Mandy and Craig Burnett

Mandy and Craig Burnett stand in their new store. They said they started the business not to make a huge profit, instead it was a way for them to help to enhance the Bowling Green community. Photo by Stan Schwartz

Retail store and luncheonette  builds business fast 

BOWLING GREEN—With barely two months under their belts as new business owners, Mandy and Craig Burnett, said they are doing better financially than they expected. And from the steady stream of customers coming in through the door on Saturday, that was evident.

They were holding an open house for their grand opening to celebrate their new business. Craig said that after looking at the numbers from the first month, they realized they did better than they were expecting.

“But there’s always room for improvement,” he added.

In fact, he had just spoken with the owner of the space next to Forever Primitive, their retail shop and luncheonette, about the possibility of buying that property and expanding the business.

One of the biggest complaints he’s received since opening is that there is not enough seating. There are four tables spaced around the shop that could hold up to 12 customers with another eight or so at the lunch counter. But they also do a brisk take-out business for the lunch crowd.

Being able to expand, would give the couple more retail floor space, as well as more seating area for customers.

Mandy said she was a bit nervous at first when they were deciding on expanding the business.

“But so much has gone so well,” she said, since opening that she was confident they could handle the expansion.

There have been a few bumps along the way, Craig said, but that’s expected for two people who have never been in business for themselves before.

“You learn the quirks, and the ins and outs,” he said.

“People have told me how much they love the atmosphere of the shop and luncheonette,” Craig said. Even so, he added, “You cannot please everybody all the time. In a business like this, you just have to roll with it.”

Mandy echoed Craig’s assessment about the store’s atmosphere. Sometimes she is at the store after hours finishing the day’s bookkeeping when she stops to take in the look and feel of the space.

“I love it,” she said. It’s just so peaceful here.”

But there are big things in the works, he noted, besides the expansion of the business.

Starting the week following the grand opening, they are planning on hosting a happy hour Friday evenings after the store’s regular hours, from 6-8 p.m.

“Our liquor license doesn’t permit us to sell by the drink,” he explained, “but we’ve got some smaller bottles of wine, so people can bring their co-workers and come in and have some wine and chat.”

Craig said he believes people will like the open feel of the store.

“It’s just really comfortable here,” he added.

The business does not have a huge staff. Mandy and Craig work at the store and luncheonette along with Donnie Gerhart, the cook, and Shirley Freeman, who takes care of the store and runs the register. Two of Craig’s cousins, Kinley and Kaylyn Charlton, also work the lunch counter and wait tables, but they are getting ready to head back to school. When that happens, Craig said, he and Mandy would have to adjust their schedules. Both have kept their former jobs, as well as running this new business.

“We make it work,” he said.

They had a small batch winery come in to do a wine tasting for the store’s grand opening.

 “We have an introduction to fall,” as the theme for the grand opening, he said. They prepared home made chicken noodle soup, loaded baked potato soup, and a pumpkin roll for desert.

Craig said he and Mandy, along with some of the others, decorated the space for the grand opening Friday evening. Craig said he had been up since 2 a.m. making sure the front of the store looked just right.

“We get several older couples who come in here and eat,” Craig said. “And it’s like they become part of the family. We talk to them every time they come in. They’ve got stories to tell us. It’s pretty awesome.”

Mandy said she appreciates all the local folks who have come in since they first opened. And it’s also nice to stop and talk with the people who come in from the surrounding towns, she added.

“It’s my favorite part of the business,” she said, “talking to new people.”

One would think that working together in a business could put a strain on a relationship, but Craig said he and Mandy took all that into consideration before embarking on this venture.

“We knew the issues,” he said, “but this is where we want to be, so we work through them.” And working at one’s own business brings him great joy and pride.’

“It’s amazing,” he said. “People investing in small communities, such as this,” he added, “is what makes them go.

“We’ve had a lot of support from our friends,” he said.

Having the luncheonette in with the store’s retail operation, he explained, helps when the business goes though regular cycles during the various seasons. He anticipates better than average retail sales this fall, leading into Christmas.

Saying Craig likes to decorate for the holidays is an understatement. One year he put up seven Christmas trees in his home and another year, the family won the Chamber of Commerce Lighting Contest by stringing up about 30,000 lights.

“My electric bill that month doubled,” he said. That will probably happen at Forever Primitive, too, he predicted.

In addition to the wine tasting and Bankhead’s Candies available at the grand opening, there were a couple of contests patrons could try. The luncheon counter has lots of pennies sealed in with epoxy. Somewhere in all those coins was one Canadian penny. Find it, and the winner would earn a gift certificate to the store. Or patrons could try and guess how many pennies Craig used to create the countertop. That winner would also earn a gift certificate.

Mandy and Craig were quite happy with how well the grand opening went.

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