One Month Old!

July 7 – one month since our ribbon cutting!

We have settled into the routines that I had known would come with time, and the rhythms of running our new retail space and Kitchen on Dexter Street are sweet and comforting. It’s home most every day now, with good food, good music, good people, good conversations all around. It’s exactly what I had hoped would develop.

Claire and Lynne, my first employees in the kitchen, are steadfast regulars. They know the recipes and are willing to try new things and suggest improvements. These gals are the ones who helped me find my way around the kitchen – “where should the knives hang?” and brought kitchen experience with them. They reassured me time and again that “we WILL get things figured out!” And we have.Claire is a pro in the kitchen


Lynne makes healthy salads

We’ve added Amanda to the Kitchen mix, and she took and passed the Food Safety Manager Certification handily. (Amanda is our Farm Stand Manager that I completely stole from the Farm Stand this year.) That certification means Amanda can – and will, and does – stand in for me as Person-In-Charge when the Kitchen is in operation. That’s been a huge relief for me as owner, as it means I can take off one or more hats as needed. Whew!                                                                                 Amanda, Food Safety Manager, Certified!

Our retail staff are just amazing, too. Many are return employees from the Farm Stand, and are savvy enough to learn and use the different retail systems easily; they also know most of our Milan neighbors from the Stand, and are wonderful brand ambassadors for both the Farm and the Kitchen. I often hear them suggest “stopping in at the other place” when chatting with customers.  New to us this year is Danielle, who opens nearly every morning with a smile and efficiency, and helped get the final details into place as we worked to open our doors full time.

I’m realizing that my whole blog about being open a month is all about the relationships and friendships that have grown and developed around and because of our new business. Gives me a little heart-a-flutter feeling.

But there’s all those OTHER pieces of getting a new business up and running:

  • The sales are strong! Our community has voted with their dollars, and they continue to support our new venture. We’ve got a nice little economic engine started here in our hometown, and spending those dollars locally allows us to hire local folks and keep those dollars right in town.
  • Strawberry season came and went too fast, as always. I hope you got a chance to have some of my mom’s shortcake! Blueberries and sweet cherries are now in season, and we’ve got a good blueberry muffin tested and out for sale. (Ah, the desire of Milan TO HAVE A BAKERY AGAIN – we hear ya. Life is Sweet is due to open on Main Street pretty soon, so yay for a bakery again!)blueberry muffins
  • The meal kits are catching on. They’re good, and they’re easy, they’re just not easy to figure out. My original business plan was to launch the kitchen, get good market data, and at day 90 or so, launch online ordering options. Well, it’s been clear that everybody wants the online info NOW. We’ve gotten so many Facebook messages, phone calls, and plenty of in-person requests for “what are the meals kits this week?” that we’ve accelerated our online launch to ASAP. I am working with a great team from Northern Initiatives and we are close to getting the online ordering and payment ready to go. I didn’t see much point in just putting the info out there without also turning on the order and payment pieces, so fingers crossed, we’ll have a super friendly, super easy to navigate webpage of our meal kit and salad options in just a few days.
  • We looked at numbers and did a Facebook poll, and switched hours from the original 7am to 7pm to a later start time. We now open at 10am for what we are calling “summer hours” and we all seem happier for it. Danielle and I certainly appreciate not meeting at the wee hours to open shop – and I’m benefitting from the few extra winks every night. (Tom certainly appreciates this!) Come fall and the return to school, we’ll revisit our hours.
  • We have the decals on the front window but have delayed installing the sign out front for a few more weeks, due to cost. I’ve heard that driving by, the place looks dark even when we’re open, so I hung a neon OPEN sign in the window. Certainly when you’re here, it’s pretty bright and cheerful with our big windows! I think adding a few lamps inside might also brighten it up from the street, so I’ll be keeping my eyes open for just the right ones to go with the décor.Zilke Farm Kitchen in Milan, MI

Anyway, thanks to everyone who has supported us through to this milestone. Your gifts of good cheer, wisdom, encouragement, and purchases all make a huge difference.