By Terry Schrimscher, Sponsored Content
Like a lot of people with an entrepreneurial spirit, Springville teacher TracyAnn Massey had always wanted to open her own shop but says she never imagined she’d be doing it in the midst of a pandemic when so many small businesses were struggling to stay alive.
Investing in your community can be an emotional experience but when her father, Corky Massey, approached her about buying the former Williams Orchard in Argo, TracyAnn said she knew she had found her calling. She set out to reopen the popular store adding her own personal touches along the way.
“There weren’t any local places serving breakfast,” said Massey. So she transformed the former ice cream shop in the back of the building into a cafe that has become a popular morning destination. Massey says she expanded the kitchen area to increase capacity and is planning to begin serving lunch at the location during the week with daily specials, such as “Meatloaf Monday.”
Massey says she wants the store to become a destination for customers in the area and she feels having a personal connection to the area will help her create that experience. “If there is an item someone really wants, we’ll do our best to get it in the store for them,” she says. One customer found out she was beginning a lunch menu and said he really liked a certain kind of bean with his meatloaf, so Massey said she’ll make sure they have them ready.
Being a lifelong resident of the community, Massey thought it was important to maintain many of the features of the business that local residents have come to expect. She will continue to carry fresh, local produce and plants grown on site and she’ll continue seasonal attractions like the pumpkin patch in the fall. The store will also stock many of the Amish goods that have brought in customers from near and far for years.
A sense of history and community pride is important to her. Even the name of the store has a connection to the community. Massey says her father used to shop at the Hilltop Grocery store that was in the location when he was a child and that inspired the name Hilltop Farms for her store.
While she wants to maintain many of the local traditions, Massey says she wants to expand and grow the business to meet the needs of the community without losing that local feel. She plans to expand the building to add a full time floral shop and a larger bakery—building upon the history of offering the location which has been a favorite spot for home-baked pies and locally grown plants for many years.
Massey says she had to learn more about the best practices for planting when she started the business but she has one of the best teachers she could find.
“We have Mr. Kenneth, who was here when the Williams owned it,” said Massey. “He has shown me how to pot the plants and root the plants. He has taken me down to the market and shown me how to identify healthy plants.”
“People have come in and asked about plants for their garden,” said Massey, “but I tell them we don’t have a lot of things out yet because we’re due for another cold spell.” She says she plans to stock a large variety of plants for home flower beds but she doesn’t like the way big box stores put them out and sell them too early. She says when you care about the community you don’t sell someone a flower knowing it is going to die because you sold it too early.
Massey emphasized the point that she sees Hilltop Farms growing to be a destination spot for families to shop and enjoy extra attractions like hayrides, pumpkin patches and more. She feels the key is caring about your neighbors and giving them more than they expect.
Hilltop Farms is located at 1028 U.S. Hwy 11 in Argo, Alabama. The number is 205-452-2563.