Attention: Be sure you read all the way to the end of the Sweet Meadows Retailer Story! Sweet Meadows has customized a special offer for March 2010 you won’t want to miss!
By: Marsha Bonecutter
“A huge leap of faith!” That is how Katie Brown, owner/manager of Sweet Meadows in Zanesville, Ohio describes the opening of her health food store. Katie and her husband, Shawn, co-own the store along with her parents, Martha and Tim Kimpel.
Their story began several years ago when Katie’s father converted his farm to an all grass based farm and the family began learning the health benefits of grass-fed beef. That led to learning about organic foods and how to live a healthier lifestyle. “When we first converted our farm years ago,” Katie said, “there was no one around raising grass-fed beef. Most people thought we were nuts to even attempt such a thing.” Almost ten years later, there are a number of farms converting to all grass.
They began selling their grass-fed beef at the farmer’s market in 2003. They added pastured pork, poultry and eggs and Katie’s uncle added pastured lamb. They developed a wonderful, loyal customer base and the business began to grow. “Once we changed our lifestyle and diet,” explained Katie, “we quickly realized there was nowhere close to buy the kinds of foods we wanted to eat. We decided at that time if we were going to sell our meats, we might as well sell other products.” In 2004, in a small downtown Zanesville location, Sweet Meadows was born!
“I had absolutely no experience in the food business or even retail,” Katie said. “We just tried to figure things out as we went along, and made tons of mistakes.” Suffice it to say, these “mistakes” were ironed out with the love and support of her wonderful family and the mentoring of Annerose Schafferin of Bexley Natural Market, who offered names of distributors and contacts and even provided Sweet Meadows with their first cash register.
Katie and her family have always had a goal of being able to support other local farmers by buying their products, as long as they were raised according to the family standards. “When I wrote my first check to buy grass-fed beef from another farmer, I was so excited!” Katie says, proudly. Another source of pride is that in 2009 her father’s farm was the first in Muskingum County to be certified organic.
Katie soon out-grew her first small location and in 2005, the store moved to its present location on Maple Avenue. The new location is larger which allows for more refrigeration and more products. Sweet Meadows carries a wonderful selection of natural and organic foods. Many products come to mind when Katie is asked about her favorites. “Well, of course, Berlin Breads,” laughs Katie. “The Pumpkin Streusel Spelt bread is my most favorite!” Other favorites include a non-homogenized milk and a Perry County honey. The store continues to grow their product selection based on customer request.
Much hard work is involved in the managing of a natural foods store, especially with two little children in tow. Thankfully, Katie Brown is no stranger to hard work. Katie’s first job was on her family farm, working for a dollar an hour. By the time she reached her early teens, Katie was milking cows and by high school she was managing the dairy.
How many college students get up in the morning, milk the cows, go to school all day, come home, milk cows again and then do homework? Senior year of college brought Katie a change of pace. “My dad was managing a clay mine at the time, so I went to work for him keeping records and running the front end loader.” Katie laughs, “Trucks used to come for clay and couldn’t believe I was the one climbing up into the loader to load them.”
Much of the success of Sweet Meadows is due to the philosophy by which Katie runs her business: Great customer service. “I greet my customers with a smile and am willing to help or answer questions whenever I am asked. Katie takes requests for new products and places special orders for her customers on a daily basis.
Her relationship with her customers is truly rare. “Because I am here everyday, I know my customers and their families by name. They know my children and my children know them.” Katie’s customers even surprised her with a baby shower for her first daughter. “I love that the relationships go beyond just a customer/grocer,” says Katie. “I feel, as a society we are lacking in common courtesy and I want to give that to my customers.”
“In 2004, there was a real need in our area for organic foods.” Said Katie. Sweet Meadows meets this need and much more!
************Sweet Meadows Special Offers************
Berlin Natural Bakery Product Specials
Buy 1 of any Berlin Natural Bakery “FRESH” spelt baked goods and receive 50% off a second Berlin Natural Bakery item of equal or lesser value. Limit 3 per customer per visit.
Ground Beef Special
Buy any package of Sweet Meadows ground beef and get 50% off any second package of ground beef. Limit 3 packages per customer per visit.
Take advantage of these offers today by saying to the cashier “I saw the retailer story on Sweet Meadows on Berlin Natural Bakery’s Website and would like to take advantage of the [bread/beef] discount.”
Special Offer Expires March 31, 2010.