This time of year is typically pretty busy for Prairie Harvest owner Aaron Gaeddert and his staff, though pleasantly so, as the downtown Newton business invites its customers to take part in its anniversary celebration.
Prairie Harvest (601 N. Main) will mark 18 years in business this weekend and will have plenty of special events going on in conjunction with that milestone. While in-store promotions will be a part of that, there will be a number of festivities taking part in the new Mezzanine event space opening on the upper floor of the building.
While sharing building space with Prairie Harvest, Gaeddert noted The Mezzanine will be its own separate business (that also happens to be owned by his family's company, G5 Main Street Investments), but Prairie Harvest will partner directly with the venue on catering.
Having the anniversary celebration this weekend, Gaeddert said it made sense for the two worlds to merge and that will start with a special dinner (by reservation) at 6 p.m. Nov. 1 that will be followed by a presentation from Danny O'Neill, owner of The Roasterie.
Featured on the menu for Thursday's dinner in The Mezzanine will be some of the Prairy Blend coffees The Roasterie and Prairie Harvest have worked on jointly (including a new decaf blend), along with some of the Prairy Bites line of cookies — like the lemon sugar and chocolate crunch varieties introduced this year. That exposure to the products is a tertiary goal of the weekend's festivities, according to Gaeddert.
"The main thing is customer appreciation and as a part of that we're trying to get some buzz around some new products or some new things that we're doing," Gaeddert said. "Sometimes people haven't been here for a year, since last anniversary, and we've got a lot of different things happening. We just want to show all that off a little bit and get people in here and get them excited."
Among those new products in the Prairy Bites line (though not a cookie) are the wine tasting crackers that will take center stage Nov. 2 at the ribbon cutting for The Mezzanine, starting at 4 p.m., which will feature a wine tasting put on by Grace Hill Winery along with live performances from local musicians.
Finally, closing out the weekend Prairie Harvest will have a number of free kids' activities going on in The Mezzanine along with interactive cider pressing demonstrations outside the store and free apple cider samples being given out starting at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 3. That cider making tradition was one Gaeddert said started with the original owners, as they would rent out a press and make cider one weekend each year. Eventually, though, the orchard the press was rented from went out of business — but Gaeddert noted he was always looking for an opportunity to bring that back.
"Last year, I found this antique cider press and decided to bring it to Prairie Harvest and try and revive that tradition a little bit," Gaeddert said.
In addition to the festivities celebrating the business, Gaeddert intends to celebrate the history of the building as well (Prairie Harvest's second location) and have a historical display up in the hallways starting on Nov. 1, while also highlighting the modifications to the shared space (i.e stairway, second floor studios) to tie the building together.
Given the recent history surrounding shopping in the downtown Newton area, Gaeddert is happy to be celebrating nearly 20 years of business for Prairie Harvest — as well as showing off recent innovations and plans to continue that.
"Retail has kind of dropped off in Newton overall and downtown especially, so I think it's really significant that Prairie Harvest is still here and has been here ever since 2000," Gaeddert said. "We're always trying to come up with some new things. This past year was when we put in our new new production kitchen and in January we put in our new juice bar. We've got a new bakery case that (we're) gonna be featuring, so we're trying to expand some of our baked offerings between breads and cakes and bars. We're constantly trying to evolve the business. We're trying to build on the types of things that can bring people into this building and provide more of a community space."
Call 316-283-6623 for reservations to Thursday's dinner. For more information on all the anniversary tie-ins, visit www.prairieharvestks.com.