Pam Harris was tossing and turning in bed one night, unable to sleep, when the idea came to her.
A retired pharmacist, Harris was looking for something worthwhile to fill her newly free time; something that she enjoyed, something that could grow and possibly create jobs for more people down the road.
That late-night something turned out to be Emer-GenZ Eats & Treats.
“Cooking was always a hobby for me,” said Harris. “I retired because of health reasons and I was honestly getting a little bored. I thought maybe there was a service I could provide that revolved around what I already loved.”
“my biggest seller is definitely my chicken enchiladas. it’s kind of what i’m known for. i like to make them because my customers really seem to love them.”
Situated in the 518 Marketplace on the north side of Harrisburg, Emer-GenZ is a full-fledged prepared meal business, serving up fresh and frozen meals to area customers six days a week (the store is closed Mondays for meal prep).
Harris originally ran Emer-GenZ out of Harrisburg’s Air Madness trampoline park, opening the store for business last March. But after only a few months it became apparent that Emer-Genz would soon outgrow the space. So Harris started looking for a new location for her growing business, and new concept.
Enter the 518 Marketplace, a space with an open floor plan that now houses not just Emer-Genz, but also a handful of other small businesses, all run by local women that Harris herself tapped to join her.
“I just had this thought, like why couldn’t we create a kind of emporium where people can come and shop, eat, get a cup of coffee, or a treat?” said Harris. “I like being able to help other young women achieve their dreams and become small business owners.”
She reached out through Facebook, and within a week and a half Harris had a group interested in being part of the emporium. What she didn’t know was how close this group of women would become as they got the 518 Marketplace off the ground.
“We all really just clicked right away,” said Harris. “My walk-in customers see coffee or cupcakes when they’re picking up dinner and vice versa. It’s good for all of us. I’ve kind of become the mom of the group.”
Though the “unofficial mom” of the 518 Marketplace, Harris still finds time to continue improving on and expanding a business that started with the simple love of spending time in the kitchen.
Harris says she comes from a family of good cooks. Even at the young age of four, she was spending time with her grandmas int he kitchen, both of whom Harris remembers as excellent cooks. She learned how to bake, then can, and eventually cook full0blown meals fit for the crowd that always seemed to be gathered around her family’s table.
“The original idea for Emer-GenZ actually came from watching my own family and friends struggle to get food on the table for dinner with all the activities their kids were in,” said Harris.
She thought her main customer base would be the elderly or homebound, people who weren’t able to prepare meals for themselves anymore, and though Harris says she does serve that demographic, it’s those young families busy with evening commitments that take home the majority of her menu.
“I have a lot of regular customers,” said Harris. “But we also get people who drive from Sioux Falls or even small towns in places like Iowa that pick up food on the weekends.”
EMER-GENZ EATS & TREATS MENU
» BREAKFAST CASSEROLE
» CHICKEN ENCHILADAS
» MILLION DOLLAR SPAGHETTI
» MOM’S ITALIAN MEATLOAF
» PIZZA SLIDERS
» DAD’S HAMBURGER GOULASH
» SHEPHERD’S PIE
» TANGY MONGOLIAN BEEF
As far as the meals themselves go, Harris says she never follows a recipe to the letter, and as for Pinterest recreations, think again.
“I spent the six months before we opened on recipe development,” said Harris. “I tend to make meals that people grew up with: Tater Tot Hotdish, Shepherd’s Pie, Spaghetti, Enchiladas. We like to make things feel special.”
And though she’s been retired from pharmacy for a while, the world of medicine is one that still manages to find its way to Emer-GenZ, and not just in the name. Currently in the works is a delivery truck converted from an old ambulance. Harris is hoping to have it up and running by the spring, delivering meals throughout the area to customers that have become like family.
“I’m so thankful for the support we’ve received from the community,” said Harris. “Without our customers we truly wouldn’t be here. It’s really fulfilling to make meals that people enjoy so much.”
For more information, visit Emer-GenZ Eats & Treats on Facebook.