2004, Kathi Lafferty opened specialty mushroom store The Mushroom Cap in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, the Mushroom Capital of the World. She sells fresh mushrooms, gifts, collectibles, and gourmet products. Kathi shared, “More white mushrooms are grown in this concentrated area than any other place in the world. We’re up to about 70% of the button white production in the United States. We also have the largest exotic grower here in Kennett square. Some would think China has the most, but they didn’t start growing till about 30 years ago. We started in the late 1800s here” in Kennett. Watching Open for Business on CBS3 Studio further piqued my interest in Kathi’s boutique before entry. So, I couldn’t get in there fast enough; I was excited to explore the store and the Phillips Mushroom Museum with my personal tour guide, Kathi.
The tour began with many mushroom books, as Kathi recommended “Mycelium Running” written by Paul Stamets (one of my mushroom heroes). A few years ago, Mrs. Lafferty met Paul and his wife at a Mushroom Council Conference in New Orleans. She is still hoping that Paul will visit her at The Mushroom Cap in the future. I highly urged Kathi to watch the 2019 American documentary film Fantastic Fungi, which includes interview segments with Paul Stamets. I have seen that movie numerous times, sharing it with family and friends. That documentary has definitely fanned the flame of mushroom love for many, including myself.
Kathi dries her own mushrooms to create seasoned snacks that are so scrumptious they are hard to keep on the shelves due to their popularity. She also grinds the mix to a powder making a seasoning that can go on almost anything, especially popcorn. A local restaurant here in town uses The Mushroom Cap’s garlic snack mushrooms as a garnish on their mushroom soup. Yum!
The Mushroom Cap’s exhibit is phenomenal. The Lafferty’s acquired relics and artifacts from fellow mushroom growers and Phillips Mushroom Co. Manager Jim Angelucci for the Exhibit complete with exotic mushroom refrigeration. Admiring the Museum display, I asked, “Has mushroom farming changed over the years?” Kathi answered, “Yes, like this display is the original conventional mushroom house, which there are several still here in the area.” She explained that currently, they’re building them out of aluminum and are two stories high. It’s a whole different process now than even when her husband was growing mushrooms with PA Lafferty and Son’s Inc.
Amazed and in awe, I continued to circle the store, explore display after display. Everything from Lion’s Mane Coffee, fungi art, earrings, Truffle Aioli, Puzzles, Gluten-Free Porcini pasta, to Oyster Growing Kits; you name it, she has it. Years ago, it used to be hard to find mushroom-related things. Yet, with the rise of interest and awareness, Kathi has been able to overflow her shelves with every kind of mushroom merchandise imaginable! Passing through the gift section, Kathi shared her latest after Christmas time finds for the shop: Blankets with matching pillows, an ever-growing collection of mushroom books, T-shirts, socks, hats but gnomes which have become very popular.
On top of the store, Kathi has run a Mushroom of the Month Club for a few years. Customers can get 3-, 6- or 12-month subscriptions to receive fresh and dried mushrooms. If you’re planning on visiting the Mushroom Capital of the World, you might want to mark your Calendars for September 10th and 11th, 2022, for the 37th Annual Mushroom Festival.