Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: Can you find out what’s happened to Roots Hummus in Asheville? The product has disappeared from grocers’ shelves. No one answers the door at their Old Charlotte Highway office, and no one answers the phone. It will be a tragedy if, for some reason, they’ve gone out of business. Great product! Ate my last little bite for lunch and I’m now officially in withdrawal!
My answer: Let’s just put things in perspective here. To be clear, it’s not a brewpub going out of business.
Real answer: I had the same experience as the reader when I went by the Roots Hummus operation at 12 Old Charlotte Highway in East Asheville — no one answered the door, and the parking lot was nearly empty. I also tried the owner, Matt Parris, via cell phone and text, and by leaving a message on the Roots website, but I got no response.
Roots, which started in West Asheville in 2006, is now located on the end of the Highland Brewing property, and Highland owns the space Roots was leasing.
“The only thing I will say about it is, we own the property, and we have not seen a (rent) check since November,” Leah Wong Ashburn, president and CEO of Highland Brewing, told me.
A lawsuit filed Jan. 20 in the Buncombe County Courthouse offers some pretty good details on what’s going on. PNC Bank is suing Roots Organic Gourmet LLC and James Matthew Parris, contending Roots and Parris are in default for multiple loans they have failed to make payments on.
In all, the lawsuit cites four outstanding loans and seeks a total of $2.62 million in repayment. The lawsuit also seeks to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees.
The loans, dating to February 2018, include two lines of credit for equipment, another line of credit for equipment and a large “term loan” that originally was $2.55 million. The total owed on the first two lines of credit is $116,352, while the amount owed on the other line of credit is $364,994 and the term note amount owed is $2.14 million, according to the lawsuit.
In the lawsuit, PNC says it provided notice to the borrower in a Jan. 5, 2023, letter that the loans were in default and demanded immediate payment. But the loans have not been paid.
Brian D. Darer, the Raleigh-based attorney for PNC, declined comment Wednesday.
It doesn’t look like Parris has answered the lawsuit, and I didn’t see an attorney for him listed. On March 3, however, Parris did file a motion for a 30-day extension, which was granted.
These developments are sad, as Roots is a homegrown business (sorry for that terrible pun), and their product was (is?) fantastic. Roots actually billed itself as “The Microbrewery of Hummus.”
For my reader, though, she might be out of luck. I called the Whole Foods stores in East Asheville and South Asheville, and both said they’re out of Roots Hummus and don’t know when it will be back in stock. At the Tunnel Road store, a worker said they haven’t been able to get any in and they’re waiting to hear from Roots.
On its website, Roots states its story began in a 200-square-foot storage room in the back of a West Asheville food co-op.
“From this modest space Matt Parris decided to launch a small takeout business, despite being armed with little more than a food processor and a good dose of naiveté,” the website states. “A Southern outdoor mecca with a hippie flair, Asheville has long been known as a place to get simple, nutritious food, and Matt’s project, Roots Café, was a continuation of this tradition.”
The cafe grew, but Parris decided to focus on the hummus, and the business took off. In 2018, Roots moved into a 27,000-square-foot space at the Highland property, which before Highland took over was formerly the Blue Ridge Motion Picture Studio warehouse.
“This large space has enabled Roots to perfect its fourteen hummus offerings and greatly increase its output,” the website states. “Roots goes through 15,000 pounds of chickpeas in a typical week, and can craft up to 2,400 tubs of hummus an hour.”
Roots said its “business to business” focus “proved to be the highest and best use of resources.”
“That focus has allowed Roots to grow into the most potent brand of artisan dips and spreads in the Southeast, remain 100% independently owned, and build a state of the art 27,000 square foot production facility where we can produce 3,000 pounds of hummus and dips per hour, with capacity to quadruple that volume with very little infrastructure investment,” the company states on its website.
We’ll have to wait to see if Roots will continue production. If I hear anything about that, or anything from Parris, I’ll keep you posted.
Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at email@example.com or 828-337-0941.