For people on Allen County’s northeast side, Nolt’s Marketplace Deli, located at 10370 Leo Road in the Leo Crossing Shopping Center, is the perfect spot to find locally sourced products and ingredients for cooking snacks and meals that provide delicious comfort during trying times.
The small market features fresh-made doughnuts, bread, cookies, cinnamon rolls, pies, cakes, baking supplies, jams and jellies, candy and snack foods, Amish-sourced meats and cheeses, and a sizable selection of gluten-free foods. A full-service deli counter prepares sandwiches and wraps, fresh salads made in-house, and freshly smoked meats that are sold four days a week for carry-out.
Husband and wife team Doug and Sheri Nolt are the owners of this “mom and pop” market that has been serving the community since September 2012, and they are motivated by much more than making a living. “We saw a need to provide a Christian value-based business to the community,” Doug said. “This is our mission work.”
The couple, along with their four daughters: Lindsey, 20; Allison, 18; Moriah, 13; and Libertie, 10, all work together to help spread their family’s mission to the community. “Our goals are to provide excellent customer service and high-quality food at a fair price, in a culture where we value our customers and employees, so they know that we genuinely care about them. We want them to feel like they are part of our family,” Doug said. “Meeting customers relationally and with hearts to serve, that is our heart.”
Before their 2012 store opening, Doug worked for Jayco, a recreational vehicle manufacturer, at their Middlebury facility. “I didn’t know anything about running a store, but I had seen my dad work in the retail industry. He worked for Coca Cola and Snyder’s of Hanover,” he said. “Sheri and I talked about our calling to open the store with our parents, and we got their blessing. We took a big leap of faith — we didn’t know if we would make it or not.”
The store carries a large variety of products made and distributed in the Indiana/Ohio region. Baked goods come from Middlebury, where they are produced by both Essenhaus and Country Lane Bakery. A driver from Nolt’s journeys to Middlebury every morning to pick up the freshly made food and return it to Fort Wayne by 6:30 a.m.
For the first years the store was open, Doug made the daily commute from Fort Wayne to Middlebury to source freshly made baked goods. Leaving every morning at 3:30 a.m., he would drive to pick up Rise’n Roll doughnuts, returning to Fort Wayne by 6:30 a.m. with a van full of baked goods, including the popular cinnamon caramel doughnuts commonly referred to as “Amish Crack.” Nolt’s was the first Fort Wayne location where the popular Rise’n Roll doughnuts were sold, and through word of mouth and social media, customers started to discover the newly opened store.
In 2017, when Rise’n Roll announced its first franchise on Fort Wayne’s north side, they terminated their relationship with Nolt’s. This caught Doug by surprise, leaving him in search of other suppliers to fill the void. He reached out to Essenhaus Foods and established the first ever distribution point for their famous baked goods outside of their Middlebury restaurant location. “It was definitely a God thing,” he said.
In addition to Essenhaus and Country Lane Bakery items, Nolt’s uses other local suppliers to source products. Fresh hand pies are available every Thursday through Saturday, and come from Turnover Creations in Hicksville, Ohio. Yoder’s Meat and Cheese Company from Shipshewana provides the store with over 50 items, including beef, chicken, pork and buffalo. Honey from Rekeweg Honey Company in Decatur and maple syrup from Beachler’s Sugar Bush in Claypool are both available at the store.
Many products made in Ohio are provided by food distributor Walnut Creek Foods in Millersburg, Ohio. The store’s staff, which consists of five full-time and five part-time employees, in addition to the Nolt family, packages bulk foods into family-sized containers. Store manager Liz Mullett handles the day-to-day operations, but Doug is on-site 40-50 hours per week. “My family comes in to help when we need them,” he noted.
“It took us two years to know we were going to make it,” Doug said. “The first two years we lived on basically nothing as we poured everything right back into the business. Our third year was a success.” The store has continued to grow its customer base and expand its offerings.
The addition of the deli, and preparing sandwiches and salads for carry-out, helped with the growth. They experienced a 35% increase in sales in 2020. “We sold 1,600 pies the week of Thanksgiving,” Doug said.
In 2015, Doug purchased a smoker to extend the deli offerings. “We offer fresh and warm chicken halves on Wednesdays, pulled pork on Thursdays, racks of ribs on Fridays and smoked chicken wings on Saturdays,” he said. “It’s been really popular, and it has definitely increased loyalty and our customer count.”
In 2017, the northwest side of Fort Wayne was targeted for a second Nolt’s location. The family purchased land near Carroll and Lima Roads and announced their plans to expand. Designs were completed, but the pandemic put a damper on the project. “We’re on hold right now,” said Doug. “We’ll be revisiting the whole project in the next few months.”
Nolt’s Marketplace is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m.; and closed on Sunday. To learn more about the business, visit its Facebook page, Nolt’s Marketplace.