Old Time Farmers Market

Angel Moore, left, and Gracie Williams, both of Greenwood, bring trays of flowering plants to their car. Williams said she frequents the Old Time Farmers Market. On Thursday, it had customers lining up to buy picked vegetables and others wandering among tables of plants. “This is the slowest crowd I have seen,” Williams remarked.

Several retailers around Greenwood say they’ve never experienced a sudden uptick in sales like that over the past four to six weeks — mostly prompted by a situation that has left others in the retail trade struggling.

Businesses selling home improvement and gardening equipment and supplies as well as liquor and beer outlets have profited because they were allowed to remain open when others were closed or otherwise limited by the state’s COVID-19 stay-home order.

Richie Fulgham, HomeFront’s president, said the home improvement business in Greenwood has been slammed.

“In 18 years, I have not seen this, not here,” he said Thursday.

HomeFront has two basic types of customers: contractors who steadily purchase supplies and other buyers who are working on personal projects, such as repairs. He said contractors have provided most of HomeFront’s business until lately.

“New construction has stayed pretty consistent, but remodeling has slowed down because a lot of people don’t want other people inside their homes,” Fulgham said.

“This is what has changed,” he said. “We used to be 70% contractor, and now we are 70% walk-in and 30% contractor.”

For contractors, this is partly weather-related: “We had one person who had been trying to get a foundation poured since September and just got it poured three weeks ago.”

But it’s also because do-it-yourselfers have had the time and money to do some of their own work. Many of these customers were at home but still being paid or were collecting unemployment. They also received federal coronavirus stimulus checks.

In addition, they weren’t spending money they might normally use for travel, Fulgham noted. If they were parents of children on athletic teams, they didn’t have the expense of going to out-of-town games and paying for hotel rooms and restaurant meals.

At the 17-year-old Old Time Farmers Market, sales are always up in the springtime, but this one is different, said owner Martin Tribble. Customers began to visit the Farmers Market in early April because it is outside, he said. They brought their children with them and returned frequently.

Ray Tribble

Tribble

They wanted to feel the wind and sun on their faces, he said — and “people wanted to get out to a place where they felt safe.”

While he tries to ensure physical distancing, Tribble has noticed that customers are practicing this on their own. “Out there, they will be spread out.”

At Magnolia Home Center, which sells paint and flooring, the family-owned business took a careful approach when the COVID-19 outbreak  became apparent. The center’s Sammy Hackleman said, “We shut down early for about two weeks and closed on Saturdays.”

He was worried about customers browsing too closely or gathering at the counter. “I didn’t think we could keep people away from each other,” he said.

Hackleman’s son, Andy, noted that the store was able to offer sanitation supplies that were hard to find elsewhere. “We got what we could. We had some suppliers who worked hard to get that stuff.”

Meanwhile, beer sales have not only remained solid but increased, said Wade Evans, Greenwood branch manager for the Jackson-based distributor Capital City Beverages. “It’s been up everywhere,” he said.

Old Time Farmers Market

Nolan Marshall, 17, of Greenwood has started his regular summer job at the Old Time Farmers Market, which has experienced a business surge related to COVID-19 stay-home restrictions. Here, Marshall drills drainage holes in the bottom of a container for plants.

“We have been able to keep everything in stock. It doesn’t look like it is going to slow down any time soon,” he said.

Liquor stores experienced sales growth along with some supply hitches. Libby Burleson, who owns Jack’s Package Store, said she has done well in recent weeks. She thinks sales increased because people were at home and enjoying drinks. She, like Fulgham, said the stimulus payments helped, although she has had trouble getting some brands because of shutdowns in their places of origin, such as California or locations overseas. “It’s slow if we can get it,” she said.

Fulgham was miffed by price increases in painting supplies from one of HomeFront’s distributors, Orgill Inc., which is headquartered in Memphis. “These are up 47% in the past two months. Nobody was ready for a 47% run in their inventory,” he said.  

And there’s a shortage in treated lumber because of strong demand. One of the store’s suppliers, Fulgham said, can produce 15 truckloads of treated lumber a day but is getting daily orders for 20. “He has been getting five truckloads behind every day for the last two weeks.”

Tribble said he is having to search for plants and garden supplies. Some plants that he regularly offers are not readily available. His customers are looking for them and sometimes returning to see what might have arrived.

Tribble hasn’t seen anything quite like it. “This is the busiest mid-April to mid-May since we have been open,” he said.

•Contact Susan Montgomery at 581-7241 or smontgomery@gwcommonwealth.com.

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