Good family also operates Walters Hometown Grocery in neighboring community
by Mary Margaret Stewart, staff writer
Jena Good’s parents, Stan and Cherryl, purchased Shelton’s Grocery in Waurika, Oklahoma, in 1999, right before her ninth birthday.
And ever since then, she’s been in the stores.
“When we first purchased Shelton’s, my dad was still working at Goodyear. So my mom got her hand in the grocery business,” Good said. “For that first summer, I was at work every day with my mom. And that’s just where it all started for me.”
She did go through an angsty teen phase, though.
“I think like every teenager, at 15 or 16, I decided I hated the stores,” she said. “We could never go on vacation, it was no fun. You’re always at work. And it’s technically a business that you’re married to.
“But you go to college, you grow up a little bit, and your values and what you want in life kind of changes. And so I kind of saw how much I really loved the stores.”
After graduating from the University of Oklahoma with an English degree in 2011, she decided to forgo her initial plans for law school and came back home to manage the stores with her parents.
Part of the turning point for Good was her family’s second grocery store, Walters. Toward the end of college, her parents built and opened Walters Hometown Grocery in Walters, Oklahoma. December 2020 will mark its 11th anniversary.
“I got to be really involved in that…from the ground up and help hire the first round of people and help train and help stock the stores,” Good said. “I’d always worked in the stores through my childhood, but that was when it started to feel a little bit different.
“The grocery stores had been the last place I wanted to end up. And then by the end of it, it was the place that I really wanted to end up and be,” she said. “Sometimes you have to get away from things to realize how much you love them.”
As for a typical day in the family business, Good is primarily at Walters, but floats between both stores.
And when her 8-year-old son, Drew, isn’t in school, he’s by her side helping out.
“I work with my family every day, so I’m with my mom right now,” she said. “We’ve been [unloading a truck] all morning…we don’t just sit in an office and manage. We’re very hands on, and it’s the same for both stores. We divide and conquer.
“My dad stays at Shelton’s, and we stay at Walters usually, so it also fosters a little friendly competition between family members.”
And during the COVID-19 pandemic, they got a few more family members involved to stay on top of the demand. Good’s brother and sister-in-law, Teddy and Brooke Good, own Fifth Avenue Meat Processing and Retail in Sterling, Oklahoma. That proved a helpful family tie amidst supply chain issues.
“When there were meat shortages, the prices were skyrocketing,” Good said. “We got to purchase our own cattle from local areas, and my brother and sister-in-law process them, and their state inspected, so we got to sell them in the stores.
“With COVID and everything, we kind of had to adapt very quickly. When we started to see the need, especially with our books and what wasn’t coming in anymore from grocery stores, we had the opportunity with their business to just jump right in on it.
“Providing Oklahoma-grown and -produced beef in both of our grocery stores…that was I think our major high point and hit during COVID – how well that was received with our customers.”
Aside from the stores’ meat selection, Good said that Shelton’s and Walters were really busy and faced the same outages that grocers across the country experienced.
“We’re just now filling back up with everything,” she said. “Our stores finally don’t look like a disaster anymore.”
In terms of the future, Good said her parents probably won’t open another store. But she would like to consider the possibility.
“I would be open to a couple more, probably similar demographics because I really like the feel of small-town grocery stores,” she said.
“If I were to expand, which – that’s always down the road as the hope or dream – it would be similar locations, of course. I really like southwest Oklahoma, so I doubt that we ever get up towards the city. That has kind of been my plan.”
As for other plans, Good has taken on trying to expand the interest of small-town shopping and small-town grocery stores with a blog and social media presence called The Grocery Gal.
“I’m trying to figure out how to keep people shopping in small towns. Everybody loves a big box chain or dollar store or something else,” she said. “That has been, I guess, my little scientific project – to figure out how to not only keep interest in small towns…but trying to make that something where people value that.”
Good uses these accounts to promote both Shelton’s and Walters in one place – the two stores are just tabout 20 minutes apart.
And recently, she’s been working with the Oklahoma Grocers Association to promote Family Meals Month on The Grocery Gal. She features recipes and posts ingredient cards on the products that she has used throughout the stores.
All in all, what keeps Good coming back each day is the customer experience – her favorite part of the business.
“Having been in the stores – literally in the stores – since I was really young, all of my best friends were the elderly community because I didn’t have kids to play with,” she said. “My very favorite part is talking to customers, getting to know them.
“Those people that walk through our front door are my friends. That to me – I love the familiarity that you get in small town businesses.”
And the support goes both ways, with the community taking care of Good and her family, too.
“During COVID, [our customers] brought us food because they knew that we were working 16-hour days…for me, that feeling of an actual community, you can’t even replace that.
“Being a mother is very important to me…getting to see my son grow up the same way that I did and interact with people the same way I did. He knows everybody just like I did when I was little. He talks to everybody. He loves all of our vendors that come in, and they love him, too.
“You know, when you’re Frito-Lay guy is tossing a football to your little one in the backroom, it’s a little bit special. I love the feeling of we’re all one big happy family.
“It sounds super cheesy and corny, but it’s true. That is kind of a selling point for me. And I mean, I’m a grocery geek. I love food. But for me, it’s definitely the people.”
To learn more about the Oklahoma Grocers Association from the president and CEO, click here.