The passion behind a local business

Mar. 27, 2014 @ 05:02 AM

Any small town or community knows the value and importance of supporting local businesses, whether the corner general store, the downtown boutique or the “hole-in-the-wall” café.

Over the past few weeks, I have found opportunities to stop by several local businesses where I have had the pleasure of meeting the dedicated owners and operators of these local landmarks.

One such place is Hill’s Hardware & General Store, where after 67 years of operation, the smells of nostalgia still permeate the air. The family owned and operated business opened in 1947, and is currently run by Martha Hensley and her daughter Michelle “Shellie” Heaton, third and fourth generation members of the Hill descendants.

And while customers often look around for the man in charge, they are soon happy to deal with Martha and Michelle, two knowledgeable women who have spent the majority of their lives in the hardware business. Although Hill’s Hardware has witnessed a variety of changes throughout the years, the hospitality, atmosphere and dedicated service of the store has remained a constant in the economic ups and downs of a small town.

In neighboring town Forest City, locally owned Horn’s Home & Garden is operated by second and third generation Horns, who are just as interested in gardening as the customers who walk in the store’s front door. For 36 years, the business on West Trade Street has been sustained by three generations of knowledgeable and enthusiastic gardeners.

Horn’s Home & Garden was established in 1978 by Sevil and Nell Horn and their son Roger. Today, it is run by Roger and his wife, Harriet, their niece Melissa O’Bryan and their son Andrew Horn and his wife, Charlotte. What is special about the business is how the Horns have listened to their customers from the beginning, having expanded inventory to meet patrons’ requests and to keep up with the area’s latest gardening trends.

A few short minutes across town, java enthusiast Zach Hollar has recently taken Village Coffee on Oak Street Extension under his wing as the business’s new owner and operator. Zack and his wife, Nicki, had a desire to one day own a coffee shop and became proprietors of Village Coffee on Feb. 28.

In addition to his passion for coffee and the community, Zack has roots in the local coffeehouse. In fact, he started working at Village Coffee when it opened in March 2008 and was the store’s manager for three years before leaving to pursue other interests. Zack has already transformed the business into a place where the community is invited to hang out, enjoy themselves and stay for a while — from offering new menu additions, evening concerts and game nights and philanthropy opportunities aimed at giving back to the community. Yet, he has also vowed to keep the original Village Coffee recipes as well as the business’s consistency in providing the highest customer service.

Meanwhile, newcomers Jesse and Randall Cowan have transformed and revitalized a local radio station and are filling an oldies music void in Rutherford County. With more than 80 years of combined experience in television and radio, the Cowans purchased the former WGMA radio station located on West Main Street in Spindale, and established station G1520 WGTM to provide the community with great music and great memories. The Cowans finalized a deal with the station’s company in December 2013, and WGTM began broadcasting this March.

Now when listeners tune their radio dials to AM 1520, they will hear iconic music from the 50s, 60s, 70s and early 80s, as well as a variety of news, sports and programming. Randall also has a morning show on the station, where he intends to provide listeners with area happenings and feature local personalities, so as to continue offering a service to the community and to strengthen the station’s relationship with the people of Rutherford County.

While these businesses provide different services and have their own unique origin stories, they all share several characteristics — they are run by individuals with a wealth of experience and a passion for what they do, they are continuously community-minded and they strive to maintain relationships with the citizens of our small towns.

So the next time you find yourself visiting any of these locally owned and operated businesses or utilizing any of their services, take note of the passion behind these local locations.