Kentucky Ag News
Gail and Eric Silverman opened Tastefully Kentucky with their son, Justin, in downtown Lawrenceburg in November 2016. (Kentucky Department of Agriculture photo)
Yankee family is Kentucky Proud
The Silvermans fell in love with Kentucky foods - so they opened a store in Lawrenceburg
By TED SLOAN, Kentucky Agricultural News
LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. – Gail and Eric Silverman and their son, Justin, are East Coast transplants – and that may be one reason why they’re so excited about Kentucky Proud products.
So excited, in fact, that they opened Tastefully Kentucky, a store that deals almost exclusively in Kentucky Proud foods, in November 2016 in downtown Lawrenceburg.
“The funny part is, because we’re not from Kentucky, we are passionate about it because it’s something we didn’t see in New York or New Jersey,” said Gail, whose jobs at the store include keeping the books, making the gift baskets, and managing the Facebook page. “The products, the tastes of the products – it’s different, and it’s exciting for us.
“We just love the products, and we started to use them. We never did before until we had the store, and we were like, ‘Wow, this stuff is good!’ Then we got to meet many of the vendors, and they were very passionate about what they do. That just got us more passionate. We’re the people who help the people who make the products in Kentucky.”
Tastefully Kentucky offers a wide variety of Kentucky Proud foods – salsas, coffee, tea, cheese, ice cream, milk, eggs, candies, popcorn, chips, soft drinks, pet treats, and many others, as well as fresh produce in season. The Silvermans have found many of their products in online searches, but they also credit Steve Hayden with Town & Country Foods in Bardstown with helping them locate products.
“He cares a lot about Kentucky Proud products,” Gail said. “He gave us a little kick in the butt.”
“He pointed us in the right direction,” Eric said.
The Silvermans have used the Kentucky Proud website, kyproud.com, to find products for the store. They also have purchased Kentucky Proud stickers and bags at cost from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s marketing office, which administers the program.
As they have become better known, they have been contacted by producers and businesses seeking to stock their products in the store, Gail said.
The Silvermans estimate that 85 percent of the store’s products are of Kentucky origin. They have to look out of state to fill in a few gaps, Gail explained, and they ship in cookies from North Carolina that are popular with their customers.
Tastefully Kentucky offers free samples of selected products on Saturdays, conducts contests on Facebook, and hosts small events in a space in back of the store.
“We try to make it fun,” Gail said. “It’s not just about shopping. People can go online and shop. There’s so much convenience. You’re not going to compete with convenience. You’ve got to make it more of an event, something fun, something different. It’s entertainment. That’s what shopping is now, at least in the brick-and-mortar stores.”
Gail said the store is doing well, but its location puts them at a disadvantage, even in a downtown where several small new businesses have popped up in recent years.
“Unfortunately, the Lawrenceburg downtown district is still struggling because most people still continue to shop at [big-box stores] or out of town,” she said. “It’s just habit. It’s a tough habit to get people to break. … I think a large volume of our customers actually come from out of town.”
Along with traditional advertising, they use Facebook to publicize the store and announce contests, giveaways, and new products. They take advantage of Facebook’s targeting capabilities to reach specific demographic groups in Anderson and surrounding counties.
Gail is a native of New Jersey, and Eric hails from Levittown, N.Y., on Long Island. Justin earned a scholarship from Georgetown College, so his parents followed him to Kentucky.
The Silvermans owned a shoe store in Lawrenceburg from 2005 until they closed it in mid-2013. In July 2016, they opened a visitors center in a downtown building where they had kept shoes for the shoe store, but “it really didn’t do well,” Gail said. But they noticed that local customers responded to food, so they opened Tastefully Kentucky the following November.
After they opened the store, they participated in a local event called Light Up Lawrenceburg. A local chef and food writer helped them set up a spread of food for people to walk in and sample. Gail said people lined up out the door for at least two hours. “That told us we were on the right track,” she said.
They enjoyed a strong holiday season and continued building on the business. They extended the store from the front section all the way to the back of the building. Justin built space for produce in the front of the store, and they sold fruits and vegetables from Gallrein Farm, Mulberry Orchards, Evans Orchard, and other area producers.
They anticipate heavy gift basket business for the holidays and are toying with various ideas to grow and improve the business. A kitchen in the back is near completion; they plan to do some baking when it’s finished.
“[Customers] love Kentucky Proud, and they love the idea of having the better products here in the store so they don’t have to go traveling to Lexington,” said Eric, whose responsibilities include working the cash register and hauling produce in from area farms and farmers’ markets.
“We love what we do. It’s just nice to see the customer leave happy. It’s a high to me. It’s a cool feeling. … Word is out there now, and people are real excited.”