This market at the center of a working farm earns customer loyalty with its reputation for outstanding fresh fruits and vegetables, whether its own or otherwise sourced.
Originally printed in the September 2021 issue of Produce Business.
Not every retailer offers a 300-acre playground dedicated to agriculture, entertainment and education, complete with hayrides and pick-your-own options depending on the season. Yet the Farm Market situated in the middle of picturesque Linvilla Orchards, Inc. in Media, PA, does just that.
The farm, located just west of Philadelphia, was purchased by Arthur Linvill and his mother, Lydia, in 1914, and is now owned and operated by the fourth and fifth generation of the Linvill Family.
“Over the years, the business has expanded into the realm of agri-entertainment to grow into the destination it is today,” says Wayne Matsinger, general manager.
Before cars became commonplace, Arthur Linvill would take his produce by horse and wagon through the closest populated areas of Media and Swarthmore, PA, says Matsinger. “As cars became more common, fruits and vegetables were sold from the front porch of the family’s farmhouse, which is still at the center of our property.”
As the produce became more abundant, the farm became more popular and the Farm Market opened in the Octagonal Barn. Linvilla now attracts a wide range of customers.
“We draw from the local area for two-thirds of the year, but our geographic base grows through the summer and into the fall when we draw from anywhere in the tri-state area,” says Matsinger. “We have a steady following for our winter produce sale and a broader following for our Linvilla’s Own produce.”
THE CORNERSTONE IS PRODUCE
Fresh produce is at the heart of what Linvilla does, accounting for 20 percent of overall sales in the Farm Market. “Produce is the cornerstone of our store,” says Matsinger. “We are an orchard and farm and so produce is, in fact, WHY we are a store. Our focus has always been to highlight the fruits and vegetables grown here on the farm, but also to offer the very best produce from the region and beyond via the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market.” [Editor’s note: please see the special section on the Philadelphia Market.]
“All the other products have been added as enhancements to the fresh produce — items such as jams and jellies, baked goods, and gourmet items,” he says. “We pride ourselves on the quality of customer service with all our products and make a particular effort in the realm of produce.”
The store has evolved to carry a wide assortment of produce. “We are increasing our variety weekly, but we sell over 100 different produce items at a time — grown from across the world to literally right up the street,” says Matsinger.
FARM FRESH FEEL
At the height of the growing season, produce occupies one-third of the building’s 3,000 square-foot space. The operation utilizes a 32-foot refrigerated cooler as a constant and also several island displays. It also uses portable refrigerated orchard bins throughout the store, and during peak season, it uses the front porch for corn and additional produce sales, adding approximately 120 square feet of sales space.
With the exception of the stationary 32-foot cooler and a few island displays, the store’s layout changes frequently. “We want to properly highlight and display each of the different fruits and vegetables coming into the store throughout the seasons,” explains Matsinger.
The store creates centerpiece displays for new, different and/or seasonal produce. “With Linvilla’s Own produce, the sheer volume of displays is inspiring,” says Matsinger. “Visually, large displays of peaches, corn or apples are not something you see in the grocery store due to space constraints. We rearrange and create displays that are impressive visually, but also entice by their aroma.”
Merchandising can be accentuated by creative vision in a unique way. “Displays are frequently created around the produce, not the other way around,” he says. “People come to our farm market as a second stop to their regular grocery shopping, so we work hard to set ourselves apart by offering the highest quality product at competitive prices. It’s also important to us to keep abreast of the current trends in produce as well as merchandising.”
Linvilla’s purchasing varies seasonally, but focuses on quality. In the winter, it purchases about 80% from the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market (PWPM) and 20% from local or wholesalers, says Matsinger. During the spring and summer, 60% of produce comes from the farm and local growers and approximately 40% from the PWPM.
Linvilla’s has built deep-rooted relationships with the wholesalers and brokers at PWPM, says Matsinger, singling out the late Paul Labess, who was the operation’s purveyor for more than 20 years. “He consistently strived to provide us with the very best produce available so that we could maintain our reputation for quality,” says Matsinger.
“PWPM gives us every opportunity to expand our produce selection and provide consistent quality,” he says. “On the occasion that we find ourselves with a surplus of produce from a significant bumper crop, we have channels set up to sell our product at PWPM.”
Matsinger adds the farm also has an excellent relationship with John Vena Inc. (JVI), now the operation’s main wholesaler and distributor. He notes the team at JVI has opened many doors in terms of acquiring the harder-to-find specialty produce Linvilla enjoys sharing with customers.
As far as promotion and education, Linvilla regularly creates informational signage to educate customers on usage, taste, texture and nutritional benefits.
“We strive to educate customers about the nutritional and health benefits of produce and encourage healthy eating habits with fruit and vegetable consumption,” says Matsinger.
In addition to in-store promotions, the operation also uses its website and social media to promote produce and connect with consumers.