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TOUR: Shady Maple Farm Market - East Earl, PA

Shady Maple Farm Market
Owner: Marvin Weaver
Opened: 1970
Cooperative: none
Location:
 1324 Main St, East Earl, PA
Photographed: August 20, 2019
Any frequent fliers on senior bus trips to the Pennsylvania countryside from northern New Jersey? I took one once (with my grandmother) and we stopped at the Shady Maple Smorgasboard for lunch. What is the Smorgasboard, and what is Shady Maple? Good question. Shady Maple is a giant complex, spanning nearly 50 acres, with several proportionately massive businesses. There's Good's Store, an 80,000 square foot general store; Gish's furniture; a banquet and conference center; the nearly 150,000 square foot Smorgasboard (complete with an all-you-can-eat buffet seating 1200 people, a fast food restaurant, and a 50,000 square foot gift shop); and the 110,000 square foot Shady Maple Farm Market. How was this created? If you're curious, here's their history timeline.
I couldn't even begin to describe the layout here, because of the size and mazelike setup, so here's a directory from the store's website.
We very briefly saw this store before (with a picture from one of the aforementioned senior bus trips). This time, we're back for a full tour, though we're not seeing the whole complex.
The supermarket was originally affiliated with IGA, and then joined the Great Valu Markets cooperative. At some point, I believe they left Great Valu -- although I'm not certain of that -- and they are now independent. They currently sell Essential Everyday and Wild Harvest products from UNFI, which are also the storebrands used at Great Valu-affiliated stores.
Seating for the cafeteria (not the Smorgasboard, mind you; there are three restaurants in this complex, and one of them is inside the supermarket) lines our entrance as we walk into the store.
And we begin with the produce department! Produce is a focus of this store (which also operates a wholesale grocery and produce business out of this complex, called Weaverland Foods).
As we'd expect, there is a large selection of local Pennsylvania-grown produce. The selection, also as we'd expect, is enormous.
Here's a look over at the registers on the other side of the first aisle.
This store was last renovated in 2010, but it has a very old feeling to it. The ceiling is rather low, and the flooring is older if very nicely maintained. Overall, I get the sense that this is an older but well kept up store.
Customer service is up in the front.
It's a very interesting store. It's clearly catering to the tourists who are visiting the Shady Maple complex, but it does seem to be a genuinely functional supermarket with a very large selection -- more than most in this part of the PA countryside.
Jams, jellies, and sauces are a huge selling point here (a famous output of the Pennsylvania Dutch community), as are bulk foods...
As we can see, there's been resets and some new decor, plus some new flooring installed in places.
There are counters in the produce and bulk foods departments to get your purchases weighed and priced before you get to the register, which I assume helps cut down on the lines at checkout.
As we continue along the left-side wall of the store, we enter the seafood department, which is (slightly oddly) completely separate from the meat department -- completely across the store.
As we can see, the store is very very large but doesn't feel overly massive, or spacious even -- it's so segmented that each department forms its own little nook that doesn't really flow to the next one. I don't know if that was intentional (to slow down traffic and give the feeling of a store-within-a-store) or coincidental because of the slightly haphazard floor plan, but you don't realize just how massive the store is until you keep walking and walking.
The dairy department gives way to grocery aisles behind it.
Not something we see a lot in many other supermarkets -- the Salad & Dessert counter. This is basically the prepared foods counter, plus things like puddings.
But just across from that, the grocery aisles pretty much look like any other big supermarket.
Packaged prepared foods are behind that counter in the back left corner, with bakery taking up a huge space at the back. The bakery was truly exceptional here, although most of the store was admittedly.
How about this -- a specialized donuts island? I was extremely disappointed to not get any donuts here, although I really wanted to.
The deli counter is all the way at the back of the store, on the back wall.
And items like smoked meats are in between.
All of the baking, cooking, and even smoking of meats is done on-site, so I have to give them credit for really going all the way for the gimmick rather than just putting up a sign that says Farm Market and selling the same frozen stuff everyone else sells. That's what I felt overall about Shady Maple's grocery store -- yes, it's cheesy, yes, it's gimmicky, yes, it's touristy, but they also do a really good job at what they're doing, and it also functions as a really good, perfectly normal supermarket.
Looking up towards the front of the store.
Remember I mentioned house-smoked meats? Here's that department...
And the rest of the meat department is up next. See, in any given one of these pictures, it's not obvious just how large the store really is.
And as we get into the grocery aisles, the selection is perfectly normal and quite extensive. Prices weren't half bad either.
Service butcher is clearly a big draw here, at least given its size. If it doesn't look like the store was that crowded, it wasn't -- it was also a Tuesday afternoon.
Ah yes, the BREAD WALL. No kidding.
The nonfoods department is rather small here, I assume because of the presence of Good's Store in the same complex. There is, however, a pharmacy and HABA department.
But again, not an exceptionally large one, which is interesting. Clearly, this is not their focus.
And frozen foods are in front of that.
As we can see, again, many of the fixtures are older but in very good condition.
And of course, the giant Turkey Hill ice cream tub. Turkey Hill Dairy is just about 25 miles west of here.
(And plenty of ice.) And as we get to the front of the store, we get to the in-store bank and the registers.
But wait, you thought you were done? No way. This isn't the end of the supermarket. As we exit the main exit, we then walk through the Cafeteria...
...that is, past the Snack Shack to the cafeteria...
...which is another gigantic counter-serve dining room serving up Pennsylvania Dutch favorites.
If nothing else, you should go check out Shady Maple for the fact that it is a completely unique experience. There are other massive stores out there, and other giant buffets, and so on, but there's nothing else like this in the world -- as far as I know. Despite that, there's actually another gigantic 115,000 square foot independent supermarket and buffet restaurant just about two miles west of here. That's where we're headed next, right here on The Independent Edition!

Comments

  1. I wonder how the produce would be if it wasn't August (as it was when you took photos)?

    That might be the only issue with stores like this, focusing on local items - not as easy to do that in January or February in Pennsylvania as it is in July and August!

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