Local producers make Whole Foods debut; Bedside Manor celebrates 20 years

Kelli Swick calls the opportunity “a great accomplishment for me.” Steve Connelly says it “carries a lot of credibility for your product.”

They are talking about being among the new local suppliers whose products will be sold at the new Whole Foods Market that opened Tuesday in Huntersville, at the Northcross Commons Shopping Center on Sam Furr Road.

Connelly’s company, Cheese Creations, produces the Tavern Cheese Spread product line. Swick is founder and owner of Queen of Oats, which makes wheat-free granola, protein bars and breakfast cookies.

When Whole Foods put out the call encouraging local vendors to apply for a chance to get on the shelves at the new store, Connelly saw it as a chance to raise his profile.

Connelly, a native of Lexington, Ky., said he started making old-fashioned beer cheese more than 40 years ago, after a favorite restaurant in town that served the appetizer burned down. He’d make the beer cheese for football parties.

He launched his business after retiring four years ago as a project manager and estimator in the construction industry. His handmade, hand-packed cheese spreads are sold at area farmers markets, as well as in grocery stores near his Tega Cay home and elsewhere, Connelly said. But he had his eye on a bigger goal.

“I wanted to be in Whole Foods awful bad,” he said. “Being identified with Whole Foods carries a lot of credibility for your product.”

Swick felt the same way. She started Cornelius-based Queen of Oats in 2013 after years of making products for her daughter, who has food allergies.

Swick heard about the Whole Foods opportunity through the manager of the Davidson Farmers Market, where she sells her goods.

It’s already been a great year for Swick, whose Queen of Oats business recently was named a finalist in the 2014 Martha Stewart American Made contest, which focuses on handmade crafts, designs, food and style.

“It’s just an honor to be in the Lake Norman store,” Swick says. “It’ll be awesome to see the product on the shelf. That right there is a great accomplishment for me.”

Bedside Manor, the luxury bedding and home decor store located at Specialty Shops on the Park in SouthPark, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.

“My husband and I had moved from Washington, D.C., to Charlotte, bought our first house and I couldn’t find a local source for the things I wanted,” owner Laura Fitch said in an announcement about the anniversary.

“I took the idea of something I loved and matched it with a need and here we are 20 years later.”

In honor of the anniversary, Bedside Manor commissioned a scented candle selling for $46.

Future plans, according to the retailer, include a private line of sheets, and an online bridal registry.