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Published: Thursday, 4/27/2006

Bedford Township institution offers more than just produce

BY VANESSA WINANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jack Zeiler arranges the floral displays at the family-owned farm market where he has worked for 60 years. Jack Zeiler arranges the floral displays at the family-owned farm market where he has worked for 60 years.
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TEMPERANCE - Sixty years ago, Edmund Zeiler built an open-air shack on Lewis Avenue, just north of Toledo, to sell the produce his nine children grew on their farm.

In doing so, he not only continued in the footsteps of his father, who opened a grocery in Toledo in 1904, but started a business that is now in its third generation of family ownership. Its six decades of continuous operation were recognized recently when the Bedford Township board passed a resolution honoring the business and its owners.

"If you look around the community, you can't find something they didn't impact positively," township clerk Bob Schockman said, explaining the board's action.

Zeilers Farm Market. Zeilers Farm Market.
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When the family's first shack went up, "we raised our own produce," said Jack Zeiler, 66, who has retired from ownership, but still works there. "We used to farm on both sides of the street around here. "We'd peddle with a cart in Toledo with our corn and tomatoes."

By then, Edmund Zeiler was also in the elevator business, Jack Zeiler said. "Us kids ran the farm."

One by one, the five other Zeiler boys and three girls left the seasonal business, but Jack Zeiler stayed on. By the late 1950s, he had expanded the business to include Christmas trees, then added spring flowers. In 1964, he constructed a permanent building for what had become a year-round business.

In addition to produce, it sold groceries and party supplies, he said. Two years later, he received a permit to sell beer and wine.

Back then, the clientele at his market had different shopping habits, Mr. Zeiler added.

Supermarkets did not yet have a lock on people's food-buying habits, and he could count on folks from Toledo buying meat at a nearby butcher's shop, then stopping at his place on their way home.

He knew his regular customers, when they would stop in, and what they wanted.

"Today, you don't know when that customer's coming," he said.

As the years passed, the business continued to broaden its product line. Jack Zeiler added package liquor, then a deli, then broasted chicken, and more groceries. As Bill Zeiler, Jack Zeiler's son, began to take a more active role, things changed still more.

It now offers catering and party planning, and a greater variety of wines and spirits, much like Bill Zeiler's great-grandfather's Toledo store, which had a saloon. As it feels the pinch from the mega-supermarkets, the farm market is trying to create its own niche as a place people can go for more personalized service.

"I see us growing in the wine business," Bill Zeiler said, adding that's an area he enjoys exploring. "I've been to lots of seminars and tastings. Oh, it's work, work, work!" he joked.

But even with all the changes, even with Dar Childs selling his own barbecue from the deli, the market has kept some of its roots.

It continues to offer fresh produce, even seeds for folks to grow their own.

Contact Vanessa Winans at:

vwinans@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168.



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