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Flossmoor resident will put spotlight on mushrooms at Homewood Farmers’ Market

Nihat Kemal Tasyurek presents a lesson on the science of mushroom-growing for students at Western Avenue School in Flossmoor. He generously gives his time to schools and other groups who want to learn about the uses and benefits of mushrooms. (Provided photo)

The COVID quarantine left many people bored and in search of something to do. Some nurtured sourdough starters and baked bread; some taught themselves to knit; others adopted shelter pets; and some tried almost anything to keep busy at home. 

But Flossmoor resident Nihat Kemal Tasyurek, who finished college in Turkey and has a Master’s degree in political science from Northeastern University, saw his COVID downtime as an opportunity to focus on the future. He decided to use the quarantine to prepare himself to start his own business—growing and selling mushrooms and mushroom products. 

“I began reading everything about them [mushrooms],” Tasyurek said. “The endless varieties, what kind of light they needed, what temperatures were best for growing. We [Tasyurek and his wife Gulcin] ordered supplies from Amazon and began in my garage. I became passionate about it.”

When the pandemic eased and everyone else was throwing out their sourdough starters, Tasyurek and his wife were immersing themselves in mycology and executing their plan to launch Thrive Mushrooms.

Tasyurek set up grow houses on land he rented in Kankakee to launch the venture. Today he owns the property and cultivates oyster and lion’s mane mushrooms. He sells his harvests and mushroom products to restaurants, grocery stores, wholesalers, on Etsy, and at farmers’ markets. And he is experimenting with cultivating other mushroom varieties.

Tasyurek admits that learning the mushroom business was challenging and that it took a lot of time, studying, and sacrifice to make a go of the enterprise, but he was determined to make it work.  

He said that while his wife helps him with the business, she also has a full-time job outside the home.  “My wife Gulcin has a degree in hospitality and is a sales director for Hilton,” he said. The two seem to be masters of time management as they successfully juggle jobs and family and still have time for community outreach.

Recently, Tasyurek’s father-in-law, Eyyup Gucludal , a former biology and chemistry teacher who also grew mushrooms in his native Turkey, moved to Illinois to help his son-in-law with his mushroom business, so now there are two full-time Thrive employees. It’s still a demanding business, but that doesn’t stop Tasyurek from pitching in with family responsibilities.

His day starts with making breakfast for the couple’s two young children who are 8 and 5 ½ and then driving them to school, after which he drives to Kankakee to work with his mushrooms. In addition, he is active in his children’s schools and donates time there.

“I recently talked to my daughter’s science class at Western Avenue Elementary School,” Tasyurek said. “I brought mushroom growing bags and showed videos about the growing process.”

Thrive Mushrooms is a big dream that started small, like the mushroom spawn Tasyurek uses to start his mushrooms. Today Thrive is one of just four companies in Illinois that grow mushrooms commercially. 

This year Thrive Mushrooms will make its debut at Homewood’s Farmers’ Market on opening day, May 25, and Tasyurek says his mushrooms will be available there every week through the season.

One could say his business appears to be “mushrooming.”

For more information, go to [email protected].

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