If you’ve ever been on the fence about how you feel about garlic, walk through the door of the Galena Garlic Company and “Team Garlic” is sure to make you a garlic fan before you leave. Owner “Papa Laszlo” Marton will make sure of that.
“I have a team that believes in what they are doing and are totally committed to the product,” says Laszlo. “Our number one focus is on customer service because we already know we have a great product. We’re very passionate about what we do. I hire passion and personality – I can train the rest.”
The “product” Laszlo refers to totally revolves around garlic and the many culinary creations the Galena Garlic Company is known to produce from their number one ingredient.
“Garlic is life,” he says. It couldn’t be truer about his life. Intensely and uniquely flavorful and aromatic, Laszlo has taken what has been a life-long diet staple in his Hungarian heritage and turned it into his family’s lifeblood.
Garlic, often referred affectionately to some as “the stinking rose,” is actually a member of both the onion and lily family. Although mostly associated with cooking as a flavorful addition to food, it may also be responsible for adding a few years to your life.
“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food,” said ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, often called the father of Western medicine. Modern science has pretty much confirmed that there is indeed truth in those ancient words of wisdom. Particularly when it comes to garlic.
Garlic has a compound called allicin, which researchers have found to have potent medicinal properties. Better yet, it is not only highly nutritious – high in vitamin C, B6, manganese, and containing a little bit of almost everything we need – but has very few calories. A one-ounce serving only contains three calories.
Adding garlic to your diet will boost the function of your immune system, even reducing a bout with the common cold by up to 70%! In addition, the active compounds in garlic can reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, improve bone health, lower blood sugar, fights respiratory disease, and has cancer inhibiting agents. And yes, in can not only help control your weight, some researcher say it can even be an aphrodisiac!
Not bad for a stinking rose.
With a small grocery store background and even some upscale retail experience, Laszlo developed his business plan around his love of garlic, his passion for planting and growing, and most importantly, his goal of helping and advising people on how to eat healthier. As a result, he opened the Galena Garlic Company (literally from the ground up) in 2002 in a small retail space in the basement of the DeSoto House in Galena.
“We knew we couldn’t just open a store selling garlic,” Laszlo reflects. “So I started growing garlic and soliciting the help of a couple of chefs to develop seasonings, blends, and oils. We opened with 25 rubs and seasonings and now have over 300.”
It didn’t take the Galena Garlic Company long to make a name for itself. Business increased and the move to the 311 South Main St. location became inevitable in 2006. With a strong belief that his products should always be fresh and foolproof, the store’s premium spice blends are created in small batches with every package being hand-sealed. In addition, the store also graduated to offering gourmet soups, dips, sea salts, olive oils, salsas, tapenades, and a wide variety of culinary-related retail items.
Needless to say, Laszlo is involved in every step of the operation, including the hand planting of more than 20,000 cloves of garlic on his 17-acre farm in Woodbine, IL, just 20 miles from Galena. He also solicits garlic from other “sister” farms to help fulfill his product needs. In addition, all the products they sell, such as their olive oil, have to meet the same fresh standards, even going so far as knowing exactly what month and year the olives were crushed in the garlic oil – this keeps the customer informed as well.
“We know the crush state, what farm it comes from, and the chemistry of the product,” he said. “We have a very specific criteria. When you taste real garlic – produced from a farm or from someone who knows more about garlic – the flavor is totally different compared to the grocery store product. It’s like night and day.”
In addition to the Galena store, Laszlo opened a store in Geneva, IL in 2010 and deemed it his corporate headquarters. In 2012, he opened his third outlet in Madison, IN. He is currently opening yet a fourth store in Nashville, TN in early 2015, which his daughter, Nina, will be overseeing. He also hopes to open a fifth store in Elizabeth, IL, as a “kind of mercantile outlet” that highlights local growers and their products while supporting his goal of helping people to eat healthier.
“Coming soon to a table near you,” Laszlo concludes. “I want to be on every table in the state.”
For more information about the Galena Garlic Company and all their products, interested people can go to his new website at www.galenagarlic.com. Products can be purchased online. The business also has a Facebook page.