Sunday, February 12, 2017

Chic Chic Marketplace opens storefront in Forty Fort

Freshly catered foods, local farm products make the business a unique one-stop shop  


Jessica Zielen and Megan Mould have been cooking together for years. It is one of their great passions. And through their business, the Chic Chic Marketplace, they not only get to cook and cater every day, but they also help other local food vendors sell their products. It’s a perfect combination for the two friends and business partners, and with a recent move and expansion to a new location on Wyoming Avenue in Forty Fort, the future is looking bright.

The first incarnation of the business was founded nearly 10 years ago, when Zielen began cooking soups at home and selling them at area businesses. Such work earned her the nickname “The Soup Chic,” and she eventually also started selling her soups at farmers’ markets. Later, with a former business partner, she launched a private catering business, working out of Kingston, and she also ran the food cafĂ© at the Wilkes-Barre YMCA. Through it all, she realized that what she loved the most was cooking and meeting other vendors at farmers’ markets. Working with Mould, the two launched the Chic Chic Marketplace, which combined their own catering services with a distribution service for other local food vendors. Foods - which were ordered online through the business website - were either delivered directly to customer’s homes or could be picked up at Chic Chic’s kitchen, which was located in Kingston. Eventually, as the business began to grow and it found itself working with about 25 different vendors, the need arose for an actual storefront, or a true marketplace.

Thus, the recent move to Forty Fort.

“It was working as a concept, but we realized the missing piece of the puzzle was having the actual storefront, where people can come in, see the products, and ask questions about the products,” says Zielen. “We also wanted to be a more visible part of the community, because a lot of times, I think we were just out of sight, out of mind. Even though people were interested in us and liked the concept of what we were doing, it just seemed inaccessible to them in some way, or abstract.”

Such is no longer the case. With its new location at 970 Wyoming Avenue in Forty Fort, the Chic Chic Marketplace is now exposed to plenty of drive-by traffic every day. And though orders can still be placed online, customers can now stop in to see the products for themselves.

“The website is still up,” says Zielen. “You can still order everything through the website and set up for a delivery or a pick-up, and we still have many customers that do that. But, also, you can now just stop in at anytime and see what we have in house.”

Store hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Products include several varieties of eggs, poultry, milks, meats, yogurts, cheeses, breads, coffees and many more.  There are also natural homemade beauty products.

“What we’re trying to do is make an old-fashioned corner store,” says Zielen. “You can come to us and you can get the basics, but you can also get some really unique products. And it’s all local, just like it would have been 100 years ago. It’s an old concept that we’re trying to update. And in addition to all of these unique products, we also cook fresh every single day.”  

A new catering menu at the Chic Chic Marketplace is posted to its website each week. For those interested in specific items, pre-orders would be placed by Sunday for distribution or pick-up on Wednesday. Customers may also simply visit the store at anytime to purchase items on that week’s menu, though an online pre-order will guarantee you the product you’re interested in. So far, Zielen says that less three months after opening the storefront, business has been brisk and things are going well.

“The best part of it is that it’s a true representation of what we’ve been trying to do for so long.” she says. “Before this, the only thing that we were able to do was to try and talk and explain, whereas  now people come and see it and say, ‘OK. Now I get what you’ve been trying to do. I see the products.’ And they’re curious, and they’re asking questions. It’s just a really good space to interact with people and get those conversations going.”   

Zielen says that both she and Mould not only find running their own business to be very fulfilling, but they also enjoy – through their store -helping other area businesses succeed.

“We’re trying to do something different,” she says. “We’re trying to source local. And we’re trying to provide you with a really good, wholesome, cost-effective meal. I’m passionate about it. And when people come in and ask questions - ‘What is this product, and why should I buy it?’ - and I get to explain it to them, and then I see the wheels turn in their head, and I see it click, and I see that they understand why it’s so important to support these people in our community and keep these good things in our community – that’s very satisfying.”      

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