Livin’ La Vida Local
All across the country, as the locavore concept has kicked into high gear, shopping centers are coming full circle with concepts for the common area.
It doesn’t get any more local than this: An Amish family’s recipes are now sold at a Lancaster, PA shopping center. The “buy local” campaigns all across the country have had deep impacts on consumers and retailers. This phenomenon is particularly evident in the super-regional shopping center, Park City Center, located in Lancaster. The chances of discovering new retail concepts in the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside are very high. Just ask Lisa Matzke, Business Development Manager of the center, which has some of the freshest one-of-a-kind specialty leasing concepts in the tri-state area.
The community brims with businesses that were either started by the Amish or products that are sourced from Amish farmers—giving new meaning to producing local, sourcing local and consumers buying local. “The specialty food category and meats and cheese are quite large here. This is where Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and Bavarian Pretzels got their start,” Matzke says, adding that both run corporately owned kiosks at the center. The specialty retail businesses showcased here incorporate varying degrees of local in their operational models.
Amish Family Recipes
An Amish family with a dream to provide the best specialty foods formed Amish Family Recipes over ten years ago. It started with a few salad dressings and grew into a variety of products from other Amish family-owned kitchens. “Local customers love local products and so do we,” says owner Rodney Garber, whose family purchased the business, including a full line-operating store at The Lancaster Central Market, in 2010. The company does what it can to source local producers. Though not Amish themselves, the Garber family members have been influenced by and embody Amish values. Many of the products are named after family members; examples include “Rodney’s Mango Salsa” and “Brie’s Apricot Jam.” The company emphasizes: Taking care of customers and vendors; being good stewards of resources; honoring God and producing awesome products.
The brand has grown and the gift market for specialty food products has exploded. The business has two RMU locations at Park City Center. The second RMU sells framed signs and prints that are framed in tobacco lath, a by-product from the farmlands of the area.
Amish Family Recipes’ advice to other retailers is this: Pay attention to what your customers want, who your customers are (not everyone wants your stuff), and don’t let one or two individuals’ strong opinions get you down or change the way you have found success in the past. Retail can be glorious, but brutal at the same time. Lastly, just keep a good attitude and serve the best you can—the rest will fall into place.
Vid Lynch’s idea for TorchBearer Sauces came about as a result of making spaghetti sauces from scratch when he and his friend Ben Smith would host dinner parties for friends. Lynch and his friends liked spicy foods and the spicier the sauce the better the party. One day they drove over 600 miles from Lancaster, PA to Texas and brought back hundreds of pounds of habanero peppers. By experimenting with flavors and using their friends as taste testers, the two produced their first batch of #7 Sultry Sauce, which soon became highly acclaimed, winning three national awards at the Cajun Hot Sauce Festival in Louisiana. The sauce is a mix of carrots, onions, oranges and habanero peppers.
According to Vid’s father Tom Lynch, who assists in the operation, “The unique point of difference between our hot sauces and others is ours are made with a fruit base.” The sauces have names like “Zombie Apocalypse Sauce” and “Tarnation Sauce” and the trademark says it all: “Accidentally Healthy. Intentionally Delicious.”
Many of the ingredients are sourced from local Amish Susquehanna Valley farmers who are suppliers of tomatoes, carrots and hot peppers. “The local part is a bonus because everyone who finds out it is made locally loves it, but oftentimes they are already sold on the product.”
“Operating a retail kiosk is a nice revenue steam,” Lynch says, of their fourth year at Park City Center.
As the demand for salsas and spicy sauces has shifted, so has the direction of the company. Among their best sellers today are sauces such as garlic salsa, and horseradish sauce, honey mustard and BBQ sauce. The hot sauces that created the business are approximately 30% of the sales. “We began this business with five sauces and we have two dozen today,” Lynch says.
Dollie & Me
Zander is CFO of Kahn Lucas, one of the largest children’s clothing manufacturers in America and located in Lancaster. In 2012, Kahn Lucas acquired the Alexander Doll Company including the famed Madame Alexander Doll brand, the Middleton Doll brand and the Newborn Nursery brands. This purchase spawned Dollie & Me, a temporary in-line store that sells matching apparel for young girls and their 18-inch doll. The point of difference is it is a more moderate priced offering for parents. “Customers love the value of the product and the way it lets little girls be little girls,” Zander says. “We are not the American Girl Doll. Our dolls are priced between $36-$49 and are more Middle America.” Dollie & Me also operated a pop-up store in The Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.
Kahn Lucas has been in the manufacturing business for nearly 125 years and their successful warehouse sales, which drew large crowds, propelled them into the temporary retail business. Zander imagines a combination of pop-up, permanent and a flagship store to promote the doll lines.
My Interior Motive
Most customers need to see how any furnishing accessory might fit into their homes. My Interior Motive, a temporary inline store at Park City Center helps them do that. “We strive to display our products where it is easy for our customers to picture the item in their home,” says Josh Schreiber, co-owner of the store with his wife.
My Interior Motive specializes in home furnishing, jewelry and fashion accessories. While the products are not local, the store has deep roots in the Lancaster, PA market. Josh is the son of Fred Schreiber, owner and founder of the local company, The Flower & Craft Warehouse.
The Schreibers hope to open more mall seasonal pop-up stores this year. “This is America. Think out of the box and never give up because the possibilities and opportunities are endless,” Schreiber says.
Back to basics
As for Park City Center’s philosophy, Matzke says there is a great opportunity to get back to the basics with common-area programs and seek out unique local artisans and crafters. “There are hidden jewels everywhere such as our farmers’ markets, Etsy vendors, as well as developing our own Mall Indie Craft shows. The key is to offer our shoppers a wide variety of product offerings including special ‘one-of-a-kind’ items to bring our programs to that next level and avoid becoming too stagnant.”
Matzke has been producing The Indie Craft Show in her centers for several years—it is a great source to find new entrepreneurs. Local artisans and crafters sell their products at the center and the event affords them a peek at a “day in the life of a mall retailer” at an affordable fee and manageable length of time.
Because of the way specialty leasing budgets have evolved over the years, it is nearly impossible to completely return to the roots of specialty leasing. But, says Matzke, “I do feel that dedicating a percentage of our common area programs to unique local retailers will only make our programs that much better and will offer a greater variety to our shoppers.”