BY KYLE BAGENSTOSE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEFF REEDER

“ They say that it’s all right to come in third place. Your home is first place, your work is second place, and third place is where you go to hang out, read your mail, and have a cup of coffee,” Hansen says. “It’s a home away from home, and we try to create that for our customers.”

Max Hansen is a man with many stories. There was the time when he served up jambalaya to Michael Jordan, during the then-Chicago Bulls rookie’s first trip to Manhattan before a game against the Knicks.Then there was the time he kept his kitchen open for Stevie Wonder, following an Easter snowstorm that backed up air traffic across the country.

Oh, and then there was the time he was recruited by then Governor George W.Bush to become the head chef on his whistle stop train tour, when he had to poach eggs while trying to keep his footing on a train hurtling down the tracks at 60 mph.

However, it’s not brushing elbows with—or perhaps filling the bellies of—celebrities that gets Hansen excited these days. Instead, it’s returning to the comforting roots of a simpler, more memorable childhood in Bucks County.

“My grandfather started me off on the right foot, taking me to all the local orchards,” Hansen says, recalling time spent at his grandfather’s house in New Hope.“He was a gentleman farmer and an original ‘locovore.’ He introduced me to good food.He had an asparagus patch and I grew tomatoes with him, and we made apple sauce and put up green beans and corn.”

Hansen’s father was a pediatrician in the U.S.Public Health Service, and would frequently relocate the family to places as diverse as South Dakota, Boston, Mississippi and even Turkey.His grandfather’s garden became a place of consistency for Hansen.

“Our homebase was always New Hope,” he says.

Now, Hansen is becoming an ever-increasing force in Bucks County to make sure those living here are being fed with the best the Earth has to offer.The 52-year-old launched his Max Hansen Catering business in 1993, following a prodigious career as a New England Culinary Institute-trained chef and sharing kitchens with famous chefs like Thomas Keller.

“ My grandfather started me off on the right foot, taking me to all the local orchards… he introduced me to good food. He had an asparagus patch and I grew tomatoes with him, and we made apple sauce and put up green beans and corn.”

After successfully growing his catering business over 20 years and also starting a line of smoked salmon, Hansen began a new adventure when he opened the Max Hansen Carversille Grocery store in May of 2013.
Located on the back roads almost exactly halfway between Doylestown and New Hope, Hansen is taking a decidedly vintage approach with the store, harkening back to the era of one-stop shops for quality food and groceries.

“We’re a country store with a modern twist,” Hansen says, adding that his wife, Andrea Hansen, has even crafted vintage displays for the store’s fresh food.“When you walk into the store you’re stepping back in time.”

Hansen, who lives just a few doors down, says the store operated for decades as simply the Carversville Grocery.He would stop in for coffee and say hello to owner Dan Stern, a childhood friend.However, he would always think of what could be.

“I always thought it was underutilized, and knew it could be better,” Hansen says.“(Stern) and I had been had been discussing the idea of working together for many years, and an opportunity finally arose.”
Hansen joined with Stern as a partner, added his name to the store’s name, and got to work renovating the location.He revamped the store’s grocery options, adding inventory and searching for products that are “as local as humanly possible.”

“We try to source all of the amazing homegrown products Bucks County has to offer,” Hansen says.“We are blessed to be located in what I call an amazing ‘market basket’ of incredible products.”

Hansen also redesigned the interior, moving the counter to be more customer friendly and cooking fresh food like beef short rib lasagna; mac & cheese with bacon, onion, and tomato; and chicken salad daily.He also added a convenient “grab and go” bin by the exit for essentials and fresh sandwiches, and created an outside garden space for seating.

It’s all a part of what Hansen calls “coming in third place,” a concept he learned from a place called Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“They say that it’s all right to come in third place.Your home is first place, your work is second place, and third place is where you go to hang out, read your mail, and have a cup of coffee,” Hansen says.“It’s a home away from home, and we try to create that for our customers.”

Hansen says the idea is working so far, as the store has doubled its sales since re-opening a year ago.The operation is also benefiting the community, as the store employs about 20 part-time or full-time workers, and acts as an outlet for many of the area’s small farmers.

With plans to expand into the location’s upstairs, Hansen sees his little store at the crossroads of northern Bucks County only continuing to grow.From fresh baked donuts in the morning, to slicing up sun-warmed tomatoes from his own garden to go into the “world’s best blts” at lunch time, to providing a quick stop for the busy mother on her way home from work, Hansen has found his passion for food right where he left it as a child.

“We’re here for everybody, but we’re especially here for the locals,” Hansen says.“It’s been fantastic so far, but we’re not content.” | r

Visit Max Hansen Carversville Grocery:
6208 Fleecy Dale Road, Carversville, PA 18913
215-297-5353