The Oberon Group, based in New York, operates Rhodora, June and Rucola as well as Purslane catering company. Here, as part of our Stories from the Front Lines series, owner Henry Rich shares how the company is adapting while staying true to its roots.
The biggest challenge is adapting to so many shocks while needing to stay nimble on our feet. We abruptly lost our cash flow and our daily work routine, had to lay off our extended work families, while being under personal health and financial risk. In those same moments, we’re retooling all four of our businesses with new service offerings as fast as we can to keep our heads above water.
Our mission has always been to serve our communities. Now we’re serving people in completely new ways. With Rhodora, we created a community around natural wine and sustainability so all current endeavors have built on that same philosophy: We’re now offering a weekly Rhodora Wine Club subscription as well as a weekly vegetable CSA [community supported agriculture, which is a subscription-based produce service]. Our in-person sustainability meet-ups have pivoted to online. All our physical concepts (Rhodora, June and Rucola) have shifted to online delivery platforms as well as wine retail shops.
The biggest shift has been in our zero-waste and carbon-neutral catering company Purslane. Our typical functionality — celebrating with people in large groups such as weddings, corporate retreats, bar and bat mitzvahs and birthdays — has been completely put on pause. We’ve pivoted into Purslane Provisions, which provides food into people’s homes while continuing our sustainability ethos. We’re now offering weekly meal drops, a vegetable CSA program as well as pantry and specialty items to hopefully still be there for our guests and clients.
No one knows what will happen, but it’s clear that a great deal of rebuilding will be required across our industry. The question for us is how can we recreate around the fundamental values of our group: Helping limit the ecological cost of our industrial food system, taking greater ownership over our impact, and promoting carbon-neutral, zero-waste practices.