Leg Up Farm slated to open natural foods grocery store early next year
A new grocery store will open in York County in the coming months, but it won't be another major chain store, a number of which already dot the local landscape.
In fact, the minds behind the new store may seem quite unlikely. But the store just south of Emigsville will be anything but your traditional grocery store.
Leg Up Farm, the East Manchester Township therapy center that focuses on children with special needs, is behind the store that will aptly be called Leg Up Farmers Market.
Though the name may imply a small farmers market, the store at 3100 N. George St. in Manchester Township will be a full-blown grocery store with a focus on locally grown and natural foods, said Brad Clark, chief operating officer of Leg Up Farmers Market.
"I want people to look at food in a much deeper way," said Louis Castriota Jr., president and CEO of Leg Up Farm. "The market is more than just to satisfy hunger. It becomes a catalyst to expanding our programs."
The 18,700-square-foot store at the former Shiloh Nurseries property that most recently housed Brown's Farm Market & Garden Center, or Brown's North, is slated to open in early 2016 but could open sooner, depending on construction progress.
Offerings: Leg Up Farmers Market will sell locally sourced produce, dairy products, meat and other items. Those items will come from farms within a 100-mile radius of the store, Clark said.
Some of the grass-fed beef is even more local and will come from an East Manchester Township farm just across the road from Leg Up Farm.
"The cool thing is if you ask where the steak came from, the butcher can jump in the car and show you because it's all from with 50 miles," Clark said. "I think consumers want to know where their meat came from, where their spinach came from."
The store will boast a fully operational butcher department, but don't expect to find pre-packaged meat in Styrofoam containers, said Clark, who previously worked for Whole Foods Market for 20 years.
Another thing you won't find at the store are self-checkout machines, he said.
Those are just two examples, Clark said, of the store's focus on freshness and customer service that encourages human interaction.
Milk and other dairy items will come from Perrydell Farm Dairy in York Township and honey products from Gingrich Apiaries in Dover Township. The store also will offer in-store roasted coffee; a juice, smoothie and coffee bar; an artisan cheese selection; brick oven artisan pizza and sandwiches; 125 bulk items, such as nuts; sushi made with sustainable seafood and more, Clark said.
With so many local farmers tabbed to provide products to the store, Castriota said that means money will remain in the local economy.
On site: The idea for the store came about partially as a result of children at Leg Up Farm requiring strict diets, such as gluten-free, but having trouble finding food items. There's also a want in the community for a natural food grocer, Castriota said.
For years some vocal Yorkers have said they want a Wegmans-, Trader Joe's- or Whole Foods-style store in the county. A group on Facebook called "We want a Wegmans in York, Pa" has been "liked" by nearly 3,500 people.
"It's about that health component for them ... and providing natural food to the people of York County," Castriota said.
Some of the profits from the Leg Up Farmers Market will be used to help fund Leg Up Farm and Able-Services, which falls under the umbrella of Leg Up Farm.
Able-Services is housed in what was the Brown's North store on the Leg Up Farmers Market property and is geared toward special-needs adults ages 18 to 59, essentially picking up when they age out of Leg Up Farm, said Martin Krebs, its program specialist.
The program, which has 18 adults enrolled, teaches independent living skills, such as how to make a financial budget, nutrition and health, self-advocacy and daily-living activities, such as going shopping at a grocery store, he said.
"That's why this store will be so important. They'll get everyday life experience," Krebs said.
Coming together: A construction crew broke ground on the $4.4 million Leg Up Farmers Market at the 23-acre site in July.
With work ongoing, Clark has been relegated to a large shed where he shares office space with the construction site supervisor.
As he gazed out its window on Monday, Clark pointed to neatly stacked cinder blocks near a piece of construction equipment.
"That's where the entrance will be," he said, adding customers will enter the store at what looks like a silo, an homage to Leg Up Farm and the focus on farm-fresh items.
Clark expects the store to employ 50 to 75 people when it opens, and job fairs will be held in the coming months.
Though the store is months from opening, it's doubtful Leg Up officials will stop at just one store. They are already eyeing two locations within 50 miles for a second store that Clark said would be just as unique as the one being built now.
"We're not stopping at one store," he said. "We're not a cookie cutter. We're not just going to drop a store somewhere."
— Reach Greg Gross at email@example.com.