The newest addition to West Lemon Street serves the Lancaster community as a full-service grocery store. The market provides customers with an opportunity to shop sustainably, organically, and locally.
Similar to the market, there's many options to choose from here at Project Green Lancaster:
We’ve talked about the idea and concept of the Market, but not in detail. With five owners, one would imagine there would be five different ideas. The unique aspect of Lemon Street is that each of the owners agrees on what they want they market to be.
They’ve modeled and picked what’s being offered on the shelves after their own diets. They want the Lancaster community to have access to the same products they’ve discovered outside the area, but also at an affordable price.
These products fall under a number of terms frequently used in the “Green” world, even perhaps without people understanding what they really mean. To grasp the owners’ concept, let’s take a closer look at each of those terms.
First: local. This is simple. Products that are grown, made, or produced in your area. Generally these products are fresher, and therefore taste better. Buying local also stimulates the local economy, while helping local farmers stay viable.
Second: sustainable. In the last few years, as it seems our natural environments deteriorate, large efforts have been made to preserve and protect. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides us with a definition of sustainability we can all relate to.
Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.
Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.
How is the market sustainable? The food being sold there largely comes from our natural environment, Lancaster County. The EPA has begun to crack down on pollution, which is minimized by both vendors selling locally, and consumers buying locally. While sustainability may be overused, the owners feel this is what guides their decisions. They look at each vendor and ask if the vendor has similar values in terms of food and environment, and the way that each vendor’s workers are treated.
Third: fair trade. The market has decided all chocolate sold will be fair trade. While the term may sound familiar, some may have never grasped the meaning and Trish explained it in a very simple way.
Fair trade means the product is made fairly. The workers are paid well, the working conditions are safe and acceptable, and the company producing the product is conscious of the environment they’re working in.
The first is Certified Organic. Anyone who produces, processes, or handles organic agricultural products must be certified by a USDA-accredited certifier in order to sell, label, or represent products as organic. In Pennsylvania, the certifier is aptly named Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO).
PCO sends an inspector to perform an evaluation of the organic operation and based on the review, PCO determines whether the operation meets all requirements in order to acquire organic certification.
The second type is Organic (Not Certified). This is not a production plan or process, but more an approach to farming. According to PA Buy Fresh, Buy Local, Organic (Not certified) aims to create integrated, humane, environmentally and economically sustainable agricultural production systems.
Each of those aspects contributes to the final product: a full service grocer where you are able to purchase each basic item on your grocery list. The selection may be smaller than your average grocery store; but it can be easier to shop when you have two or three choices rather than ten.
The products stocked at the market help to bring the focus back on healthy food. Since 1960, the nutritional value of our produce has decrease by almost 40%. That decrease is largely in part to the amount of chemical fertilizers being used each day. Larger agro-businesses put chemical fertilizers on a field to grow one particular product. They use enough to kill any other type of plant that could potentially be grown there. At that point, most of the nutritional value and flavor has been drained.
The market takes the four aspects listed, and provides the community with a selection of good, healthy, eco-friendly food.
How it came to be…
The market was just an idea for a number of years. There was no true-blue “business plan;” but the owners had a grasp on what services they wanted to provide. They wanted a full-service grocery store. That’s easier said than done. Take a walk down any grocery store isle and you realize how hard picking products to stock really can be.
Knowing that they wanted to offer the community a full service grocer, that put a few restrictions on the space that needed to be occupied. Looking for retail space can be difficult, and with the current economical conditions, most available spaces were too expensive. Since they had the plan to offer products well below suggested retail, being realistic about rent was a cruel reality.
Their luck would change as Kharran knew someone who had been renting the space at 241 West Lemon. The space had once been the Connections Café, an internet café run by the Boys and Girls Club. Most recently, it was occupied by Auction Inn, an eBay marketing company.
The rent was reasonable, and the space was in the middle of a neighborhood in the midst of being revitalized. The Market would be the perfect addition.
…And so it began.
The five owners moved quickly to put together a business plan, but first wanted to take care of the things that were most important. In order to acquire a seating area, they needed to apply for a zoning variance. All had agreed they didn’t want to move forward without the café seating. The process had taken longer than they had hoped, but with the approval the owners moved on to the next order of business.
Next on their To-Do list was applying for permits and inspections. Professional drawings were required, and construction began in July. In September, the market held a soft opening. Since part of the inventory had been located elsewhere prior to the opening, there were products that needed to be sold prior to their expiration date. The soft opening also allowed the market to begin to welcome the community prior to the October Grand Opening.
Who’s behind it?
The Lemon Street Market is a combination of 3 businesses, and 5 people. To make it simple, we’ll break it down.
