MOUNT HOPE — What began as a way to thank loyal local customers has blossomed into an annual celebration that will draw up to an expected 4,000 visitors this year.

For the last 17 years, Homestead Furniture’s Strawberry Social marks the beginning of the summer season in Mount Hope. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 7-9, that tradition continues.

In 2001, when Homestead relocated from the chicken coop in town to their 27,000-square-foot store just north of Mount Hope on state Route 241, they began hosting events, including one of the most special — the Strawberry Social.

Each June, Homestead welcomes customers through its doors for a one-of-a-kind event. Not only do guests shop, but they’re also treated to complementary strawberry pie and homemade ice cream.

Company founder Barbara Hershberger and her family would make all of the crusts, pie filling and ice cream. In those days, the store would welcome a thousand people through the store in three short days.

Hershberger says this event started as a great way to say thank you to customers, and has turned into three days of strawberry chaos.

"We’ve got some awesome customers that come to us from all over the place for this event," says owner Ernie Hershberger. "There are literally customers that come every single year and meet up with other past customers they’ve met here at the store. When they leave they say, ‘See you again next year.’

"We wouldn’t be able to do what we do, or even stay in business, without our awesome loyal customers," Hershberger added.

As Homestead’s customer base has grown, so has the demand for dessert. For the upcoming Strawberry Social, Homestead expects to host approximately 4,000 people for free pie and ice cream all weekend. Barbara still coordinates all of the pie baking, ice cream-making and serving for the weekend. All of the ice cream is made fresh each day outside in the parking lot.

Aside from tasty treats to eat, Homestead Furniture will also offer some pretty sweet deals, including 5 percent off on hardwoods, 10 percent off upholstery and mattresses and 15 percent off accessories.

Homestead Furniture hours for the Strawberry Festival are Thursday and Friday 8:30 a.m. until 8 p.m., and Saturday 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. You can call 866-674-4902 for more information.

If you would like to get on the company’s mailing list for updates about this event and many others held throughout the course of the year, go to www.Homestead-Furniture.com/email. You’ll then be entered in an extra drawing for a $1,000 Homestead Gift Card.

Reporter Kevin Lynch can be reached at 330-674-5676 or klynch@the-daily-record.com.