January 9, 2013 EditionAlso in this issue...
Shelia's marks 30 years in Lynn
In rural communities it's not uncommon for small businesses to come and go, but Danny and Shelia Martin have been making a "go" of it in Lynn for three decades.
On Jan. 1, 1983, the Martins opened a little store to sell fireworks at the corner of Highway 25 and Lawrence 269, better known as Wason Road. After several suggestions by locals to carry staples such as bread and milk, they expanded their inventory and eventually added on to the old store building.
After 12 years of repairing leaks and wading water during flash floods, they constructed a building in the store's current location, put in a few gas pumps and breathed new life into Shelia's Quick Shop.
Open seven days a week - Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. - they carry the traditional quick shop items, including hamburgers, crispitos, fried chicken strips and potato logs, as well as breakfast sandwiches, pizza, soft-serve ice cream and deli sandwiches.
Shelia's also features a small grocery line with all the basics: canned goods, paper products, milk, eggs, etc.
Most recently, they opened Shelia's Bunkhouse Inn - four bed-and-bath cottages located adjacent to the quick shop. Renting for $50 a night, the rooms resemble that of a Comfort Inn or similar hotel and feature two queen beds, a TV, microwave, mini fridge and bathtub with shower. Customers include visitors for weddings, family gatherings, funerals and, of course during this time of year, duck hunters.
Although the Martins do their best to keep their prices down, the cost of items has gone up significantly over the years and it's interesting to compare prices then and now. Shelia still has invoices from as far back as 1989, when their cost for bread was 39 cents. Now it sells for $2.09. Also in '89, milk was $2.15/gal., a bag of chocolate chips $1.85 and Redman Tobacco $1.33. Now those sell for $5.15, $3.09 and $7-plus, respectively.
It hasn't been easy to get where they are now, says Shelia. "We've put in a lot of long, hard hours." When they first started, she worked all day at a factory and then worked at the store every night until closing.
But it pays dividends in a small town to run a business entirely devoted to serving the needs of the community. Danny and Shelia's customers have remained as loyal to them as the owners have to their patrons. In fact, after 30 years in business, they both agree that the people are what has made it all worth it.
"We owe the people a lot," said Danny. "They've been faithful to us and we appreciate that."
"If it weren't for our customers, we wouldn't be here," Shelia added. Additionally, Shelia said they also wouldn't be in business if it weren't for their employees.
Lorene Spades, who passed away last year, worked for the Martins for 13 years.
"She was one sweet lady," Shelia said with a smile. Lorene and her husband had operated a grocery store for years, so when the Martins decided to start a quick shop, she was more than willing to help them. As a dedicated employee, she continued to work for them until shortly after they moved to their current location.
Another dedicated employee is Vickie Richey, who has been part of the Shelia's family for 23 years. Vickie has enjoyed working with the Martins and serving the community.
"When you need help, this town is here for you," she stated.
The best part about her job she believes is the people. With a laugh, she said, "I like to aggravate."
"And she's good at it," Danny jokingly added.
For the Martins, in addition to the people, the best part has been the peace and quiet of a small town, with the exception of the most exciting day they had when a vehicle ran into the front of the building.
Vickie says her most memorable day at Shelia's was standing in the dark during the ice storm in 2009. "And let me tell you, it gets dark in here," she said. "But we kept the coffee hot and took care of our customers."
At the end of the day, that's what it's all about for the Martins and their employees. For 30 years, their business decisions have been focused on what's good for the community and that's how they plan to continue operating in the years to come.