When the Specialty Food Association (specialtyfood.com) called to interview her, Sickles, 30, marketing manager of her family’s business, thought it was just “for a little article.” But when she discovered the real nature of the call, she couldn’t help but admit “It was really exciting.”
The company was founded more than a century ago as a farm by Sickles’s great-grandfather. The land has been in the family since a 1663 grant from the king of England. As her grandfather and father joined the operation, Sickles went from a simple farmstand to “a little open-air facility with garage doors,” she says, to today’s 20,000 square-foot retail space.
Sickles earned a degree in international business from Champlain College in Vermont in 2006. After three years working for an educational non-profit based in Washington, D.C., she joined the family firm.
“I’ve always wanted to come back to the business,” she says. “I worked here in high school, doing everything you could possibly imagine. I really love it and I really love being around food.”
Today, the market sells produce, plants, gourmet grocery items, international cheeses, baked goods, meats and deli items, prepared foods and flowers. There is a gift boutique featuring eclectic home décor, tableware, jewelry and fashion accessories, as well as everything for the garden from furniture to tools, seeds, fertilizer and other supplies.
What got her on the exclusive list is her work expanding the market’s online presence and what the Specialty Food Association called “a more organic, experiential engagement in-store, via hands on workshops.”
Upcoming events like Cheese Night ($30) March 27th and Girls Night Out ($45) March 28th, both to be held in the greenhouse, exemplify Sickles’s educational and community outreach. Girls Night Out will include make-up, massages, hair-styling, book signings, fashion, food, drinks and entertainment. It will benefit the Jacqueline M. Wilentz Comprehensive Breast Center at Monmouth Medical Center.
Another recent innovation are her “On the Road” tours. Last year, she organized a group trip to Paris and Provence. In 2012 the destination was Sicily.
This year Sickles plans a series of domestic day and overnight trips, including a NYC Grand Central Tour & Lunch at Smorgas Chef on March 19th, The Barnes Foundation and lunch at Dandelion in Philadelphia on April 9th, and April 23rd’s trip to Longwood Gardens, just in time to see the stunning display of spring bulbs.
The aim, she says, is “to take customers to the source of their food. We really like to share information with our customers about everything that we do here. Where it starts and where it comes from.”
1 Harrison Avenue
SUZANNE ZIMMER LOWERY is a food writer, pastry chef and culinary instructor at a number of New Jersey cooking schools. Find out more about her at suzannelowery.com.Click here to leave a comment