Campus store uses slow off-season to get ready for move to new building
Business for the Rue and Gwen Gibson Farm Market slowed down when tree fruit went out of season, but that does not mean there is no work to do.
For now, store manager Jennifer Sobieralski said the store keeps busy by preparing for the move to its new location. The new building is under construction and is set to open in the spring. Sobieralski said the market is working on acquiring new fixtures, decor and creating new packaging to lock in the store’s Fresno State theme.
“The GFM staff over the last few months has been preparing for the move, including how the new market will be laid out, and also identifying some new products that will be offered in the new GFM to complement the many products that are grown, processed and/or packaged by our students,” said Debbie Adishian-Astone, the associate vice president for auxiliary operations for the Agriculture Foundation.
Sobieralski said the various contributing departments to the farm market — especially the dairy unit — are brainstorming ideas for new products to be sold at the new store.
Adishian-Astone said there have been many groups involved in this project, including the donors who provided the funds to build the new store. Other participants include the architect, contractor, Ag Operations staff, the dean’s office for the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences & Technology, Facilities Management, Auxiliary Services, Sobieralski and her team of student staff.
“There’s a lot of thinking going into this,” Sobieralski said.
The farm market is also looking into new tools to generate new products. For example, the new store will have a nut grinder that will be used to make new products like almond butter, Sobieralski said.
There will be coffees available to sample, baked goods from the Culinology program and new flavors of ice cream and butter. There will also be trail mixes and bridge mixes available as gift items.
“These are things we’ve always wanted to do but were never able to do,” Sobieralski said. “Essentially it will be the same products, just a wider variety.”
The location of the new Gibson Farm Market is only a few hundred feet away from the current location on Chestnut Avenue. The building will be more than 4,000 square feet, which is twice the size of the current building. This gives the farm market twice the amount of usable floor, storage and production space.
“The new market has more retail floor space and will be able to handle more sales transactions,” Adishian-Astone said.
“The new store will be closer to the resident living, the Save Mart Center and retail centers which will provide a different visibility than the current location,” Sobieralski said. “Plus, it looks good from the road.”
As it currently stands, the Gibson Farm Market is not only a much smaller building, but it also shares space with the Center for Irrigation Technology.
The new building will also have a few attractive features that will make it more customer-friendly, Sobieralski said. It will include a wine bar complete with wine cabinetry and a seating area that will accommodate service and sampling. The new store will also include a similar self-serve ice cream parlor.
“It will be nice for students and people visiting Fresno State’s campus. The wine bar adds charm to the place so that customers can actually experience our products. It will make the building visually nicer, too,” Sobieralski added.
The team at the farm market is using this time to prepare wisely — when the new store opens there will be no downtime. Adishian-Astone said construction should be finished by the end of February. By the time the store is up and running, strawberry season will be right around the corner.
“It’s a good time to open. We can have everything ready before summer, and the new store has the capacity to handle the demand of the summer season,” Sobieralski said.
In the spring, the market will also sell herbs and plants for gardens, as well as starter vegetables.
In the summer months, the Gibson Farm Market sells a variety of peppers, corn, stone fruit, squashes and tomatoes along with all of its year-round products. All of this produce comes from the university’s 1,000 acres of farmland.
Right now during the winter months, the farm market’s produce consists mainly of citrus fruit. The market is selling clementines, three different kinds of navel oranges, cara cara oranges, lemons and produce from its organic crops. The cara cara oranges have a bit of a following because of their red flesh and complex flavoring, Sobieralski said.
The Gibson Farm Market also offers its dairy and meat products during the winter months. The store is currently gearing up for Valentine’s Day by selling potted succulent arrangements.