KINGSTON — Have you ever heard of ghee? Wheatberry salad? How about Zickles?
Business partners Jess DalSanto Zielen and Megan Mould, who started the online Chic Chic Marketplace in late November, are enthusiastic about all three, especially that last one, which is a brand of pickled zucchini slices prepared and packed in Mason jars by a small, Scranton-area business called Canned Classics.
“The last time I got a jar I sat down and ate the entire thing,” Zielen said. “Sixteen ounces.”
“I’ll bet you drank the juice, too,” Mould said.
Zielen did not deny it. She just smiled and continued on a recent Wednesday afternoon to arrange the foodstuffs and other items customers would soon pick up at the Chic Chic Marketplace’s brick-and-mortar location on East Union Street.
This is where Zielen and Mould — known collectively as “The Soup Chic” — have spent the past several years whipping up batches of all sorts of soup and salad plus entrees such as mini meatloaves or stuffed shells.
In late November they expanded to become a distribution point for specialty items from other producers, such as Simply Ghee, a spreadable, clarified butter made in Lancaster County from the milk of grass-fed dairy cows; hydroponic vegetables grown without pesticides by Rowlands Pennsylvania Produce in Falls and artisan cheeses crafted at Calkins Creamery in Wayne County.
“For some people we’re an alternative to the grocery store,” Zielen said.
Through the marketplace you might order kalamata olive, cinnamon pecan or three-cheese bread from Beta Bread Bakery in Clarks Summit, cookies made from cashews and agave by Nucleus Raw Foods in Luzerne, or shampoos, scrubs and soaps “handcrafted on Adams Avenue” by The Post Body & Soap.
Urging a visitor to inhale the aroma of coffee from Electric City Roasting Co., Zielen said, “There’s a difference between this, roasted a week ago, and what you’d find in a supermarket, probably roasted months ago. We’re really spoiled when it comes to good coffee.”
“Sorry, Folgers,” Mould said.
“We want to support local small businesses that are actually producing or growing or roasting locally,” Zielen explained, adding she and Mould choose to distribute products crafted “by our standard of ethics, in small batches, locally sourced when possible.”
Something like coffee, which grows in the tropics, isn’t cultivated in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but it can be roasted here. Zielen and Mould applaud The Electric City Roasting Co. for doing that and its owner, Mary Tellie, for traveling to coffee-growing regions where she ensures the coffee beans are grown sustainably and purchased in fair trade.
“She’s the real deal,” Zielen said.
As customers arrived to pick up their orders, they praised what the Chic Chic Marketplace provides.
“The shells are filled with ricotta cheese and very good,” Jim Ceccoli of Plains Township said. “I love them.”
Describing a colorful salad of edamame soybeans, roasted red pepper, black beans, corn and celery he said, “Whenever I eat that, I feel strong.”
The salad usually appears once a month on the Soup Chic menu where, Zielen said, “things rotate seasonally, or by popular demand.”
“I do feel like I’m getting healthier as I’m eating (the food I buy here)” Audrey Brozena of Wyoming said, admitting she probably never would have tried a salad made from wheatberries (whole kernels of wheat, containing the bran, germ and endosperm) if The Soup Chic didn’t offer it.
Zielen and Mould have items ready for pick-up between 3 and 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, and take turns making deliveries in the Kingston, Wilkes-Barre and Back Mountain areas. Delivery is free for orders of at least $50.
Their operation is small scale, with no employees but the two of them. To make their system feasible, customers have to order online, at chicchicmarket.com. Calling to place an order won’t work, but through the website you can order products from The Beekeeper’s Daughter, Lavender Poulette, High Point Greens Juicing Co., House of Nutrition, Simply Ghee, Pittston Popcorn and other companies as well as The Soup Chic’s changing menu. Soon meat and eggs from from Quails R Us of Honesdale should be available as well.
If you didn’t place an order, Zielen said, you might stop by 22 ½ East Union St. when the Chic Chic Marketplace is open for pick-up to see if there are any leftovers to buy. Or you call her earlier on Wednesdays (570-301-9733) to see what might be left.
To learn more about the marketplace, you can attend a pop-up tasting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 15 at Melt Hot Yoga, 16 Gateway Shopping Center, Edwardsville. Or check out chicchicmarket.com.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT