Local Products, Services on Display in Norfolk
If you want to patronize some of the finest small businesses, artisans and entrepreneurs in the Cornhusker State, then a stop at the GROW Nebraska retail store in downtown Norfolk is in order.
Shoppers will find a wide variety of products — all with connections to Nebraskans — offered for sale at 311 Norfolk Ave. Items include yard decor, lotions and soaps, salsas and jellies, greeting cards, books, T-shirts and jewelry.
And if you want to purchase drug-free pork and hormone-free beef — and visit with the farmers who raised them — then stroll across the street to the Kuper Farms Country Market at 320 Norfolk Ave.
Doug and Tammy Kuper of rural Hoskins own and operate the business that is like a year-round farmers’ market. Almost all of the products are from Northeast Nebraska, including homemade goodies from Ma’s Country Baking — operated by two Amish families from Verdigre.
GROW Nebraska, which dates to 1998, is a non-profit organization whose mission is focused on creating sustainable economic development by supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses through promotion, market access and education.
Its goal is to create promotion and awareness of Nebraska products and services, regionally and nationally, said Janell Anderson Ehrke of Holbrook, founder and chief executive officer of GROW Nebraska. There are currently 336 members on the 2011 roster.
Norfolk’s GROW Nebraska retail store is the first to be located in a downtown district; the two other stores are in malls in Kearney and Grand Island, said Cindy Arens, coordinator of the Norfolk location.
Ehrke said the GROW Nebraska Norfolk location ties in with the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce’s “buy local” promotion and “continuing to make Norfolk a shopping destination.”
The store opened in late November. Its hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Currently, 67 GROW Nebraska member businesses from all parts of the state are represented with products in the Norfolk store, with another 50 businesses expected to be added by summer, Ehrke said.
For shoppers, she said, “It’s a really good way for them to buy local first. These (participating) businesses are really committed to growing their business in Nebraska. These are good, wholesome Nebraska products.”
That’s also the case at the Kuper Farms Country Market, which opened in early November.
Kuper said he and his wife had participated in three area farmers’ markets weekdays for the past three summers, selling various cuts of their beef and pork, as well as produce raised without herbicides and pesticides from their five-acre garden.
“When we asked our customers if they’d be interested in a store, all said ‘yes’ and they followed us here,” he said.
The store is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, with Tuesdays to be added this summer.
A new product is drug-free lamb from Sandy Patton of Brunswick. Other products include gluten-free baking mixes from Kristy’s Kitchen of Tekamah; Purple Cane Road root beer from La Vista; Especially Homemade salsas from Humphrey; farm-fresh eggs from Verdigre and Lindsay; Jisa cheeses from Brainard; and over 20 varieties of Bud’s Original honey butters from Plainview.
On a recent afternoon, Norfolkans Doris Backstrom and Kevin Stoura both said they came to the Kuper Farms Country Market in search of homemade products without preservatives. They checked out the Amish products that include cakes, pies, breads, potato salad, several flavors of ice cream (made with real cream) and, of course, kolaches.
Stoura, a native of Verdigre, said he enjoys “the homemade taste of everything” and also appreciates the freshness.
“It’s convenient, too,” he said of the downtown location.
Jan Jorgensen of Creighton, coordinator of the Plainview-based Northeast Nebraska RC&D Council, recently checked out Norfolk’s GROW Nebraska store for the first time. She’s followed the progress of the organization since its inception.
“GROW Nebraska has been working a long time to improve the opportunities that entrepreneurs have to sell the products they create,” she said. “(Previously), everything seemed to be piecemeal. It took GROW quite awhile to get the support they needed, but many were eager to provide what they could."
“Those leading that effort never gave up and now seem to have become recognized for the expertise they provide and the value offered to Nebraska’s entrepreneurial community.”
Jorgensen said the Norfolk store “seems to be a good fit with the climate of downtown already being home to so many other entrepreneurial ventures that have chosen to locate there. People have grown used to seeing locally made and processed Nebraska items at the Sunset Plaza Mall during the holidays and may now be looking for them year-round.”
Products with Northeast Nebraska ties include gourmet crust and pie mixes, Petals&Pastries of Osmond; plastic celebration flags, Say It Flags of Neligh; collapsible bird feeders, No-No Bird Feeders of Bloomfield; casserole carriers, tortilla warmers, ribbon angels and bellybutton brushes, Heirloom Treasures of Winside; and outdoor furniture and decor, Recycled Barns of Norfolk.
Other items include seasonings; sauces; microwave popcorn on the cob; pickled peppers and asparagus; bowls created from vinyl LP records; jewelry from recycled CDs; such sheep milk products as lotions, soaps and bath teas; candles; T-shirts; books and CDs; and hair care products.
Arens said the GROW Nebraska store has drawn customers of all ages.
“A lot of people will buy items to send to friends and relatives who have moved from Nebraska,” she said. “People like the fact that they’re Nebraska-made products.
Story by: Mary Pat Hoag of the Norfolk Daily News