Living in the outskirts of Walnut, a suburb of greater Marshall, Amy and Jon decided to open a much-needed business in the downtown corridor, become the new grocers of town.
The Good Stuff Grocery vision involved local products, natural foods, and convenience. Bulk rice and beans, local eggs, candy bars, cigarettes... Blue Sky sodas and Gatorade, side-by-side. Having a strong background in the natural-foods co-op world we had our focus, but since there was no other food store in downtown Marshall we knew we needed to supply all the goods that people wanted. This was the birth of the downtown Marshall convenience store for the new century.
So it became official. If there were bullets to bite, we bit. Ledges to jump. If there was crow to eat, we were ready... license in hand.
Marshall was a very sleepy town, cut off from the modern world by the 25/70 By-Pass. We wanted to be a part of the downtown community but we knew we needed to let people know we were there. In addition to our spray-painted "Now Open" banner, we decided to reach out to the greater Marshall Community with advertising. The very first Good Stuff advert in the local paper focused on healthy and local... in this case eggs.
After nearly a year of operating Good Stuff, working full time jobs on the side, eating expired food, squeezing free moments from the clock, and all sorts of things with circles and arrows... we decided: It Was Good. We knew that 300 square feet of space wasn't really enough. It was time to move.
Off to the newly renovated Chevy dealership building on the south end of town! Good Stuff moved into a single bay at the south end of the building. A little over double the space of the original Good Stuff, things were looking up.
The same day we got the key to the new space, we were gifted an upright piano from the old AMC building on the north end of town. With key in hand, we rolled the piano down the center of main street to it&aspos;s new home at Good Stuff. Thus began our grocery store musical venture.
We celebrated our 1 year anniversary of business with fanfare. There were samples and tastings and entertainment. Things were looking good.
After a year of slow and steady growth in the new space, we rented the next bay and opened the wall betwixt the two and moved consignment art into the space from Amy's freshly-closed gallery in Hot Springs (the Yellow Teapot).
Then came beer and wine! Although Marshall is the seat of a dry county, in November 2007 the residents of Marshall voted to allow beer and wine sales. After scrimping and saving, Good Stuff applied for a license and embrace the fact that this little grocery store was actually trying to breathe its own social life. We decided to go all the way, in make-or-break fashion, and be a downtown hang-out.
Along with the redefinition of Good Stuff came the music. Friday and Saturday nights made way for live music performances... bands from far and wide. Local acts, from nearby towns, from states away...
Fast upon the heals of the libation train came celebration of all sorts. We saw the birth of Marshall Gras, held every year on Mardi Gras (yes Fat Tuesday). French Broad Fridays began. The Mermaids of Marshall. Parades, entertainment, and all kinds of fun (again, complete with circles and arrows).
Meanwhile Good Stuff began receiving press of all sorts. Articles began to appear in WNC Magazine, Carolina Home and Garden, the Mountain Xpress... We hosted the Chamber of Commerce After Hours, received the Chamber's Business of the Quarter, won the Xpress Best Of...
Then... came the move. In November 2011 Good Stuff was on the move again, this time back to the north end of town in a former church. We felt the difficulties of moving a true up-and-running business. Short time-frames, lots of inventory, big equipment, demolition and construction, and far too much money being spent while moving into the slow winter season. Without the help of the Marshall community, Good Stuff may have met it's match. The success of this move proved that Good Stuff had grown well beyond what it started as, it had become a true part of the community. It was the friends and Good Stuff family that made it all possible.
There we were, Good Stuff in a former church. Finally there was a real stage, the performances grew in number and diversity. Our kitchen grew... Taco-Tuesdays and full bellies. Jake Hollifield showed up every month to play his boogie-woogie piano magic to classic silent movies shown on the house projection screen.
As Good Stuff followed the community's wants, becoming a performance venue with tasty food and libations, there were other businesses on the rise. Across the street a new natural foods store filling the downtown grocery need. We were able to focus more on what Good Stuff was becoming.
There were more fesitvals. The Homeschoolers group held music class in the front room at Good Stuff... we were visited by a travelling puppet theater group... art vans and bamboo floats. The new space gave us room to dance, and we did.
A year-and-a-half on North Main and once again change was in the air. Amy and Jon got the chance to make a permanent home for Good Stuff, a permanent lease at a great location. Downtown, near the river, the bridge, the rail-road... right where we needed to be. And so we began to transform the wide-open space into the Good Stuff we all know and love.
The year, 2013. In April we closed our doors to work full time on the new space and the members of our community grabbed the reigns once again. The renovation project was underway. We reappropriated wood from the building for the bar and trim, flooring from the old Madison High School on the island, bead-board from the courthouse, along with a whole host of recycled materials. Our community taught us, built with us, donated, and eased our minds through the difficult times.
We've all come a long way since 2006; let's see how it goes... and cheers!