PEKIN, Ill. — For as long as Doug Sassman can remember, farming has been a way of life.
“I grew up on a small farm. We raised all of our own food and I just thought that’s the way everybody lived and ate,” said Sassman.
But for the Pekin-Tremont native, the presence of chain grocery stores became more of a reality as he got older. It’s a trend, he’s going against.
He said, “What we’re striving for in here is going backwards in time. Back when you come in here, you get to meet the people that’s actually producing the food.”
In 2005, Heritage Farmer’s Market in Pekin was born. There, 21 different local farmers bring in food items to sell to the community. Sassman says he has never closed his store doors since starting up.
“Everybody asked when are you quitting you know for the season and stuff. And my answer was always ‘When people quit coming out.’ And people kept coming out,” Sassman said.
He says his focus is all things local and small business.
“Illinois is one of the biggest agricultural states in the nation, but yet we import 93% of our food from outside of this state that we eat. And I just think that’s a shame,” he stated.
With the success of Heritage Farmer’s Market, Sassman ultimately brought in Bill Salsman and his wife, Elizabeth to run the store’s Black Angus Cafe.
Salsman said, “I’ve always been involved in food. I love to cook, so when I had the opportunity, I jumped on it.”
Since the food is all locally grown and raised, Salsman says he has more range for cooking opportunities.
“I can experiment and create dishes and it’s endless what I can do here,” he said.
Even after adding the cafe on to the store, Sassman says large-scale growth is not the end objective.
Sassman said, “If we tried to get real big, then we wouldn’t be any different than the other places.”
Together Sassman and Salsman say they hope to hold on to that intimate customer experience with a local draw.
“What keeps me going is the people,” said Salsman. “Everybody that comes in here is more family than it is anything.”
Heritage Farmer’s Market is located at 20235 IL State Route 9 in