Visitors at Sevier Park’s weekly Tuesday farmer’s market can stop by the table manned by the Belmont alumni behind Hot Poppy — Nashville’s newest delivery service.
Hot Poppy is an Instacart for local goods, said co-founder Vinny Maniscalco. Like a farmer’s market in an app, the company partners with small Nashville businesses and helps them grow their base by delivering local products straight to customers’ doorsteps.
“You’re supporting what’s really impacting these people rather than just being a faceless entity like Amazon, where you don’t know anyone behind on its products,” said Maniscalco.
In May 2020, Belmont alumni Maniscalco and Stuart Landis joined forces with Storm Sheler of Nashville State University to bridge the gap between consumer convenience and small, local businesses.
During the beginning months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maniscalco, Landis and Sheler noticed how local farmers and artisans were left out of the quarantine home-delivery boom that big businesses were profiting from. With no shelf space in traditional grocery stores and no business from their usual farmer’s markets, their goods went unsold.
“The little guys were swept under the rug during the pandemic,” said Maniscalco.
Starting off selling coffee from local favorites Bongo Java and Frothy Monkey, Hot Poppy soon expanded their partnerships to other Nashville-area small businesses. From organic produce and vegan foods to cruelty-free home and personal care products, Hot Poppy continues to extend their outreach to a citywide community and build its customer base.
Emily Short, a Hot Poppy customer for over a year, takes advantage of the services because it delivers what she loves right to her, she said.
“I am able to support a variety of small local businesses in one centralized place, as well as support Hot Poppy — who is also a small local business!” Short said.
“I feel good about where my money is going and who it is going to,” she said.
Hot Poppy gives its local suppliers a platform to showcase their goods to a wider market and get them to customers like Short. Their best seller? Farm-fresh eggs from partners right in Middle Tennessee.
“They really fly off the shelves!” Maniscalco said.
One of Hot Poppy’s egg vendors is Heniscity Farms, owned by Cynthia Capers.
She began the business in 2017, and since partnering with Hot Poppy, Heniscity Farms has thrived, with egg sales increasing by 50%, Capers said.
To connect with small businesses like Heniscity Farms, Nashville-area customers can place a Hot Poppy order online or with the Hot Poppy app, where they can browse product categories and choose what local goods they would like.
“I eat a plant-based diet and I have had plenty of awesome options provided for me as well as a separate ‘vegan’ category to make that super easy to shop,” Short said.
Customers can also order a surprise box curated by the founders themselves.
From there, Hot Poppy drivers hand-deliver the products to their customer’s porches.
“We are not triangulating a random driver to a random grocery store. We have all the products ourselves, and we have the drivers,” said Maniscalco.
Though Hot Poppy is a young company, the team behind it is looking ahead to growth in the future.
Maniscalco, Landis and Sheler plan to strengthen the company’s roots in Nashville by partnering with more local vendors. They are currently working on creating a subscription model to debut in the fall with the goal of creating steadier business for seasonal farmers and artisans.
“We help local businesses achieve their dreams by growing their businesses,” said Maniscalco.
PHOTO: Belmont alumni Vinny Maniscalco (left) and Stuart Landis (right) at their Sevier Park farmer’s market booth. Hot Poppy / Jake Chestnut.
This article was written by Lauren Campbell and Melody Scott.