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Lancaster Marketplace Standholder Spotlight: The Lancaster Stroopie Co.

This month we are starting a Standholder Spotlight. We did a Question and Answer with The Lancaster Stroopie Co. for you to learn more about their company and background. Check back regularly for more Standholder Spotlights!

What is important for someone to know about your business today?

Mary, Jennie, and Jonathan.

Mary, Jennie, and Jonathan.

Jonathan and I (Jennie Groff) are both part owners of Stroopies, Inc., which was established in 2008 to provide meaningful employment to resettled refugee women while making a great product, Stroopies!   

Stroopies are a dutch cinnamon waffle, with a homemade caramel in the center, designed to rewarm on your favorite hot beverage!  

Lancaster Stroopie Co. Employs Resettled Refugees

Currently, we have three resettled refugee women from Syria, three from Burma, and two from the Congo that make the Stroopies along with our manager who helps lead the crew and teaches an English class at work to the women. We have two main goals for the women - that they would either grow up into management at Stroopies, Inc., which is starting to happen or that the women would use Stroopies as a springboard to launch into other careers as they get established and learn the language, which also often happens. We view both as success!  

Lancaster Marketplace Location

The Stroopies are made at the Lancaster Sweet Shoppe on Duke St., in Lancaster City and at our 2nd location at the Lancaster Marketplace. We are excited about having the Stroopies at the Lancaster Marketplace because it is a location that is a bit more accessible for some of our customers. It is also exciting for us to have a full coffee bar at the marketplace where we feature Square One Coffee and we are excited to be adding a line of Passenger teas to our menu as well.

Currently, our production line of Stroopies makes 300 Stroopies an hour!

Jennie at The Lancaster Stroopie Co. stand at the marketplace.

Jennie at The Lancaster Stroopie Co. stand at the marketplace.

We dip about half of the Stroopies in dark Wilbur chocolate and decorate some with pecans, peppermint, espresso, salted caramel, and coconut. We also have a gluten-free line that we are very proud of.

Another big focus for us is making Stroopie hearts for wedding favors. Currently, most of our hearts are being made at the Lancaster Marketplace. It is the perfect thing for our Marketplace manager, Destiny, to work on when she is not waiting on customers. When we make hearts we have yummy Stroopie crumbs filled with a homemade caramel that are perfect for sampling to the market guests and also to bag up for customers to take home to snack on or put on top of their favorite ice cream. Stroopies, also pair really well with ice cream!    

What's your business story? How the business started and has come to this point.  

Stroopies was founded by two of our friends Ed McManness and Dan Perryman in 2008. They were a part of our house church and Jonathan and I were excited to hear about their business model.   We loved their vision to be a social enterprise and to be a blessing to the Lancaster refugee community while making a great product. Ed and Dan also had a desire to take the Stroopie business to a community in India where there could be a branch of the Stroopie business started. In 2010, when Dan left Lancaster to go to India to start a sister-company to Stroopies, Jonathan and I came on as part-owners to develop the business here in the Lancaster Community.

Jonathan's family makes Groff's Homemade Chocolates. With Jonathan's background in sweets and his love for developing systems, we felt like we could use our connections to grow Stroopies vision and help take the company to the next level. When we came on as owners, we started making the Stroopies out at Groff's Candies, on the other side of Millersville. The candy shop was a great place for us to land when we were just starting… renting equipment and commercial kitchen space for the hours that we needed it.   It was logistically challenging though because a lot of the resettled refugee women that we were hiring did not drive, so we had to be creative and do a lot of carpooling.

Open Doors for Manufacturing Space

When God opened up doors for us to purchase a building at 141 N. Duke St., to renovate into our Stroopie manufacturing space, as well as a Sweet Shoppe where we could feature our Stroopies, Groff's Homemade Chocolates, as well as Pine View Dairy Ice Cream, we were thrilled. This meant that people walking by could smell the Stroopies being made (not just the cows and the corn fields) and that the women and us (our family lives in the city) could walk to work. It was so nice having a central location. We completely renovated the space and moved into the space Memorial Day Weekend 2016.  

Launching a Lancaster Marketplace Location

Jennie making stroopies at 4th Friday “Meet Me at the Market” night.

Jennie making stroopies at 4th Friday “Meet Me at the Market” night.

