Quick Questions with Lora Partyka
Kendall woman has grown roadside stand to multi-faceted farm market, and community hub
KENDALL – Lora and Jeff Partyka have built a popular farm market in Kendall at the corner of routes 18 and 272. They have been farming together since they were married in 1985.
Their two sons, Scott and Steve, are now partners in the business. They sell sweet corn and fruit from their farm market, and also go to several farmers’ markets and supply Wegmans.
Mrs. Partyka grew up on a beef, cattle and hog farm in Niagara County. Her husband grew up on a dairy farm in Churchville. A friend introduced the two.
Mrs. Partyka spearheaded the barn quilt trail in Kendall, and has a block, The Farmer’s Daughter, at Partyka Farms. The business also has maps and hosts bus tours for the barn trail.
The family is involved in numerous community events, and will host a “Sundae Smack Down” on Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. Teams from the Town of Kendall will square off with eaters from the Town of Hamlin. The winner is the town that finishes a 7-scoop ice cream sundae in the quickest time. Proceeds will go to charities in the towns.
Partyka was interviewed recently by Hub editor Tom Rivers inside the farm market.
Q: This started when you had a wagon by the road. Did you ever think it would turn into this?
A: I didn’t really think about it. I was originally from Niagara County. I worked at a beauty salon. I grew up on a family farm, my parents’ farm in Barker. Then I worked at a beauty salon in Lockport. Then I worked a night job because I was young and wanted to make money.
Jeff and I met through mutual friends. He worked for a farm in Knowlesville. That’s where I met him. He had just purchased this farm (in Kendall). We were going to get married. I moved over here. I didn’t know anybody or even where to start to go back to work.
Within a few months I was pregnant so it wasn’t like I was going to go out and get a new job. I grew up selling produce. My father had a big beef and hog farm and we sold tomatoes and sweet corn by the road. My grandparents went to market in North Tonawanda. Their farm was in Ransomville. Growing up, sometimes I went to market with grandma. We all did that.
So we had some produce here from the all of the fruit. I had a table under a tree first. Then Jeff built me a wagon and then I needed another wagon. This used to be orchard all up to the road. We needed to get cars off the road so we took out some trees.
Q: The community responded to the Partyka produce?
A: We had a good year in ’91. Jeff wanted to build an apple storage to store some of our apples so in ’92 we put up this building as an apple storage. I said to Jeff, ‘Why don’t you put a front on it and I can put the produce under there?’ I never thought we’d go any further with it.
We are very conservative. We had just enough money for the building. The next year we laid a little cement and I put tables out there. And in here was just dirt. Our boys were babies. They dug ponds and played with their Tonka trucks. I had a little cooler in here to feed them, and I worked out of the front. That’s how they grew up.
My husband said, ‘Why don’t we put ice cream in?’ I didn’t want ice cream. I wanted greenhouses. But we went with the ice cream. It was smaller then. We made our own cider and that was here. Over the years we just did a little bit more. We never wanted it to get real big because we don’t feel in our area you could maintain it. You’d have to have so much labor and everything else.
We’re at a nice size where everything just kind of flows together.
Q: You’ve steadily grown?
A: We just did a little bit at a time as we had money. It’s grown into a solid business but we’re very diversified. You’re not going to live off ice cream. You don’t make a lot of money with ice cream. But we have the grills and the gift shop and the produce. As far as produce, there is a wagon on every corner now. People have to like your stuff. We’re kind of known for our sweet corn and peaches. For our little area in the middle of nowhere, we’re doing pretty good. But we have different events. We have Christmas in July. On Father’s Day we had a beef on weck with 230 people. We’re trying to do a different event to be a little different.
Q: You also have a nice playground here.
A: It’s the same thing where we’ve done a little bit at a time. The pavilion we just put up three years ago. We’ve had different birthday parties here, and wedding receptions and showers. We make it really relaxing.
Q: Besides this market, you go to farmers’ markets as well?
A: I go to Batavia two days a week and North Chili one day a week.
Q: You physically do it?
A: Oh yeah. I load the trucks and go with my help. I always feel when your owners get off the trucks, they go in half. The customers want to know what’s coming next. I’ve seen people get off their trucks and the trucks go down.
On Thursday nights Jeff goes to Irondequoit and on Sundays he goes to Brockport. I’d like to see him not go anymore because he’s busy and I’m busy. On my trucks people are so used to me being there. I have some customers who will wait for me to wait on them.
Q: What is the secret to making this work over 25 years?
A: I was born one of 8 children and I had fantastic parents. They never handed us anything. We were pretty much on our own. We’ve all done pretty good. I don’t need material things to say I’ve done good. I feel I’ve done good with my family and my business. I feel very blessed with everything.
You’ve got to believe it and go after it. You have to try.
Q: You’re involved in many community projects, including the barn quilt trail. Wasn’t that initially just going to a block on your greenhouse but it definitely grew from there?
A: It’s grown. I think it’s up to 90. I read an article about another community doing it and I decided we needed to do it in Kendall. It’s worked out well. It’s kind of quieted down because they have been around for a while. However, we printed 250 maps this year and we’ve gone through that many. It’s amazed me from the beginning that so many people are interested in it.
I think ours was the first one done out in the country. Now a lot of them are. The people picked out their own things and meanings. In other places they were picked out by committees. It’s been good for the community and Kendall.
I give Kendall so much credit for being supportive of it. They didn’t make us get permits. I told them to let the people clean up their properties. It’s not a written word. It’s not a sign. Let them enjoy their town.
Q: It’s great that it worked.
A: I hate to say I never sat down and planned it all out. They say you should have a business plan and this and that. I would be driving in my market truck and would think, ‘This thing is getting crazy and I think we need a headquarters. Well, the Town Hall won’t work because they’re not open on weekends and that’s when most people would be out. Well, we’re open seven days a week so I guess it’s us.’
The first time a bus company called me I said we could put a guide on for them. Jean Hart and Cathy DeMarco said they would do it. They went around and took pictures and got a book together. It wasn’t all planned but it worked out.
Q: Did you design and paint the blocks?
A: The people picked their own design. We painted them. I painted them, my employees painted them. Any time we had extra time we went back and painted them. I’m not a gridder as far as putting the design on. Cathy DeMarco, Kathy Kast and Jane Ferris took their time to come and do it. They were awesome. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them or my employees.
Q: What else do you want to say?
A: I feel really blessed to have such an incredible family and to live in a great town. I have great employees. I couldn’t ask for better employees. I was given a chance so I went with it.