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Enjoying a taste of Indiana

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HOME GROWN: Tricia Hopkins shops at the recently opened Rachel’s Taste of Indiana with her children.
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CUSTOMERS FIRST: Rachel Boyer, owner of Rachel’s Taste of Indiana, chats with a customerabout products at her newly opened store in Converse.
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READY FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Rachel’s Taste of Indiana in Converse is decorated for the holidays.

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicle-tribune.com

CONVERSE — Inside Rachel’s Taste of Indiana, the newest store in town, a map of Indiana greets customers. On the map, laminated paper and thumbtacks mark the location where the store’s products were produced. It’s a fittingly unique decoration, for a fittingly unique store.

Everything at Rachel’s Taste of Indiana is sourced from the state, and oftentimes, right from your own backyard.

The store’s pork is sourced from five miles away and the beef only travels a mile to get on the shelves. Leftover husks, a byproduct of the fresh cooking oils the store also sells, goes to feed the pigs. It’s a cyclical process where little is wasted.

In another room sits handcrafted items made by local Hoosiers. Here one can find plenty of handcrafted goods perfect for a Christmas present.

“I always wanted a retail store,” said Rachel Boyer, owner of Rachel’s Taste of Indiana. “The opportunity arose when the building was up for sale. It’s in a prime location between two very busy businesses, so (I knew) the foot traffic would be perfect right here.”

Before this, Boyer was a stay-at-home mom who worked part time with her husband’s family, who own Healthy Hoosier Oil.

The store opened on Nov. 30 and already has enjoyed an outpouring of support.

“It has been a wonderful response,” she said. “The community has really stood behind me and been here for me.”

While a small town, Converse seemed to be the right fit for Boyer.

“This is home, this is where we’re from,” she said. “Converse is a destination place, so this is where (the store) needed to be.”

An impressive statistic, Boyer’s store already has nearly 1,000 likes on Facebook. To put that into perspective, the entire town of Converse only has a population of 1,148, according to the 2010 census.

Boyer said her success is thanks to the types of products she sells.

“(On Facebook) we explain the products we have and that we know the people who make these products personally,” she said. “It’s all local.”

One of the store’s hottest selling items is popcorn on the cob. And yes, you read that right.

“It pops in the microwave right off the ear of corn,” Boyer said. “A lot of people are using it for stocking stuffers.”

The store is also selling Spicy Bacon Jam in droves, she said. The product is made by Midwest Fresh, out of Marion.

A large part of Boyer’s success is being a member of Indiana Grown, an Indiana Department of Agriculture Program which helps get Indiana products on store shelves.

“It’s hard to stress how important Indiana Grown really is,” she said. “Without that program, I don’t think we could do what we’re doing.”

Selling locally produced products is important to Boyer.

“It’s important to know where your foods (are) coming from,” she said. “(Our producers) can tell you where their stuff’s coming from. In the salsa (for instance), you know where the tomatoes are coming from. They’re not being shipped from way off, (but from) the farm down the road.”

As customers enter Boyer’s store to graze products, she greets them with a cheery smile and guides them through how the products were produced and from where.

Boyer said educating people on local products is an important aspect of the business for her.

Those who have stopped by have loved what the store offers the community. 

“I love that she offers the frozen quality meats which is something that Converse has needed,” said Converse resident Susan Davis. “The boutique (and) gift side offers unique gifts as well. I am excited for Rachel and know that her shop will continue to grow. It is great to be a part of supporting her dream.”

In a few years, Boyer said she hopes to offer even more shelf space to local producers because she knows how difficult it is to create a product that is ready to sell.

It appears she is well on her way to that goal already.

At a Christmas in Converse holiday event that took place last Saturday, her store was visited by more than 300 people in a period of about three hours.

“It blew my mind,” she said.

The store gave away some oils and a painting from the craft side of the store.

“(I’ve had) such an outpouring of support,” she said. “It means more than anything. If not for the support, I wouldn’t be able to do it, and the help I’ve had along the way has been amazing.”