ASHEVILLE – This installment of Answer Man deals with the disappearance from stores of a popular locally made dip. We received many questions asking, “Where’s the hummus?”
Got a question for Answer Man or Answer Woman? Email Interim Executive Editor Karen Chávez at KChavez@citizentimes.com and your question could appear in an upcoming column.
Question: Quite a few of us are wondering what happened to Roots Hummus. Within a week it was nowhere to be found. I asked a couple of store managers and they said there was a supply issue but had no other information. The Roots website does not give any indication that anything is amiss, except that if you click on “Shop” all of the products say “Out of Stock.” I called their number but the call did not go through. There was a message that the line is not available at this time. They just rebranded recently. It is hard to imagine that they went out of business. In addition to the terrific product, they have been wonderful, contributing members of the community. Is there any hope that my beloved Roots will be available again?
Answer: My family has also been long-time eaters of this locally-made version of the Middle Eastern spread, traditionally made from chickpeas. ( I mean, my kids were born in Asheville and hummus is like this city’s potato salad.) So, it was sad to see it had vanished from store shelves. I too reached out through the website and did a bit of social media combing with, no luck.
It appears a lawsuit filed Jan. 23 might give the answer. In it, PNC Bank of Pittsburgh says it is seeking $2.6 million from the company and owner Matt Parris. That amount includes money owed from loans, interest and attorneys fees.
The Citizen Times reached out to Parris for comment March 14, but got no immediate response. Parris is representing himself, according to the court filings and on March 1 asked for an extension for filing an answer to the bank’s complaint, something the judge granted, giving him until April 3.
Meanwhile, Charlotte hummus maker, Whoomus Foods, posted on Facebook March 14 that it understood Roots “was going out of business.”
“We know this is tough news for them and their community and want to do what we can to help,” the post read. The company invited any Roots employees to apply with them.
Background: Begun as a West Asheville café in 2006, Roots morphed into a popular food producer with the help of financing and education from the nonprofit startup supporter Mountain Bizworks.
The company became known for its environmental ethic and support of teachers and education through its foundation.
By 2018 it had moved into a new 27,000 square-foot facility owned by Highland Brewing located on that beer makers’ East Asheville campus. It was producing 3,000 hummus dips per hour, using 15,000 pounds of chickpeas in a typical week, according to the company website. It is listed as a certified living wage employer by Just Economics WNC, which this year calculated that at $20.10 an hour.
Joel Burgess has lived in WNC for more than 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He’s written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Got a tip? Contact Burgess at firstname.lastname@example.org, 828-713-1095 or on Twitter @AVLreporter. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.