Cedar Lodge - a business that listens to community
Just about everyone who grows up in the Fair Grove community knows someone who has worked at the Cedar Lodge Market.
Since the doors opened in 1963, the independent grocery store has been a consistent employer of many. In March, the store will celebrate 50 years in business. The store's original owner, Charles Dennis, has since turned the store's operations over to his sons, Mike and Danny, but a tight-knit community, which their father worked to establish, remains.
"If it wasn't for my father, it wouldn't be here," Mike Dennis said. "Daddy was 35 years old when he started this store. He saw an opportunity to do things his way."
Born in 1926, Charles Dennis served in the Navy through World War II. Upon returning home, he worked as a grocer in various stores for over a decade before eventually opening Cedar Lodge.
Mike Dennis also served as a member of the Army for four years after bagging groceries in his father's store as a teenager. Just as his father before him, Mike made his way back home to Thomasville and made the family business his own.
Before his health prevented him from fulfilling day-to-day operations, Danny Dennis worked alongside his brother to continue their father's legacy in the community. Mike and Danny's wives, Susan and Connie, both help manage the store's affairs.
"When (Mike) was in high school and worked here, I don't think he was sure this was what he wanted to do," said Susan Dennis. "After he got out of the military, it just seemed like the thing to do, to come back here. It seemed like a real opportunity then."
Beyond managing the store's affairs, the women have also seen sons and daughters of so many long-time employees come of age. Folks like Shela Gearren, who has worked at the store for 32 years, have encouraged their children to obtain part-time jobs to facilitate the transition from high school to college.
"We've had a lot of kids work here who are really, really good kids," Connie Dennis said. "Both of Shela's boys worked here. Both of my boys and some of their best friends, both of Mike and Susan's boys and a lot of their friends at different times. A lot of times, it's where they're transitioning and they're too grown up to stay home."
Among the stiffest challenges the Dennis family has encountered in remaining a fixture of the community has been competition of chain retail stores which double as grocery stores. But they have developed a business plan that sets them apart — listening to customer feedback.
"We've been fighting Walmart for the last two decades," Mike Dennis said. "We've just to had to adapt. But we still bag their groceries. We still do special orders. And we still listen."
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or firstname.lastname@example.org.