Hot Chef: How Julia Sanzen’s Farmers Hardware Boxes Resurrected Her Business

For so many small business owners, COVID-19 has been a lesson in thinking outside the box. But at Downtown Saratoga’s Farmers Hardware, co-owners Tyler Russell and Julia Sanzen owe their pandemic-surviving success to what they are putting in the box. Specifically, their new weekend “Brunch in a Box” kits. The local husband-and-wife team (Russell hails from Lake George; Sanzen is a Saratoga native) debuted their weekend must-haves this past Easter, after having originally shut down all food service, with the idea of making them on holiday weekends only. “We were hoping to sell 40 boxes over the weekend—20 on Saturday, 20 on Sunday,” Russell says. “We sold 100! Each box was for four people, so we went from feeding zero to about 400 people in one weekend. It was overwhelming—but it was good anxiety!” They rehired one of their furloughed employees and began offering the pick-up, family-style meals every weekend, complete with a “boozy” option that they say about half of the people opt in for. Let’s dig into these boxes to see what Saratoga’s been brunching on. Sanzen fills us in. 

The boxes are pretty hefty and feed at least four people each. What’s in them?
Four big offerings—plus one small item, such as a peanut butter rice krispy treat or granola bars. I like the boxes to be well-balanced between savory and sweet. There’s always an egg dish, such as a frittata with veggies, and something sweet, like bread pudding. Plus a meat or side dish—we did deviled eggs on Easter—and a starch such as roasted potato hash.

You’re so good about always offering gluten free and vegetarian options.
I’ve been a chef for about 11 years now, but my background is in health and wellness. I fell in love with working with people on their health needs.

Should fans of your restaurant expect to see their favorite dishes in the boxes, or something new?
Some things are familiar. The frittata is a favorite at the restaurant, so it was a no-brainer to put that in. But we never want to bore anyone! Some of our most popular new dishes have been a cobbler made with fresh biscuits and mixed berries, and a brie and berry pudding. We try to be creative.  

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