Unique food market planned for family's general store

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

SUPPLY—What started out as a family-owned and operated general store in 1963 and ended its most recent incarnation as a tax preparer’s office three years ago will soon come full circle. It will open again as a family-owned and operated local food and gift market.

After Blanton’s Tax Service on Stone Chimney Road closed in 2005, the large cinder block building off N.C. 211 remained filled with papers, furniture and odds and ends belonging to the Blanton family.

That was until five months ago when the original owner’s great-granddaughter decided it was time to make her mark on the family business.

The building, now featuring a light green faade and newly renovated interior, will be reincarnated in November—this time as the Lockwood Folly Marketplace.

The new business venture is the brainchild of Lindsay Hewett, great-granddaughter of Odell Blanton, who built the store in 1963 when the business had outgrown its original building across the road.

Hewett is a 2005 graduate of N.C. State University, where she majored in horticulture science and minored in agriculture business management. Taking a garden center management class at State got her hooked on the idea of operating her own retail business. Her family’s building in Supply seemed like the perfect spot.

“I thought about a garden center, but with the local foods movement and the amount of local vendors, I thought it would be really great to have a place like that in Brunswick County.”

Growing up with grandparents, aunts and uncles who operated their own corn and soybean farms in Brunswick County, Hewett knew firsthand the quality produced by small family farms. She also knew the public would welcome an opportunity to buy locally grown food if it was offered in a convenient, general-store style atmosphere.

To achieve her dream, Hewett approached Martha Warner, extension agent for Brunswick County’s N.C. Cooperative Extension office.

At an economic development conference, Warner learned from the state Rural Center for Economic Development about the agency’s Building Reuse and Restoration Grants, created to stimulate development and job creation by renovating buildings, building infrastructure or installing needed technology.

Warner helped Hewett get $50,000 in grant money to renovate her great-grandfather’s building.

“We started the wheels turning,” Warner said recently. “Lindsay did the bulk of the work, answering the questions, providing the business plan.”

Warner facilitated the grant, overseeing the process and funneling the money through the county.

“It was a highlight of my career to actually be able to take advantage of all these wonderful programs we have through the state,” she said. “To be able to bring some of these dollars to our back door, to help a young person fulfill her dream as well as create jobs, and to fill a niche in the community.”

In January, Hewett quit her job as a loan officer at Cape Fear Farm Credit and began working on the store full time. It took five months for the family to clear all the storage from the building, and contractor Richard Jones, a family friend, is overseeing restoration.

“We will sell locally grown and naturally raised meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables in addition to milk, butter, cheese and ice cream from a dairy in Hillsborough,” Hewett said.

The store will have fruits in season to make smoothies, a Boar’s Head deli, a local baker making cookies and other baked goods, a gourmet section and specialty items from other parts of the state.

The gift shop side of the store will feature traditional gift items, home dcor, pottery and paintings from local artists.

Hewett said her husband, Travis Hewett, who also came from a farming family, and the rest of her family, have been extremely supportive of her business venture. She has also received a lot of positive feedback from the community.

“We were very thankful for that,” she said. “A lot of folks are worried about the economy right now, but we’ve gotten a lot of positive response.”

Hewett said she visited a number of specialty/local food stores in Wilmington where she encountered Brunswick County residents who said they would welcome a store closer to home—a place where they knew the origins of the food and could support the local economy.

Filling that need in the community is one reason Jim Bradshaw, director of the Brunswick County Economic Development Commission, says the commission is so supportive of the Lockwood Folly Marketplace.

“You have some fantastic places along U.S. 17 with farm products, but her store is going beyond that. It will have all sorts of different things that people make. To have that in one source is going to be attractive to the public.”

Bradshaw, who assisted Warner with the grant application, said Hewett’s endeavor is a great example of entrepreneurship in Brunswick County, something the EDC encourages, and Hewett’s enthusiasm has been a major factor in getting her this far.

He and Warner agree the building’s location near the N.C. 211/U.S. 17 intersection and the recent interest in local food bode well for the market’s success.

“The timing is good,” Warner said. “People are interested in where their food is coming from and who’s growing it.

“It’s in the heart of Brunswick County in one of the fastest growing areas,” she added.

Hewett said she’s grateful for the grant and the support of her family and community, especially because it allowed her to carry on a family tradition.

“I’m proud of my great-grandfather and my family history, and I’m glad I can honor it this way.”