Texas C-store Joins Local Food Movement

AUSTIN, Texas -- Whip In, which for more than 20 years has served as a convenience store with a notable beer selection, recently evolved into a sweet spot for the local food movement, The Atlantic reported.

The store, situated on the western access road between Exits 232 and 233 of I-35, now offers Indian food, dozens of taps of the country's highest quality microbrews, a broad selection of artisanal products, a nascent beer garden, and a small stage showcasing the city's musical talent.

Owner Dipak Topiwala's father, Amrit, opened the convenience store in 1986. Today, Topiwala said he operates the store according to an "old-school way of thinking" which he learned from his father. "You can't [dump] on your employees and producers. They deserve to get what they're due," Topiwala explained of his perspective.

He actively cultivates personal ties with his suppliers, to whom he's happy to pay a premium for the value they add to their ingredients. His dairy products come from Water Oak Farms, a goat farm outside Houston, or from White Mountain Foods (all organic).

Beef comes from the Bastrop Cattle Co., a grass-fed operation located down the road. Lamb -- an exceedingly popular ingredient in Whip In's repertoire -- is sourced from Loncito Cartwright, who runs a 600-head sheep farm in Dinero, Texas.

Topiwala's vegetables are delivered by Farm to Table, an Austin company that distributes produce from 15 local farms, or through Segovia Produce, which sources as much local produce as it can. Mushrooms come from Kitchen Pride, a mushroom farm in Gonzales.

So loyal is Topiwala to his array of suppliers that when Sysco showed up promising to cut costs, his answer was immediately no. "You're not going to beat quality," Topiwala said.

Family is also central to Whip In's culture. "Parenthood changes you, and with the exception of the beer (for now anyway), everything in here should be healthy for my daughter," he said.

Plus, given that all the recipes -- including the naan bread -- come from his mother's kitchen, it's no wonder Whip In vigilantly seeks out the finest ingredients, according to the report.

"We know what we like, so we'll make what we like," said Topiwala.

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