Norway
SPOTLIGHT

FAMILY CENTER


YODER'S BULK FOODS | BEST FARMER'S MARKET/CSA

BY RICHARD ALBAS

Back in 1984, Owen and Erma Yoder were looking for a modest supplement to their annual income. They put some shelves up in the small utility room of their home in Aroda in Madison County, put up a sign that said ‘Yoder’s Bulk Foods’ and the pair began selling cheese, baking supplies, spices, nuts and fruits. Even back then, their operation was a family business, with their three young children, Dorcas, Joel and Michael, helping out. It turned out to be a very successful business to boot. Within a year, Owen and Erma built an addition to their home, tripling the market’s capacity. Not long after that, the Yoders purchased a property along Route 230 and expanded the market again. The store would remain there for 25 years. Yoder’s opened up their current market on Seminole Trail four years ago, about a mile from where it all started. And it’s also where the story of Yoder’s Country Market comes full circle. Whereas Michael Yoder helped his parents as an 8-year old boy, he now has his own children helping in the store after school. Michael and his wife Heather took over the store from his parents in 2007 and the specialty grocery store provides its clientele with quality products, great customer service and a petting zoo, to name a few of the attractions. “We are real, ordinary country people who believe in good Christian values and a healthy work ethic,” Michael Yoder said. “That’s how I was raised and that’s how we raise our children.” And so, Michael and heather’s own children help out in the store after school. The freshly ground peanut butter is made by the kids. But if Yoder’s Country Market is built around one family, the store and its 35 employees are in business to service other families. “We try to make our market a great place for the whole family,” Yoder said. “The addition of the petting zoo certainly makes it more of a family destination.” Yoder’s tries to have as many specialty foods in the store as possible, to set itself apart from the grocery store chains. “We offer many locally sourced products and produce and we have around 200 different chocolate-covered candies. We don’t offer a generic kind of tomato sauce, because you can get that at any grocery store,” Yoder said. Yoder thinks that customer service is important and while his vision is simple, the execution is paramount. “I like to quote the bible on this one. Do to others as you would have them do to you,” he said. “We treat our customers the way we would like to be treated ourselves. That’s how we do business.” Yoder is “very excited” that his country market was voted first place in the category ‘Farmers Market/CSA’ and won second place in the category ‘Specialty Food Store.” “We haven’t spent a lot on advertising, but it’s great to hear people have voted for us. To those people who don’t know us, we invited them to come for a visit,” Yoder said. “From Charlottesville it’s a bit of a drive, but I like to think that drive is well worth it.”