“In the onset of this project we were unanimously turned down by 10 different very reputable grocery operators. They said no parking, too small a community, you’re at the end of our logistics chain. After hearing ‘no’ again and again, my wife and I finally decided, you know what, to heck with everybody else – we’ll buy and put our own grocery store in here and we’ll show ‘em,” said Steve Fernandez.
Fernandez and his wife, Michele Jones, resolved to open PH Country Style Market, a full-service grocery store with basic groceries, fresh produce, a meat counter, a deli counter, beer and wine and just about anything else you’d need to stock up in what was labeled the food desert of downtown Port Huron.
Their resolve alone, however, was not enough. “We were really struggling with coming up with the full-spectrum game plan that would include the overall vision, the mission statement and a business plan that we could sell for financing, and that’s where we reached out to the Michigan SBDC. Our experience working with them was great,” said Jones.
With the help of MI-SBDC consultants Harry Blecker and Shannon Schwabe, and with the support of Regional Director Janis Mueller, Fernandez and Jones got their business plan going, got the projected financials, and were able to connect with Capital Impact Partners to finance the entire project. From there the collaboration with the SBDC started to really flourish.
“Every time we ran into roadblocks or unforeseen obstacles Harry and Shannon were able to work with us to look at the options, develop a different approach and / or start back over and really assess what we were trying to achieve. We’re still using the SBDC today, helping us with our marketing plan and going forward,” added Fernandez.
“It’s been over 30 years since one could find fresh produce and groceries in downtown Port Huron. And now it’s back – exactly what this community wanted. Thank you to the MI-SBDC for being there to help us, for your guidance, your counseling, for providing us the means, the methods and the help to create our vision,” summarized Jones.
Learn more about PH Country Style Market here.