When we heard about the Lancaster Marketplace we were excited to branch out and try a 2nd location.   We love when we can set up and make the Stroopies on location, where customers can get a fresh warm Stroopie and take a pack home for a treat or a gift to share with others. We also set up at German Christmas Markets over the holidays… the kind of European-style markets that Stroopies would have originated in. We have great success at these markets and they are always a highlight of our year.

This year we are also going to be trying a holiday kiosk at Park City Mall for five weekends of the holiday season. We continue to grow and push out the best ways that we can sell the Stroopies so that we can create more production jobs for the resettled refugee women that are learning English and starting over here in Lancaster. We are also extremely thankful for people like Destiny (who manages the Lancaster Marketplace market stand) on our team, that believe in the mission of our company and can help us sell the Stroopies that the women are making. The team that God has brought together at Stroopies, Inc. is an amazing gift.   

What's the background story that got you to this point?

Jonathan and I both grew up in small family businesses...I on a dairy farm, and as previously mentioned, Jonathan in a family candy business. From a young age, Jonathan grew up going to market with his parents and watching his Grandma run her bake stand at the Lancaster Central Market.  When Jonathan and I married almost 20 years ago (our 20th anniversary is coming up on Jan. 8, 2020!! ) I moved into Lancaster City where Jonathan was already living.

Before we were married Jonathan had fixed up a condemned house on Manor St. to be a prayer house. There were a lot of boarded up, condemned houses in the Manor St. area at that time, and our neighborhood just needed a lot of love and renewed hope.   In the early years of our marriage we worked at fixing up condemned houses in our neighborhood to provide affordable housing options in our Cabbage Hill Neighborhood, and also hosted a house church in our home. We decided to stay and raise our four kids in this neighborhood...a people garden of people from all over the world!   

In 2008, we were surprised when a lot of resettled refugee families starting pouring into Lancaster looking for places to live. Some stayed in our units, and some of our house church got the opportunity to sponsor.   We were impressed with the respect that these families brought to our neighborhood, their resilience, and their thankfulness for the opportunity to start their lives over in a new place. We also had been praying about a small business that we could work at with our kids as they were growing up.

When the opportunity with Stroopies presented itself, it felt like a perfect fit for us. It is hard to believe that it is now 2019 and that we have been working with Stroopies for almost 10 years. It has been an incredibly rewarding journey that of course has had its challenges as well. Small business development is not for the faint of heart, but it has been a journey that has made us stronger and more dependent on God for strength and courage. Through it all we have been thankful for the gift of a community full of cheerleaders and for being able to see Stroopies grow and be a blessing to many people. It has been a way for us to learn what worship to God can look like outside the walls of a church. Business is a great way to take a gift and share it with many people...an incredible way to share a blessing!

Is there anything unique about your background or products that you want to share?  

Stroopies have been the perfect thing for us to make!   We will be forever thankful to our Dutch friend who helped us with the recipe.   Stroopies are unique and hard to find here in the States, so this is great for us.    

We are committed to having a great product while caring for the women that work for us, as well. Currently, our little system makes three hundred Stroopies an hour and they are being shipped all over the US from our facility at the Sweet Shoppe and at the Lancaster Marketplace. We have dreams about being able to grow our capacity and take what we are doing right now and scale it to have even more impact.  

I dream about having an on-site daycare that the women that work with us can have a child care option right at work as they working to learn the language and help provide for their families. God has done so many miracles along the way and opened up amazing opportunities that it gives me hope that perhaps this too can become a reality in our next facility!

What else do you want to share about the business or your team?   

Whenever I get the opportunity to share about Stroopies, I like to encourage others to use what God has given them in their hands. If a Stroopie cookie can be used to be a blessing, what is in your hands can be used as well. Don't be afraid to try things...you never know what will stick and work. We have had many things that have worked beautifully at Stroopies, but also things that have not worked as well.  We learn from our successes, but we also learn from our failures. I also have learned beautiful things about the power of a team. There are many things that I can do well...but there are also a lot of things that I am not good at. The beauty of the team is that when the team is working well we each bring our gift-mix to the table and we go further!

That’s a wrap for our first stand holder spotlight of Jonathan and Jennie Groff with The Lancaster Stroopie Co. Just a quick reminder that June 28th from 6 pm to 9 pm will be our next 4th Friday ‘Meet Me at the Market Night’! The All Weather Band will be performing, there will be grilling, other good food and FUN! Plan now to come on out, enjoy the evening and have a Stroopie!


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