By TERESA ANICOLA
The winding dirt road leads past a pond, farm animals and a barn, straight to a large, white Amish farmstead.
A peaceful scene, set in the hills of Lancaster County, Pa., it is actually a mural on the inside wall of the Stoltzfus Farm Market and The Village Shoppes on the Black Horse Pike in Williamstown.
Set in a 56,000-square-foot shopping mall, the food market draws a crowd of about 4,000 customers a week to sample the homemade baked goods, sliced and cut meats, freshly ground sausage, poultry and specialty cheeses, salads, produce and dry goods vendors.
"We bring a little bit of Lancaster County to Williamstown," said John Stoltzfus, 40, who owns and operates the Stoltzfus Family Restaurant with his wife, Sadie.
The full-course family restaurant sits in the front of the mall, which is occupied by 10 vendors who make up the food center of the market. Customers entering the building are greeted by the mingling, mouth-watering aromas of freshly made pretzels at Suzie Ann's, fruit and custard pies and brownies baking at the Stoltzfus Bakery and the daily specials being dished up in the restaurant.
"We have a full-course family restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner," John Stoltzfus said. Restaurant specialties include farm fresh eggs with scrapple and sausage and Stoltzfus' own chili, which is a secret family recipe, he said.
Anne Robinson of Williamstown shops at the market once a week for her groceries.
"I usually shop at the deli stand. The prices are good. I buy my meats and chicken here and even produce," said Robinson, 29. "Everyone is pleasant and willing to answer any questions you have. It's nothing like regular stores."
A family business, the market is owned and managed by John Stoltzfus' brother, Lee Stoltzfus. The siblings have two other brothers and two sisters. The family lives in Lancaster County, where there are many Amish and Mennonite communities.
The Stoltzfus family has owned the Williamstown market since 1999. Lee Stoltzfus, 51, said the family grew up in the business, as his parents ran farm market stands for 50 years at Booth's Corner, a market in Delaware County, Pa.
"All of us boys wanted a place of our own. We were looking for a place suitable for us. It took us 10 years to find our own building, all on our own, and be our own boss," he said.
The family leased the Williamstown center in the winter of 1992 and spent four months renovating it and setting up the stores. He said business was strong in the beginning and then tapered off, but by the fifth year business was strong and steady and has remained that way.
Tim Mead of Washington Township has been a loyal customer of the market, shopping twice a week there, ever since it opened. He was recently purchasing luncheon meats at the market's Old Country Deli.
Food to furniture
"The food is great and very fresh. It's good service with a smile. I purchase all my lunch meat here," Mead said. "I also like their woodwork. I purchased a bookshelf that's very good and sturdy. I've also purchased a shed here."
In back of the food area are aisles of stores featuring 30 vendors with a wide variety of wares from handcrafted wooden furniture to fresh flowers and crafts.
The aisles have small white signs hanging from the ceilings, bearing such names as White Horse Trail and Paradise Parkway.
The craft store, Beautiful Expressions, is run by Lee Stoltzfus' wife, Barbara. She has operated the store for three years and sells a variety of merchandise including berry wreaths and garlands, wall prints, cotton print coasters with spices sewn inside and a full line of apple dishware.
Sadie Stoltzfus, 82, the family's mother, recently visited the market and said she is proud of her children's accomplishments.
"They worked hard and are doing well," she said.
Reach Teresa Anicola at (856) 486-2460 or firstname.lastname@example.org