More than 300 people eagerly waited for the Rue and Gwen Gibson Farm Market at Fresno State to open on Monday and it wasnt for the famed sweet corn.
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This crowd of school officials, students, benefactors and loyal customers gathered to celebrate the grand opening of a new 4,800-square-foot farm market store at 5368 N. Chestnut Ave.
Built in a barn style, the new market boasts nearly twice as much room as the old store, and serves as a testament to the growth of the operation that sells dozens of student-made products -- from award-winning wine to the much sought after sweet corn.
The corn is so popular that lines form when customers find out it has arrived. The sweet corn craze has even received national media attention.
Fresno State President John Welty praised the work of the students and the success of the market, saying the effort reflects a deep commitment to the region and the community.
"And when you can make sweet corn that makes national headlines, you know you are doing something right," Welty said.
The new store was built with the help of a $1.5 million gift from the estate of Joyce Mae Gibson. The farm market was renamed to honor her parents, Rue and Gwen Gibson.
Beverly Knobloch, Joyce Gibson's sister, said during Monday's grand opening ceremony that the public has had a love affair with the market that has now blossomed into a marriage.
Customers couldn't agree more. Many lined up to get a peek at the new store and for the free samples of almonds, raisins, citrus, jam and ice cream.
"I love this store and could hardly wait for it to open," said Stacy Batrich-Smith of Fresno. "And it has so much more room for more great quality products."
Fellow shopper Terri Garrison of Fresno was carrying three tubs of ice cream -- her grandchildren's favorite -- and several small house plants grown by the horticulture department.
"I didn't think there would be so many people here," Garrison said. "But I wanted to come check it out because we are big supporters of the store and have been buying Fresno State products for 10 years."
Launched as an outdoor fruit stand at the corner of Barstow and Chestnut avenues nearly 30 years ago, the market has grown from its humble beginnings to a modern operation that rakes in more than $1 million in annual gross sales.
The store's profits are churned back into supporting student agricultural programs, including the 1,000-acre student farm.
Farm market manager Jennifer Sobieralski said the new store allows for new features, including an ice cream counter, wine tasting room and refrigerated floral display case.
"This will really give us the opportunity to increase production and continue to add new products," Sobieralski said.
Students are working on several varieties of trail mix. The added space allows more room for inventory. The store already stocks wine, ice cream, cheese, milk, sausage, bacon, plants, floral arrangements, nuts, raisins, jams, barbecue sauce, and many produce items -- including that beloved sweet corn.
And for those who are curious, school officials expect the sweet corn to arrive by Memorial Day Weekend.
Michelle Cromie, the student supervisor, said customers have already been asking.
"People have really grown fond of this store and they really support us," she said. "And that makes us very proud."
If you go
Spring hours for the Rue and Gwen Gibson Farm Market:
Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Summer hours (late May):
Monday- Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.