CANAJOHARIE – The Shults Family Farm in the Town of Canajoharie has had to make many adjustments over the course of five generations. Originally a dairy farm with 200 milking cows, the business halted milking in 2004 and eventually became a produce and pastured-meat raising operation in 2013 after planting 3 acres with organic crops like broccoli, squash, zucchini, kale, peppers and pumpkins in 2010. Shults resumed its milking last January.
So perhaps it’s fitting that the farms’ newest venture takes the business to a storefront that has been a meat market and a furniture store–at the same time.
On March 1, the Shults Family Farm will officially open Shults Market and Deli, taking over Peruzzi’s Meat Market on Church Street in the Village of Canajoharie, where John Peruzzi has been in business for 24 years.
“When we first started out we did mostly sandwiches,” Peruzzi said. “That started going down, so by chance we started selling furniture, and then that helped us out. By selling the furniture, it kept us in business long enough to hang on to build the meat business.”
Peruzzi, 66, said he’d been hoping to hang on to make it 25 years in business, but he’s more worn down than he thought he would be, which led him to look for a buyer.
He found MaryBeth Shults, the 28-year-old co-owner of Shults Family Farm. She’d been searching for a permanent, winter-friendly venue where the farm could sell its meat, vegetables and dairy products. She said farms of her size–Shults has more than 75 beef cows, 100 pigs, 3,000 meat chickens, 300 turkeys, 50 dairy cows and 100 egg-laying chickens–depend on direct retail sales. (Shults also supplies meat to four restaurants and regularly sells at farmers markets in the warmer weather.)
Peruzzi’s storefront in the heart of the village was a perfect fit.
“What we’re trying to do is create the one-stop-shop for people to be able to buy and to know where their food comes from,” Shults said.
In addition to selling their own products, the store will also stock goods from other local producers, Shults said. The emphasis is on local, integrated farming, where customers buy directly from producers without a middle man.
Though the official handoff happens next month, Shults has been spending time with Peruzzi to learn the ins-and-outs of running a store.
“He has a lot of marketing and merchandising knowledge: how to know where to put things out to make them sell,” Shults said.
Peruzzi said he’s not shy about offering his two cents.
“I’ll give them all kinds of advice, trust me. I’m good at that,” he said.
But his biggest piece of advice?
“It’s just perseverance. That’s probably the biggest thing. No matter how much money you have, without perseverance, you’re not going to make it in business,” Peruzzi said.
Part of persevering is adapting to changes. Peruzzi knows that from his own experience. The Shults’ know that, too–and they are continuing to learn. Take it from David Shults, MaryBeth’s dad.
Before the downtown shop was part of the picture, he was accustomed to processing 100 to 200 pounds of sausage at a time at the farm, where the meat would then be frozen. The sausages sold at the store have to be processed about 10 pounds at a time, because customers expect fresh meat, David Shults said.
“It’s been a real learning experience for me,” said Shults, who will turn 60 on March 1, the day of the official opening. “When we first started talking about it, I was like, hell, we’re not going to do it that way, we’re going to do it this way. And then I got down here and I’m going ‘my way ain’t going to work.’ So I had to learn John’s way.”
Peruzzi said he’s a little sad to see his business go, but he’ll still be around, helping the Shults’ cut meat and assisting in other ways he can.
“I want to see them be successful. It’s something different,” Peruzzi said. “I wanted to make it 25 years, but that’s OK.”
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.
Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie