Peaches this week! The peaches are early peaches. They’re delicious, but they’ll get better every week. Plums will be coming soon. This fruit is coming from Nathan at Sharrah Orchard, located near Gettysburg. I want to write about how Nathan and I met, because he is the biggest reason why my business is what it is today. Now hang tight, because everything that I’m writing – in usual longwinded fashion – is related to the big news for the day, that we have a new vendor coming soon to Creekside.
If you have been shopping with me since 2018 at Bryn Athyn farmers market, you may recall that I only had one table full of produce that I grew in my parent’s backyard and microgreens that I grew in their basement in Huntingdon Valley (thanks mom and dad. You’re the biggest reason why I have a business at all). Another vendor at Bryn Athyn, Tom from Heck of a Cookie, told me about the winter farmers market at Primex, where I decided to sell microgreens since they’re easy to grow all year round.
In the winter of 2018-2019 at Primex, I had one small table up front with microgreens, while Steve from Clay Brick Farms was in the back selling his meats, produce, dairy, etc. One day while at market a man named Ben approached me and told me a secret: Steve is going to retire at the end of winter, which leaves a spot open at the Upper Gwynedd market, which had been his summer market. Ben was the manager of that market, and he invited me to sell my produce there on Thursday afternoons. So, I made a new crop plan to support both Bryn Athyn and Upper Gwynedd markets for the 2019 season.
Ben found other vendors to come to this market at Upper Gwynedd, and one of them was Nathan from Sharrah Orchard. As I got to know Nathan and tasted his delicious fruit, I suggested that he come to Bryn Athyn on Saturdays since we didn’t have an orchardist there. He told me that he had to go to another Saturday market, but he offered that I purchase his fruit to resell at Bryn Athyn. I thought this was a good idea. I asked the Bryn Athyn market manager if this was okay. She was ecstatic that there would be peaches and plums, so I made my first order with Nathan. Didn’t have much to loose after all.
Well that Saturday at Bryn Athyn was a big success. I had a line for the first time. Eventually I realized that I could keep adding items from other farmers I had met and befriended through the years. I called up a mushroom farmer I knew, so that following week I had a third table with fresh mushrooms. Then salmon, and on and on. With every item that I added, the line grew a little longer. Nathan sparked all this.
By the time the Thursday market at Upper Gwynedd started, it was common knowledge that Steve from Clay Brick Farm had retired. One of my customers, Rachel, saw that I was gradually adding more and more items from other vendors. And, she suggested that I contact Steve to see if he would be willing to continue farming and sell me his meat. It would relieve him of the long market days coming all the way from Lancaster early in the morning, and he would still be able to farm and have business income. I thought that was a brilliant idea, so I contacted both Steve and the Primex market manager. Everyone was on board. I sold Steve’s meat at Primex during the winter of 2019-2020 along with everything else that I had.
Eventually things grew to the point that I needed a permanent location, which opened almost a year ago. Anyway, I wrote all of this because I want to highlight something I find to be fascinating: small businesses tend to emerge and evolve through relationships and passing ideas. Without my relationships and chance encounters with Tom, Ben, Nathan, and Rachel, I wouldn’t be writing this today.
So this brings me to the big news, which is the result of another relationship. In the coming days at Creekside you’ll see some construction in the spot adjacent from my stand. A contractor is building a kitchen for a chef and good friend of mine to start his business. His name is Tam Fuard and the name of his restaurant will be Haven Local. You can follow him on Instagram.
I met Tam about a year ago back when I was setting up at the Sisters of Holy Redeemer in Huntingdon Valley before Creekside opened. If you’ve been on this newsletter for a while, I’m sure you remember those days. For those of you who joined more recently, Covid had shut down all of my farmers markets, so I sold at first from my parents driveway and then later at that beautiful convent down the road. The list below originated from those times when you would verbalize what you wanted from a safe distance while I’d put the items in a bag. Since I’d help each customer individually in order to maintain distance, the wait was very long. During one Saturday at the convent, Tam, after waiting in line for quite some time, came by and introduced himself and told me about his plans to open a restaurant in which he’d use local food. We had the same values and similar personalities so we instantly became good friends.
Tam invited me to check out the space where he was going to open his restaurant, on the other side of Old York Road inside the building where the Subway, Fitness 19, and Marco Polo are located. I thought it would be much better if he came to Creekside. I wrote him a long, heartfelt email (this newsletter isn’t the only place where I write long emails haha). He got back to me a while later and said he was convinced. I made the introduction to the owners of Creekside and they’ve been working out the details. The lease has since been signed by all parties and construction will begin shortly.
A few words about Tam: he’s a great chef, lives a few blocks away from Creekside, and has been trained by superstars in the culinary world. On a more personal level: never have I met anyone who puts such thought and care into every component of a dish. We have had hours of conversation about how food is sourced, how he plans to use every part of an animal so that nothing goes to waste, and about how eager he is to support local farmers while getting to know the Elkins Park community. Tam will be offering high quality soups, sandwiches, savory pastries, meat and cheese plates, rotisserie chicken, and lots more.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big believer in lean businesses: meaning in businesses that do a lot with a little. His space is equally small like my space. It takes real skill and ingenuity to make a small space work for people, for the planet, and for oneself. Tam has this skill and ingenuity, and I can’t wait till the grand opening later this summer.
My experience in my business life has taught me that our relationships, whether close, distant, or passing, are humbling and immensely valuable for overall well-being and productivity. On a large scale, big historical events often unfold through such relationships. And in our own lives, we learn and grow from our interactions with others. Nothing brings people together quite like good, ethically sourced food. Creekside is gradually becoming a hub for such interactions, and I’m happy that Tam will be joining the web.
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