Visitors to Salem, Virginia, will notice the friendliness and politeness of its residents, the bountiful spirit of community, and the picturesque background of the mountains. When they ask for advice on where to get a delicious and healthy meal they can expect to be directed to Fruitions, where everyone can witness this spirit of community.
Upon entering Fruitions, I received a warm "Welcome to Fruitions" greeting from an energetic and enthusiastic employee who followed it up with some excellent advice on what to order. I was amazed at the variety of wraps and smoothies; there are enough choices to satisfy a large crowd, each with distinctive tastes. Within minutes, after I picked out a bag of chips and a warm cookie fresh from the oven, my name is called and my order is ready.
While I am sitting down to enjoy this toasted wrap and smoothie, I notice all of the other smiling customers around me. To my right is a family with two small children happily munching away and to my left is a group of students wearing Roanoke College shirts who are eating and chatting on a comfortable-looking couch. Creating this family atmosphere is challenging for most restaurants, yet it just seems to come naturally for Fruitions. As I am wondering which came first, the delicious food or the kind-hearted people, I decided to compliment the owner or manager.
I asked an employee if the owner or manager is available and she asks me to wait a moment. Then she returns to my table, followed by an owner, who introduces herself to me as Kathy Sultze. After I complimented Kathy on the nutritious meal and commendable service, she graciously thanks me and explains how much she enjoys being a part of the Salem community and working with this young crowd. As a former teacher, Kathy has always loved working with children and adolescents. Now she is a part of teaching life skills to students, who are employed at Fruitions.
In the middle of our conversation, her husband and co-owner, Larry Sultze, walks into the shop and Kathy introduces him to me. After repeating my compliments to Larry, he replies that they are both blessed to have such a trust-worthy team of employees, which is critical to their success since Larry's job as an airline pilot prevents him from being in town all the time. Larry describes how Jennifer Halstead, an employee for five years, known for her incredible artistic skills, is a good example of how their employees are reliable and passionate about providing superior customer service. Larry continues by saying that many of their summer employees return to work for them year after year.
Family has also played a role in creating a family-friendly Fruitions' environment. Kathy's sister, Carol Garrett, and her son, Shawn Garrett, have contributed to the decorations, the paint, and the website through their amazing artistic and creative talents. Containing my feelings of awe, I shake hands with Kathy and Larry, and part ways knowing I will return again soon. Before I make it out the door, someone wearing a Fruitions t-shirt calls out to me to have a good day. This place is special. Just ask their customers.