First: ABUNDANT EARTH – Trish Haverstick, Lolita Haverstick
Abundant Earth, also based in Lancaster, is an organic and natural grocery co-op that offers below retail prices. The Kitchen’s mission is to make gluten free foods, using local and organic ingredients whenever possible. At a young age, Trish’s daughter was diagnosed with a number of food allergies. Trish and her daughter have now been gluten free for ten years. From that came Abundant Earth.
Trish’s mother, Lolita, started helping with the co-op in 2010. She loves cooking and appreciated the allergen free food, as there were not many local sources. Lolita had always wanted to contribute to a market, but didn’t have an outlet. Abundant Earth provided her with one. Trish and Lolita specialize in baked goods, and but are just starting to figure out what products they really love.
Second: GREEN CIRCLE ORGANICS – Laura Stauffer Sisay
Laura had previous Market experience as she also has a produce stand at Central Market in Downtown Lancaster. Since 2003, Laura has made an effort to support local, organic farmers in our area. She was eager to expand to Lemon Street to provide produce seven days a week.
Laura strives to provide as much local produce as possible. All products are either chemical-free, organic, or IPM- integrated pest management. IPM meaning there is a bug control plan in progress, however they use as few chemicals as possible to control the bugs. There are certain products, like tree fruits, that are hard to grow without sprays to control insects.
Laura makes an effort to keep customers informed as to what’s available on the Market’s Facebook page as well. Extremely helpful when planning a menu for the week.
Third: SOLEIL LUNA COMPANY – Kharran Cattell, Juan Jaramillo
Soleil Luna was the last piece to the puzzle: the juice bar. They opened a few months after the grand opening, in January. While sugar based juices are often the favorites, too much sugar can be a bad thing. Kharran and Juan will be focusing on green juices first, with fruit and vegetable add-ins likely.
The add-ins coming from the market’s produce selection, of course. The juice bar allows the market to reduce waste by offering products that may not have been sold as a single item, to be added in to your juice drink. Depending on what’s in season, your options could be apple, lemon, carrots, beets, or cucumbers. Green juices in more ways than one!
It’s from where?
One of the long-term goals the owners have as they begin to settle in is to label where each product is from. There are as many local products as possible on the shelves, but there are a small few that aren’t. There are also certain products a full service grocer needs to stock that can’t be grown in Lancaster. As Lemon Street notates where each product is from, and why, customers learn more about the food they buy and consume daily.
For example, tomatoes are a seasonal product in our area. Vendors selling tomato products, such as sauces and salsas, often have to go outside the area, even as far as California, to get the best of the best. Water content plays a large part in the taste of a tomato product, and vendors may use the same outside sources for consistency in their products sold locally.
Wheat is another example of a product that must be brought in from outside our area. Because of the humidity and dampness of our environment, Deoxynivalenol, often referred to as vomitoxin, produces scabby kernels on grains and poses a threat to humans and animals when consumed.
This brings a new term to light: glocal. Looks like a combination or global and local? You’re right. Thinking globally and acting locally. Each product that can’t be produced or grown in your community can have a global and local impact. Thinking glocally can overcome obstacles that would otherwise seem unavoidable. Ideas, like Lemon Street, were typically only thought of in larger cities. Now Lancaster community members can have the best of both worlds. Small town feel, with big city shopping.
While Abundant Earth, Green Circle Organics, and Soleil Luna are the three companies contributing to the ownership of Lemon Street Market, there are a number of local companies also contributing.
Chestnut Hill Café has opened an extension of their café located on West Chestnut Street in the market. They feature pour over and French press coffee each morning. They offer a number of teas as well. To-go breakfast foods like bagels, burritos, and coffeecakes are also available. As success continues, Chestnut Hill will look to expand their menu at the market.
Cobblestone Cook also contributes at Lemon Street. Wednesdays and Thursdays are hot soup days. The market always stocks cold soup in the fridge you can heat up or freeze, as an alternative to canned soup. Cobblestone Cook also features a selection of baked goods as well.
Abundant Earth Kitchen, an extension of Abundant Earth, also provides to-go foods. There are always sandwiches and salads stocked in the fridge, all of which are gluten free. The Kitchen portion of Abundant Earth is still narrowing its focus, but will play a large part of the to-go food world at the market.
A Local Market How-To
If an idea like Lemon Street intrigues you, and perhaps you feel your community needs something like this, the market’s owners have a few recommendations; take it from them- they just did it!
Know your local options.
You can’t have a local market without local products. Research your area and find out what products are most valuable, as well as most popular. You may have to search for a lot of vendors. Not every vendor is looking for places to sell their product. They recommend starting at a farmers market. Mostly local, and all friendly. A great resource for piecing together your vendors list.
Have a vision, and find what fits it.
