Jon Henry General Store in New Market, Va., is truly a family-fueled business. Owner Jon Henry got his start in farming through his father’s side of the family, which has been in the business for five generations. He mainly sold fresh vegetables and fruit at farmers markets and roadside stands. Then, when the opportunity to buy a building in downtown New Market came up about two years ago, Henry took it.
“That allowed me to open year round because we didn’t have to rely on weather, and in an enclosed space, we can carry more than food products,” Henry said. “It’s been fun to figure out how to be a store owner and learn what it means to be open 365 days a year.”
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Healthy, local partnerships
The store has recently partnered with the Virginia Family Nutrition Program’s Shop Smart, Eat Smart (SSES) healthy food retail initiative and the Virginia Fresh Match (VFM) program to provide healthy, low-cost choices to the New Market and surrounding communities. As a newer SSES partner, Henry has worked with its local FNP agent to create videos that highlight nutrition education using ingredients from his store.
“[The videos] have been really helpful for folks to learn new recipes or tricks in the kitchen, particularly during COVID-19 because people are cooking more at home and trying to up their cooking skills,” Henry said.
The partnership with the VFM program allows the store to offer 50 percent off fresh fruits and vegetables to SNAP/EBT customers. Purchasing local produce in bulk at this reduced rate has been a popular choice.
“Lots of bushels of apples, bushels of peaches and bushels of tomatoes have been going out through the Fresh Match program,” Henry said. “About 75 percent of all of our bulk sales now are Fresh Match customers.”
Plenty of choices
One of the perks of owning his own store is choosing what he sells based on his customers’ interests. His fresh produce is local, as well as the majority of the other more unique products. Some of the oddest products on the shelf include squid ink pasta, locally ground flour and wheat, goat milk, quinoa flour, and even salt-and-vinegar crickets.
“It’s fun to see that people are shocked to find out that those products are made here locally in the Commonwealth,” he said. “That goes to show that even in this small, rural area of Virginia, the unique products are popular with folks.”
Creativity is key
Keeping Jon Henry General Store’s customers updated during the pandemic has called for some creativity. Henry is active on the store’s social media pages, posting about daily specials and when new produce or products arrive. Henry really thought out-of-the-box for a recent social media campaign as the off-season for fresh produce approaches.
I really enjoy hiking around the Shenandoah Valley, so I was showing what trails I was on in the valley to get [followers] to guess where I was,” Henry said.
He was amazed when one customer knew exactly which trail Henry was hiking throughout the campaign.
“Even if I just took a photo of a rock, he’d be like, ‘oh that’s the rock up there’ and I’d be like, ‘how did you know that?’” Henry said.
Jon Henry General Store is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. To learn more about the store, discover weekly specials, and keep up with new product availability, follow Jon Henry General Store on Facebook and Instagram.
Want to really know your way around the store? Go on the Jon Henry General Store scavenger hunt! Click on the virtual tour above and follow the directions on this form. Happy hunting!