HOME — A small, unwanted house has become a welcome presence, both for its owners and the customers now served in its new life as a wholesale grocery store.
When Brandy Herman and her husband, Shawn, bought the little house across the driveway from their own, they planned that one day, perhaps, his father would move into it.
But he had other plans and, as they considered their options, the couple took into consideration both Brandy’s business sense and the need in their area for a one-stop shop for groceries and other everyday items.
Inspired by the store of a friend in Rossiter, Brandy began to investigate buying grocery items wholesale and at a discount.
That was in February. Since then, her store, Brandy’s Wholesale Foods, has experienced steady growth, according to its owners.
“The week I get stock in, I can’t keep people away, they just keep coming,” she said.
Herman, a 31-year-old mother with a degree in medical office management, said she was actually always drawn to business. She didn’t believe, however, that she’d be able to do anything with it.
She is now, and giving it everything she’s got. According to her husband, she researches the vendors and their selections so she can find the best prices and the items customers will like most. She orders every two weeks from a number of vendors who sell a range of foods at wholesale prices. That way, she can pass on savings to her customers.
“It’s getting harder and harder to put a decent meal on the table,” Shawn said. “My wife wanted to be able to help people buy quality food at a better price.”
Not only have they grown their small business, she and her husband have also increased their circle of friends. Having moved to the area from Cool Spring just a few years ago, the chance to make connections that go beyond the sales routine is a welcome one.
Local customers often stop by to chat for an hour or more, according to the couple.
“I’ve only been open a short time, but you get to know them really quickly,” Brandy said.
Shawn credits his wife, who runs the store and manages its operation, with the shop’s overall success.
“She’s very good with people,” he said. “She loves to talk to people and get to know them. So it works out pretty well for her.”
She, in turn, chalks up the steady stream of customers to great deals on everything from groceries to makeup to the scrubs-style nursing uniforms. Handmade potholders, travel-sized toiletries and secondhand clothing round out the selection.
Also popular are frozen items. Those can range from cheesecakes to Tyson brand chicken to McDonald’s brand fries.
To keep customers posted, Brandy posts regularly on the store’s Facebook page, listing nearly every day what new selections she has in stock, as well as their prices.
Using social media, she said, has increased her customer base to the extent that she even has people travel from Pittsburgh for good deals.
While she buys items in bulk, she breaks down the packages into more customer-friendly sizes. She does the same with the stock itself, often splitting orders, as well as the work of picking them up, with a friend from Rossiter, Monica Monoskey, who helped her get things going.
Monoskey has a store that sells low-priced groceries, Monoskey’s Payless Pantry. The two often work together, traveling to pick up orders from vendors and exchanging items — for example, if something doesn’t sell well at Monoskey’s store, Herman will see if her customers like it, and vice versa.
“She always tells me, ‘your store better do good, because I’m not going back to getting everything myself,’” Brandy said.
It doesn’t sound like that will be the case anytime soon. Not only does she like running a business. She and her family like having it close to home, so she can spend time with her daughter, an opportunity that gives her motivation.
“She’s poured her heart into it,” Shawn said. “And I think it’s paying off.”