There are a few different options a local market can take. You can have handpicked products, be a specialty store, or be a full-line store. Each of those requires different types of vendors as a full-line store requires bigger distributors. Handpicked products may require more research and work, but if the store finds a niche, it can do really well. They suggest finding the products that fit your vision and not letting the products dictate your vision.
Don’t be cheap.
Brutal, but honest. Use multiple contractors, or find a reliable general contractor when it comes to construction. You need to build something that will last and impress the customer while helping sell the product. Don’t get frustrated when things take longer than you had planned.
Understand some vendors may not be familiar with a retail setting.
If you find some of your vendors in a farm market setting, keep in mind their products may not easily transfer to a retail setting. One common problem is labeling. In a farm market setting, consumers typically view products from the top. In a retail setting, products are typically viewed from the side. If there is no side label, this will likely lead to questions from your customers. Be prepared to answer those. Also, don’t be afraid to suggest to your vendors they try something new. You’re only helping them in the end.
Allow yourself plenty of time to set up.
Don’t rush an opening. If you don’t have the right amount of product on the shelves, or the product your most excited about offering, your customers will be confused and may not come back a second time if they don’t like what they see. Most people give things a try only once; it’s a product of our society. Things won’t always go smoothly- so don’t be frustrated when you seem to have fallen behind on your timetable.
It’s about customer demand.
Your customers are most important, as they are the people who ultimately have to like your product(s). If one person asks about a product, assume there are 10 others wondering the same thing. This also coincides with knowing your product. Some of your customers may be first time shoppers and may not know how to incorporate a particular product or ingredient into their meal. You should be able to answer those types of questions, as those interactions likely keep them shopping in your store.
Is it worth it?
The short answer is: Yes! The owners take pride in the atmosphere they have created. There is a communal sense while shopping there. Whether a first time buyer, or a repeat customer, you share the same interests and curiosity. There’s a great chance of meeting someone new from your neighborhood daily. The owners love to see the excitement of their customers when they come through the door. Markets certainly aren’t new to Lancaster, in the heart of Amish Country, but Lemon Street is. The owners are eager to interact with their customers and help members of the community find good, healthy food choices; and not pay too much for it.
Above are 4 flavors of Shrub: Apple, Lime, Cherry, and Raspberry. And no, this is not for the bushes in front of your house. Shrub was a drink consumed during the Colonial time period, hence the appropriately themed labels. They would often serve water flavored with fruits or spices, preserved with water, and sweetened with sugar after working long days. Now you too can taste the Old World, sans the long day of work.
Mix your favorite flavor with water (carbonated or plain) and ice. If you're feeling adventurous mix with ice tea or ginger ale. If you're of age, Shrub can be mixed with vodka, gin, and even Sangria (responsibly, of course).
Mule feed comes from Solano Nuts... Nuttin' fresher. (Get it?!) No this is not actual mule feed, it's human feed! It's a combination of the their favorites: peanuts, almonds, cashews, and pastachios. This monumental mix even includes craisins and dark chocolate chips. Great as a snack or an after dinner treat, something for the health nut and the sweet tooth.
There are a few things Lancaster is truly know for: Amish county, farming, and fall foliage. That’s starting to change. As Downtown Lancaster is revitalized and prominent business brought back to it’s busiest parts, the necessity for good food outlets becomes more apparent. Lemon Street finds itself in the middle of it all.
Complete with a coffee bar and a juice bar, the market looks to satisfy almost every potential shoppers needs. While the owners have modeled what’s on the shelves after their own diets, they’re not afraid to branch out and stock an idea their customers needs. At the end of the day it’s about the people that shop there, and what they’re buying. The market provides community members an opportunity to shop in a healthy way.
Perhaps you’ll find yourself cooking a healthier meal more often each week, or even experimenting in the kitchen more than you had before. The diverse number of products and ingredients provide you with an opportunity to begin a healthier lifestyle. Each owner is knowledgeable and eager to share that knowledge with customers.
What’s the benefit to drinking milk from a grass-fed diary, such as Natural by Nature? How much healthier are local meats compared to big business brand-name chains? Is there a difference in eggs when they chickens aren’t confined as opposed to when they are? All of these questions have an answer that can be found at the market. Most will be surprised what they learn about they food they were, or are, consuming daily and even more surprised by what they learn about their community.
Our community ties can run deep, and the market is another way to strengthen those ties. Not only do you live in your community, you develop relationships with those around you, frequent local eateries and perhaps even support your local vendors. Meeting new people and trying new foods is exciting, but beginning to understand what you’re buying and how it affects the community can be fulfilling. Feeling connected, in more ways than one, to the community you live in has true rewards; not only for you, but the community as well.