There's a reason New Jersey is called the Garden State. Sickles Market in Little Silver is a great example of this State's venerated farming tradition. Sickles started out as a seasonal farm stand back in 1908 selling homegrown fruits and vegetables to local stores. Now over 100 years later, Bob Sickles Jr. has not only continued the tradition of selling locally grown farm produce like Jersey fresh corn and blackberries but has expanded the business into a cause...enlightening customers by offering internationally renown artisan products as well as hosting culinary field trips. Bob loves to broaden customers' perspectives and buying habits through travel. “This is the best way to promote a greater appreciation of other cultures and cultivating a more attuned taste experience.”
Curiosity has indeed fueled the development of Sickles Market into what it is today. The market's initial expansion involved selling annual bedding plants and flowers, as well as vegetable plants. Customers wanted to be able to grow the same quality vegetables in their own gardens that they were purchasing from the farm stand, so Bob Sr. (Bob Jr.'s Dad) started growing extra vegetable plants to sell to his customers. Soon an entire garden center was added offering perennials and nursery stock. A little later, grocery staples like cheese & milk, home-baked bread, top-quality jams, and fresh cut flowers filled up Sickles' simple garage-like space. In 1999, they reached the milestone of staying open year-round with a greater proliferation of gourmet grocery items, international cheeses, as well as adding a butcher shop, deli, and a kitchen cooking up chef-prepared foods to-go each day.
The market's regularly scheduled culinary field trips, the brainchild of garden center employee, Kirsty Dougherty is Sickles' most
recent development. “One day Kirsty came to me with a business plan for running field trips for customers and I was immediately sold”, says Bob. There is no better way to acquire appreciation for other cultures and food than through travel.” In addition to more localized tours like a day in Philadelphia at Di Bruno Bros and an upcoming North Jersey Balthazar Bakery Tour in the works, Sickles' second annual gourmet tour of Sicily is scheduled for October 1st – 10th. You'll get to meet the producers of specialty foods found only on Sickles Market's shelves as you follow the behind-the-scenes route that enchanted Bob and Leslie Sickles while on a recent buying trip. Accompany a Sicilian chef to his favorite seaside market and later taste the sumptuous dishes made from the results of your shopping spree. This grand tour, open to only 12 participants, also includes private excursions and tastings in olive orchards, vineyards and expansive salt flats.
Do yourself a favor and reserve your spot now before they're all taken!
Photos courtesy of Sickles Market