PEABODY—Katherine Gilley’s friendly demeanor shines through, whether she’s talking about the weather with a customer or greeting an employee as she walks around Peabody Market, a hometown grocery store she’s owned since June.
The store encapsulates Americana with U.S. flags hanging from the wall, at least one Bible verse quoted in writing, a helpful clerk who’s worked there for decades and a butcher shop.
“I bought the store the 8th of June,” she said. “I took over, so I’ve only had the place for six months.”
The market’s been there for longer, much, much longer, although Gilley isn’t sure how long. One employee, Carol Brewer, has worked there 40 years.
“She’s a jewel,” Gilley said about Brewer. “We nicknamed her the CEO because she knows her business. We have a good time. We enjoy what we do, and we have a good time doing it.”
The store, which is the only grocery store in Peabody besides Dollar General, almost closed in June. Gilley said there was a big scare for the community, since the owner at the time said he was going to close it if it didn’t sell by June.
Gilley said she hasn’t done a lot to attract new customers and that they’re looking for a venue in which to do that.
“The thing that attracts people here to us, because we get people from all over, is the meat market,” Gilley said. “We have a little niche as far as that goes. That’s the one thing I think we need to continue to promote. I refer to it as an old-fashioned meat market/butcher shop.”
They sell a variety of meats, from pork to steaks, and they make their own sausage and bratwurst, grinding and cutting meat fresh at the store.
“I was amazed at the difference in the quality of the food,” Gilley said about the fresh cuts.
They’re staying afloat, though, although when Dollar General set up shop in town, the other owner had a 30 percent drop in sales, Gilley said.
The meat market has helped with that.
“For us, the meat market is really the heart of the business to be able to keep the business open,” Gilley said, adding they received a grant to purchase a new produce case and new meat case. “The store’s so old, a lot of the equipment is dilapidating. It makes a difference in—they’re more energy efficient and the quality of the product is better because the equipment runs well.”
Something that really helps keep the older equipment running is Gilley’s fiancé, Darren Weems, who runs Appliance Parts Specialist.
“He saved me a lot of money on expense for maintenance for this place,” Gilley said. “I don’t think it would’ve survived.”
They just received the equipment after Thanksgiving, and they’ve received positive feedback from the community.
“It’s really changed the look of the store and the presentation,” Gilley said.
The market has 14 employees, all of whom are part time, except general manager John Montigny. Gilley said her job there is finances.
“My background is banking for many years,” she said, adding that for the last 13 years, she worked for the finance department for the City of Wichita.
In addition to selling the usual groceries, the market also sells already-prepared food, such as baked beans, fried chicken, mac and cheese, and pizza.
“There’s not a lot of choice of eating places in town, so the food service is something we offer,” Gilley said.
Gilley believes the business is needed in Peabody.
“It’s important for the community to have access to fresh food,” she said. “That’s what I enjoy is I know I’m providing fresh food to the community and fulfilling those needs supplying fresh foods and meats.”
She also said it’s nice knowing customers’ names in the town, with a population of about 1,300, and knowing what they like to buy and what they don’t.
“We try to accommodate as best we can,” Gilley said. “The store is improving all the time and plan to keep it alive and prospering.”
Store hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Wendy Nugent / Free Press