How Verde co-owner Jennifer Ferrebee launched a feel-good food staple in Charleston
The Mesa Verde, a Southwestern-inspired salad, outsells all other menu items by about 10 to one; (inset) Verde co-owner, Jennifer Ferrebee
To say that friends and family were skeptical when Jennifer and Sam Ferrebee announced plans to open Verde, their fast-casual eatery on King Street nearly a decade ago, would be an understatement. Jennifer remembers being questioned about not just the decision to open a restaurant when neither she nor her husband had ever worked in one, but also their choice to serve mainly salads. “The biggest surprise that first year was that our plan worked,” says Jennifer. In fact, the Ferrebees got a lot right. Of the nine signature creations that debuted on their first menu, seven are still featured today.
The couple, who met as undergrads at Virginia Tech and moved to the Holy City in 2005, toyed with opening a salad-focused restaurant after spending time in Washington, DC, and New York City, where fast-casual concepts seemed to be popping up all over the place. With a specific focus on providing healthier options for busy professionals, “we felt like this was exactly what we needed in Charleston,” says Jennifer.
It took two years to find the right space on King Street, near the College of Charleston campus. But since launching their flagship, a short stroll from Marion Square, in October 2011, they’ve opened four more locations: two in Mount Pleasant, one in Avondale, and recently, one further afield in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Convenience, quality, and value contribute to Verde’s success. Dressings, cookies, soups, and grain bowls are made from scratch, available via online delivery, and cost about $10.
“Above all, we wanted our customers to leave physically feeling good,” says Jennifer. “If you eat healthy and that’s your lifestyle, a salad is something you can have multiple times a week.”
Verde regularly rotates seasonal options, and Limehouse Produce supplies their mostly local produce. During the summer, Jennifer notes that Give Peach a Chance (baby spinach and arugula, South Carolina peaches, red onion, goat cheese, and pecans with champagne vinaigrette) is a fresh favorite, as is the recently debuted Hot Little BBLT salad, made with romaine and arugula, heirloom tomatoes, bacon, blue cheese, Callie’s Biscuit croutons, and buttermilk dressing.
The day that Jennifer knew their efforts had made an impact on Charleston customers arrived on Verde’s first anniversary for the “365 Celebration.” The Ferrebees charged $3.65 per salad to commemorate the occasion. Limehouse made a record six deliveries throughout the afternoon to the King Street location, supplying produce for more than 1,200 salad orders. Eight years on, Verde is set to ring in its next 365 Celebration on October 21.
“And to think,” muses Jennifer, “no one believed we were gonna last this long.”