris is the publisher and everything else: She sells ads, stocks magazine racks, writes a couple of columns, even tests recipes.
There are more than 80 Edible magazines, from the original, Edible Ojai in California, to Edible Brooklyn and Edible New Orleans.
Each one is hyperlocal, with a feel that reflects its place. Harris and Bashor want their magazine to be consumer-oriented, for someone who wants to cook but is intimidated.
Harris sees Charlotte as a place in constant transition. The edge communities – places like Waxhaw, Belmont and Fort Mill, S.C. – are where things are going on. That’s where rents are cheaper and people are closer to farms and farmers markets.
“If you put a ring around Charlotte, a lot is happening on the outskirts,” she says. “I thought I had a handle on the Charlotte food scene, and I realized it was just a drop in the bucket. There’s a lot more out there than I had realized.”
Join the food conversation at Kathleen Purvis’ blog, “I’ll Bite,” at obsbite.blogspot.com, or follow her on Twitter, @kathleenpurvis.
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