Stepping through the doors of the newly opened Amish Market of North Wildwood is like being transported to Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

Traditionally dressed Amish - men in straw hats and suspenders and women wearing white headcoverings and long dresses - stand behind the service counters selling their freshly baked shoofly pies, smoked spare ribs and bundles of fresh-picked herbs, which are transported daily from their farms in Lancaster County, Pa.

The opening of Amish Market has been long awaited by the North Wildwood community, as buzz about the new business started last summer, with an original opening set for October of last year. But a series of delays had left locals peering into the windows of the empty corner storefront, salivating over the possibility of fresh, Lancaster farm foods delivered to their neighborhood.

But the wait and anticipation is finally over. The Amish Market of North Wildwood, on the corner of Seventh and New Jersey avenues, officially opened its doors March 15.

"It's great. Everything's just so fresh," said North Wildwood resident Barbara Piergiovanni, who stood in line on the day of the opening waiting to pay for a pound of raw ground beef and an apple pie topped with a woven lattice crust.

The market is owned by Swedesboro resident Darren Staffieri, who is also the partial owner of The Greater Bridgeton Amish Farmers Market, which opened last year and has since had great success.

Staffieri's family also owns and operates the American Inn Motel in North Wildwood and has a few properties in the area, including the one that now houses the Amish Market. Previously, the property had been vacant for several years, he said.

After witnessing the success of Bridgeton's Amish Market, he decided to use the space to open a similar concept in North Wildwood.

Staffieri has partnered with Shady Maple Amish Market, based in Lancaster, and has hired a crew of Amish to help him run the store. He also purchased a $20,000 Shady Maple delivery truck, which makes daily runs between Lancaster and North Wildwood to transport the homemade goods.

"Our baked goods come out of the oven at quarter-to-2 (a.m.) and they're in our truck by 2 a.m. and on the road," Staffieri said.

The market also has a custom-order salad bar and hot-and-cold sandwich station, for lunch on the go, ready-made take-home dinners and side dishes, a fresh fruit smoothie station, a coffee bar and bouquets of fresh cut flowers.

"There's nothing like this around here," he said. "If you want something to eat, it's a hoagie, a cheesesteak or a pizza."

Through Memorial Day weekend, the Amish Market will be open Thursdays through Sundays, although the Amish employees won't be there on Sundays because their religion prohibits them from working on that day.

In the summer, it will be open daily.

Staffieri also has plans for a future expansion of the space. He owns the property to the left of the store, the former Police Benevolent Association building, and wants to eventually convert it into an on-site Amish bakery and/or sit-down restaurant.

"I want to get an Amish family in there, because that's what this is all about - their presence," he said. "If I had just opened this up as an Italian marketplace, it wouldn't be (crowded) like this. Look at these lines. It's crazy. We brought in 90 dozen doughnuts this moning, and (at noon) we're basically sold out."

Contact Elisa Lala:

609-463-6713

If you go

What:

Amish Market

of North Wildwood

Where:

700 New Jersey Ave., North Wildwood

Hours of operation:

7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday to Sunday. Open daily starting Memorial Day weekend.