It's been a year since Stoodt's Fresh Market opened on July 31, 2020. Their first anniversary will be celebrated at 184 Main Street in Bellville throughout the first week in August. “We invite the public to come into the store, enjoy their visit, and have a little fun when they shop the first week in August. We always try to make shopping fun for customers, and the employees make it fun to work here” said Manager, Pat Hayes. “We want to celebrate local businesses and express our appreciation to all who have supported us getting to this milestone.
So many individuals, businesses, organizations, and volunteers not only wished us well, they graciously provided hands-on help to accomplish all that was necessary for the business to open and thrive in its first year” added Georjean Stoodt, the owner. “Customers often use the words “friendly” and “helpful” to describe our employees, and they're right. Dedicated and hardworking, these essential workers persevered throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to serve. The anniversary celebration will also celebrate them,” she said.
With the help of Bernard Hollar and Pat Hayes, Stoodt assessed the supermarket industry and decided in May 2020 to open a new market. For around a hundred years before the doors at 184 Main Street closed in January 2020, people in the Clear Fork Valley had bought groceries on Main Street in Bellville.
The loss of jobs, as well as other impacts of shuttered businesses can erode economies and the quality of life in many small towns and rural areas. Responses to a survey of residents and conversations with former customers and others were enthusiastic about the possibility of opening the supermarket and offered insights that helped shape what Stoodt's Fresh Market is now.
Although the emerging COVID pandemic added uncertainty and additional challenges for a business opening in 2020, the community's need for groceries and household supplies from a trusted source close to home couldn't have been clearer.
With a sense of urgency to open, arrangements were made, and the outpouring of help from local volunteers to clean and prepare the store added immeasurably. By mid-July, employees had been hired, and the equipment and shelves were ready for the incoming inventory. Initial changes at the location included a 75% increase in freezer space, a doubling of refrigerator space for fresh fruits and vegetables, new flooring, and a slight change in the layout to create more open space.
Other changes and improvements have been made since then, with a new parking lot, motorized shopping cart, security cameras, exterior painting, and a website that enables online shopping for pick-up.
Gluten-free products are available in-store, as are sugar-free items and several locally sourced dairy and seasonal fruits and vegetables, including some organic. Pre-cut vegetables and fruits are prepared on the premises; customers can order ahead for fruit baskets, veggie trays, and deli trays. Along with slicing and serving products in the deli case, there are grab-and-go packages of cold cuts, sandwiches, and prepared meals; several days each week rotisserie chickens are prepared. Fresh cuts and grinds are prepared by the butcher shop, with their ham loaves and stuffed sausages among the customer favorites.
Another favorite is the fresh donuts of many varieties that are prepared every morning. Donut orders can be called in a day ahead to pick up after the store opens at 7 am. Along with the products that are currently stocked, Hayes takes pride in making every effort to get items that customers request.
Local non-profit organizations, schools and churches can raise funds by collecting labels from the Best Choiceproduct line. The “Save-a-Label” program is sponsored by Associated Wholesale Grocers, just one way Stoodt's supports the community.
Coming in the near future will be online coupons, a delivery option for those who shop online, and email updates for anyone who signs up at the anniversary celebration.
“As we launch our second year, we invite input to help us shape the future of Stoodt's Fresh Market” Hayes said, and added “We appreciate feedback from customers at any time.”
Stoodt wrapped up, “As we draw from past generations and take to heart the needs of future generations and changing trends, our focus everyday will be offering fresh, delicious food and excellent personal service in all our departments.”