There is a beautiful stretch of highway in southern Illinois as you head out of Carbondale. Highway 127 takes you through the lush rolling hills of Shawnee National Forest, dotted with exits to bike paths and scenic views, eggs for sale signs and a passing Amish buggy or two. Watch out for tortoise crossing, especially in the morning hours.
Just before you reach the small town of Alto Pass, you come upon a site that has had its roots there for almost 150 years—Rendleman Orchards. This bucolic 800+ acre orchard, is in the hands of a 5th generation family of fruit growers. Peaches are their specialty, growing a dozen different varieties. Nectarines and apples are also abundant, but the real head turners are the fields of beautiful flowers. Acres of sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos and a seasonal “surprise crop” are here for the picking. Along with some, goats, chickens, fall pumpkin patches and out of this world peach smoothies, Rendleman’s has transformed itself into a fresh air, fresh food, fresh flower agritainment event space.
In early 2020, owner, Michelle Sirles, contacted Retailworks, Inc. for assistance in re-designing the layout of the Market Shop, a charming red barn structure housing not only pecks and bushels but family heirlooms and historical photos. On busy weekends, the checkout counter was too small to accommodate the crowd. Lines would back up and prevent shoppers from navigating the store and the staff needed quicker access to the kitchen and crating room. There was also a need to departmentalize and merchandise products as well as to bring in fresh new items. Additionally, a new POS system was required that could make inventory, checkout, and reporting more efficient and easily integrate with an online store.
Besides creating a new store layout, checkout counter with ample storage, and suggesting a more user-friendly POS system, we suggested new product lines. After a few days of our team reorganizing and merchandising onsite, the market resulted in a whole new store! We even repurposed some elements from the barns into materials, elements and props that were used in the fabrication of the counters and in the displays, thereby making these pieces not only historical but meaningful to the family.
Despite COVID-19, the year 2020 was a smashing success for Rendleman Orchards! In 2021, we provided some “start of season” merchandising and prep work and it’s been another year of booming sales for Rendleman’s. With future projects already on the books for the Retailworks merchandising team, there will no doubt be more fun on the farm in store!
Here are a few problems we encountered while at Rendleman Orchards, and the solutions we developed:
Problem: back up at front door checkout/confusion on where to bring purchases
Solution: relocate POS to rear of shop; create larger, well-signed long counter to accommodate multiple registers and point of purchase displays
Problem: multiple/various styles of fixtures
Solution: painted shelving units black to create continuity and put focus on product; chose 3 coordinating fabric basket liners to reduce mismatch; merchandised brands together within product category
Problem: short shelf life produce and troublesome heavy door refrigerators
Solution: introduced an open grab-and-go cooler for quick drink pick up and to house produce; was then able to introduce new products