I’ve visited and shopped at World Harvest numerous times over the years. I enjoy going in and taking time to read the colorful labels, and lovinginly gaze at all of the gourmet chocolates and cheeses.
I spent some time living in northwestern Germany in 2006, and when I got home I really missed it there. The only place I could find my favorite cheese and chocolates from Europe was at World Harvest. It was such a comfort to have these items from a place I loved and missed so much.
It was a pleasure to learn more about World Harvest and their plans for the future from General Manager David Crutcher. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions. There is so much to learn about and explore at World Harvest. Make sure to check out thier mouthwatering cafe menu on thier website. Visit the store for yourself and see what culinary treasures you’ll discover. Check out my interview below.
Smile Politey: When did World Harvest open? How did the community respond to the new store?
David Crutcher: World Harvest opened about 16 years ago. Prior to that, the owner had a store in Urbana named Hop and Shop. The store was well received because it filled a niche market, carrying products no one else in town did.
SP: When did you begin working there?
DC: I started working here in 2008.
SP: What are the specialties at World Harvest?
DC: We are mostly known for our large selections of international cheeses, olive oils, chocolate, and teas. However, we offer a lot of gourmet and international items, as well as many locally made products, such as toffee from A Toffee Tale, Shelley's salsa, Sasse's Apiary honey, locally roasted coffee from Luna Verde and Inspiro, and fresh bread from Pekara.
SP: How many employees do you have at World Harvest?
DC: We have 8 employees.
SP: Have you expanded over the years? How?
DC: About 7 years ago the travel agency to the west of us closed, and we expanded into their former space. We added an all new walk-in cooler and freezer, and expanded our product selection.
SP: Do you feel your prices are competitive in comparison to other specialty foods store in the area? What sets your store apart?
DC: Yes, especially in the cheese department. The rep from our main cheese supplier keeps telling us that every other store marks up their cheese more than we do. We also have great deals on spices, priced well below supermarket prices.
SP: What type of lunch specials do you offer?
DC: We don't offer any specials at lunch time, but our most popular item by far is our falafel sandwich. It comes with falafel, hummus, cucumber, and tomato salad, and tahini sauce all stuffed in a pita.
SP: What are a few of your favorite items?
DC: I’m a big fan of the Prima Donna aged gouda from Holland. It's nice and sharp with calcium lactate crystals that crunch when you bite them. I’m also fond of the crushed Aleppo peppers. They have a fruitiness that sets them apart from your standard crushed red pepper.
SP: What’s your favorite thing about working at World Harvest?
DC: I enjoy cooking at home, so I love knowing all about newly popular ingredients. I frequently see items in the store before hearing or reading about them. I’m delighted that we have a store to find ingredients that seem difficult or impossible to track down.
SP: What does the future hold for World Harvest?
DC: Last year the owner of World Harvest purchased and remodeled Strawberry Fields in Urbana as a natural foods counterpoint to World Harvest. We will continue developing that store while we offer the same products our many loyal customers enjoy at World Harvest. However, our shelves are continually changing as we add new items to keep on top of current trends.
World Harvest Foods is located at 519 E University Avenue in Champaign, and is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
All photos by Jessica Hammie.