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Hockessin's kitchen of nutrition

Jun 22, 2017 01:37PM ● Published by J. Chambless

This July, Harvest Market will celebrate its 22nd year in Hockessin.

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

In July 1995, Bob Kleszics opened Harvest Market with a simple mission: To provide the Hockessin community with the highest quality, most nourishing foods and related products available, while conducting business in socially responsible ways that are both sustainable and rewarding for its customers, employees, producers and the environment.

More than two decades later, on the eve of the market's 22nd anniversary, Kleszics said he would never have imagined that the mission he and his wife created would eventually grow to include almost 50 current employees, a fully-operational kitchen and the ability for the store to produce its own food -- all supported by a dedicated, knowledgeable staff.

"Part of the success of Harvest Market is that we have been able to find people who believe in our vision, with a focus on healthy, clean food, and sustainable agriculture," said Kleszics, who has incorporated management training conferences into the store's operations. "Our customer service is all encompassing. We treat our customers, our farmers, our co-workers, our truck drivers -- everybody -- with the same respect and understanding."

If the success of Harvest Market ends with row after row of organic and local fresh produce, grass-fed meats, nutritional supplements, culinary herbs and spices and personal care products -- it begins with conversations, recommendations and education. Donna Merrill, a registered nurse and herbalist with more than 30 years of experience, offers free consultations to Harvest Market customers on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.

"During every interaction with customers, we get an opportunity to talk about the farmers and producers that Harvest Market works with," said Holly Tyson, communications coordinator. "The relationships we have formed with our customers starts with our staff. We take pride in serving as a point of education in the community, and people have come to respect our opinions. And, like our customers, we're always learning, and when we don't happen to know the answers, we will look it up or find someone on staff who knows those answers."

While Harvest Market focuses on the nourishing, the sustainable and the delicious -- it has also become a constantly-evolving source of new initiatives. From the time it opened in 2013, the Harvest Market Kitchen has become a daily showcase of grab-and-go soups, salads, sandwiches, sides and sweets, all made from scratch with the same high quality ingredients sold throughout the store. After receiving several Best of Delaware awards for its healthy organic foods, the kitchen received a Best of Delaware award this year for being voted Best Gourmet-Food-to-Go in Northern Delaware.

"We started out with a four-foot-long section, then doubled it to eight-foot-long section, and now have plans to expand the size of our to-go section to the entire 12-foot case and expand the range of products, and offer the highest-quality of ingredients," Kleszics said.

The store's interactive website has become a great resource for nutritional news, recipes and suggestions, and it also collaborated with Charles and Kathy Shattuck of Wild Birds Unlimited and Peg Castorani of Gateway Garden Center on the Hockessin Pollinator Garden, which grows just outisde the store's front doors.

"That's what is so great about being involved in the community, because it was done at the same time Bob was asking about how we can educate our customers about pollinator health, to inform them that one of every third bite is because of pollinators," Tyson said.

While Harvest Market continues to be an incubator of ideas, the original mission of the store is seen and felt well beyond its front door. Two years ago, it participated in the Hockessin Fourth of July Parade and handed out over 1,000 organic apples. At last year's parade, staff handed out 3,000 organic apples.

This year, in celebration of its anniversary, Harvest Market will host a Customer Appreciation Day on July 7, which will feature free samples across the store, giveaways and raffles for Harvest Market gift cards, and a ten percent discount all day.

It's just another way of saying 'Thank You' to the community it has served since 1995.

Harvest Market is located at 7417 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, De. 19707. 302-234-6779. Store hours are Monday - Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information about Harvest Market, visit www.HarvestMarketNaturalFoods.com.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email rgaw@chestercounty.com.

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