Grown ‘n Gathered to become organic test kitchen for national franchise

Hayley Sohn, director of communications for Pickleman's, stands at the front of Grown 'n Gathered, 601 Maine in Quincy.

Hayley Sohn, director of communications for Pickelman's Pantry at 601 Maine in Quincy, Ill.

QUINCY — Michele Wilkerson wanted to expand Grown ‘n Gathered, a specialty food store that combines the attributes of a farmer’s market, a grocery store and family kitchen.

Doug Stritzel, founder of the Pickelman’s Gourmet Cafe franchise, wanted to add more organic food to his menu.

Wilkerson and Stritzel now are working together to convert Grown ‘n Gathered at 601 Maine into Pickelman’s Pantry Organic Test Kitchen. Remodeling work at the site is expected to begin any day, with completion targeted for late summer.

“For the people who know Grown ‘n Gathered, all of those products will remain as is,” Wilkerson said. “It’s just going to be an enhanced experience.”

Grown ‘n Gathered offers locally grown produce, eggs and meat. It also sells organic dry bulk goods and smoothies.

Pickelman’s offers pizza, sandwiches, soups and salads at 23 franchises scattered throughout Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. 

“Quincy is basically ground zero for Pickelman’s Pantry. … We can test the recipes in Quincy before we roll them out to the rest of the franchise.”

— Michele Wilkerson

“Doug was looking to go more organic,” Wilkerson said. “His Pickelman’s franchise is very clean food but not organic. It was just really great that my organic knowledge came in handy, and his experience of building teams and creating efficiencies in the food industry was exactly what Grown ‘n Gathered was without.

“It was just a perfect match. Our businesses had a lot of synergy. He can take his knowledge and experience and utilize my knowledge in organic food and health and wellness to continue to grow what Grown ‘n Gathered initially set out to do.”

Wilkerson said she heard from plenty of naysayers when she first opened her store in 2014.

“I heard Quincy wasn’t ready for organic,” she said. “It just grew and grew, and with the education (about organic food), people started to feel better. They started to taste the food, and it was better. I just needed a partner to be able to take it to the next level.”

Pickelman’s will use the Quincy location to test different recipes before sending them to other markets.

“Quincy is basically ground zero for Pickelman’s Pantry,” WIlkerson said. “There will be a set menu. We’re going to have some sandwiches. We’re going to have granola bowls and hummus bowls, and we’re going to continue to do what Grown ‘n Gathered does, which is make our own nut butters, juices and smoothies.

“The test recipes will be what we’re trying to nail down for dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. We can test the recipes in Quincy before we roll them out to the rest of the franchise.”

Hayley Sohn with Grown ‘n Gathered as it prepares to convert to Pickleman’s Pantry

Anyone who stops by Sixth and Maine during the construction process won’t get to see what’s going on inside.

“The windows will be wrapped up until the big unveil when we’re done with it,” WIlkerson said. “The final design, we’re not really giving too many details on that.”

Once construction is complete, the Organic Test Kitchen also will offer online ordering and delivery.

Grown ‘n Gathered is still operating its grocery store during construction from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Visit picklemanspantry.com to learn more.

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