If you read this column regularly, you know I live with two feline companions who have very distinctive personalities.
Peyton, the tabby, will consume almost anything edible. (I say “almost” because he does draw the line at bananas — too stinky!)
By contrast, my tuxedo cat, Beau, has a very discriminating palate. If something isn’t fresh or he considers it inferior in any way, he’ll scrape his placemat, indicating that he thinks the food should be covered up. (“Waiter! Take it away! This is unacceptable! I’d rather not eat!”)
I’m telling you this so you’ll appreciate just how much Beau LOVES fried chicken from Wilson’s Farm Market. As far as he’s concerned, it ranks right up there with tuna. (There can be no higher praise.)
The minute I hit the door with Wilson’s chicken, Beau’s nose goes into overdrive. It’s a foregone conclusion that I’ll be sharing some of my dinner that night. (Hey, I’m not going to risk a furry riot!)
Fortunately for Beau (and Peyton,) I’m rather fond of Wilson’s fried chicken myself, so I occasionally make the trek up there. I even buy a few extra pieces — when they’re available — to put in the freezer for later because Wilson’s isn’t exactly on my beaten path.
In fact, unless you drive U. S. 31 frequently, Wilson’s isn’t on anybody’s beaten path. Halfway between Kokomo and Indianapolis at the intersection of U. S. 31 and 256th Street, it’s basically in the middle of nowhere. They have an Arcadia address, but a Sheridan phone number.
And yet, they’ve had a successful business for over 50 years.
It all started in 1968 when Bill Wilson, Sr. began selling eggs out of an old refrigerator on a self-serve basis. A muffin tin was provided for customers to leave their money. Later, fresh fruits and vegetables were added to the offerings.
In 1971, Bill, Sr. sold the operation to his son, Bill, Jr., who, with his wife, Judy, still owns it today.
They’ve remodeled three times. The last makeover, in 2014, doubled the size of their building and greatly enlarged the bakery and deli sections.
That was good timing, because Sheridan’s last grocery closed right about then, turning the town into a food desert. Wilson’s expansion gave Sheridan residents the option of a food source a little closer than Westfield, Noblesville or Tipton.
When I first visited Wilson’s in the 1990’s, they were doing a good business, but that was nothing compared to the crowds that show up today. I always count myself lucky if I can find a parking space near the building.
As good as the fried chicken is, those people aren’t just coming for it. The expanded market has become a kind of general store. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you were in Shipshewana from the wide variety of Amish cheeses, Yoder’s meat, baked goods and other items they sell.
Another hot ticket at Wilson’s are morel mushrooms, which are usually available each spring for a very short time around the first of May. The mushrooms are sold by the box and are NOT cheap, but if you crave morels and don’t have access to your own secret patch, you can get them here.
Of course, they do still sell produce, much of which is locally grown in season. They’re especially known for their sweet corn.
No time to run up to 256th Street? Don’t worry. You can also find their sweet corn, kettle corn, pretzels and other items at the booths they operate at the Indiana State Fair, and at other fairs, festivals and farmer’s markets.
(See their website, wilsonfarmmarket.com, or Facebook page for locations and times.)
Thanks to Nancy Massey for additional research.
Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears on Wednesdays in The Times. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org