By Morgan Bryce
Nearly 50 years ago, Richard Terry recalls his initial impressions of the heart of the Smiths Station community, the site his father Lonnie chose to relocate his grocery business to from the hustling-and-bustling city of Columbus across the Chattahoochee River.
“There was nothing but fields of sage and a couple of houses nearby. It was very rural,” Richard said.
Now, Terry’s Grocery sits in the middle of one of the area’s fastest growing communities and is deeply woven into the fabric and everyday lives of Smiths Station residents, according to Richard’s wife Beverly.
“This business is just a part of Smiths Station. When I came here, Terry’s was already a big part of the community,” Beverly said. “It’s hard to really think about doing business anywhere else.”
Business was slow for Lonnie and wife Mary Lou at first, but grew with time. In the mid-1970s, Richard inherited the store from his parents and helped it turn into a profitable venture during the next decade.
In 1984, Richard met Beverly on a blind date, and were married within two years.
While Beverly was pregnant with their first child Carley in 1989, Richard oversaw the construction of the modern home of Terry’s and swapped the locations of his convenience and hardware stores. Today, the Terry family has expanded their business reach and own multiple gas stations, climate-controlled storage facilities, multiple rental properties and trailer park.
When discussing the reasons behind the success of his businesses, particularly Terry’s Grocery, Richard attributed it to their emphasis on going above and beyond for their customers.
“We really try to take care of our customers because they take care of us. Customer service is our top priority,” Richard said. “Another thing we rely on is their input, whether it’s items they can’t find or something we can do better ourselves.”
Store Manager Mary Jones, who has been with Terry’s Grocery for the last 16 years, said she is on a first-name basis with the majority of their customers, listens and receives input from them on ways the store can better serve them and even helps purchase groceries for seniors who are physically unable to shop.
“I’ve grown to love everyone around me, including our customers, and the small-town feeling that this store has,” Jones said.
According to lifelong Smiths Station resident and Terry’s office manager for the last 26 years Deborah Bradshaw, the store’s meats and produce have never lacked in quality.
“My whole family shops at Terry’s, because the quality of the products offered here is so high. Right after I got my driver’s license at 16 years old, I’d come shop and buy groceries here,” Bradshaw said. “My dad said he would only eat meat from Terry’s and from nowhere else. If momma came home with meat from somewhere else, he’d have a fit and get her to go it from Terry’s.”
Employees also make up a huge chunk of the business’s success, according to Richard.
Bradshaw, Jones and Meat Department Manager Keith Veasey have spent a combined 62 years working for the Terry family. Several other employees have been with the company for multiple years.
Through times of transition and adjustments to new procedures or technologies, Richard’s son Dillon said his family’s employees “are extremely adaptable and patient through the process,” which has helped them stay competitive with local and national competition that operates in the area.
Last year, an electrical fire forced the closure of the business. Jones and her store employees helped move the entire store’s inventory so repairs could be made. Within two weeks, the store was open again, a feat that would not have been possible without the “great people who work here,” according to Richard.
Fifty and Beyond
Although the official 50th anniversary date is in mid-August, the Terry’s have already begun celebrating the occasion with commemorative balloons, banners and cups. In the latter portion of August, Beverly said they plan to host a large block party with live music and food to promote the milestone.
From his humble beginnings of biking groceries to his father’s customers in Columbus to becoming one of Smiths Station’s most successful small business owners, Richard said he has been amazed and humbled by the acceptance of his family into the Smiths Station “family.”
“We’ve fought so many battles since we got here with new stores coming and we’ve just seen those as a new challenge to accept and use as an opportunity to better ourselves. Most of the time it has worked too,” Richard said. “All I can say is how proud I am of everyone who has helped us get here.”
Dillon, who mostly oversees the day-to-day operations of his family’s convenience stores, will inherit the family business at some point in the near future. He said he is excited to help continue the family business for a third generation and hopes to build upon the foundation his father has laid in the process.
“It’s overwhelming, but it’s great to know that I’ll have a steady job as long as everybody hangs with me. I enjoy my job and I feel like I’m a pretty big part of the community through our store, which is an honor,” Dillon said. “I enjoy being able to work with the community and all the people who work here at our stores. I feel like I have a lot to do though to carry this on.”
For more information or updates on the grocery store’s 50th anniversary, like and follow “Terry’s Grocery” on Facebook or visit www.terrysofsmithsstation.com. The store is located at 9209 Lee Road 246.