Brittany Anderson chats with Diane Hudson, behind the counter, as she returns a video. Brittany had worked at the store.
CYGNET, Ohio - There's something about Hudson's Market that keeps customers here coming back.
Some say it's the people. Others contend it's the convenience of having a general store with both a meat counter and a video rental section located in the small village.
But one thing is for sure, said owner Bill Hudson - three generations of his family have worked long and hard to keep the business alive.
This Saturday, Hudson's Market will mark a century in business with prize drawings, a balloon giveaway, and free ice cream cones.
Bill Hudson watches while his father, Robert, tries his luck with a lotto ticket, above. Robert Hudson managed the store, at left, until he retired and his son took it over in 1984.
It's a celebration that never would have occurred if Mr. Hudson hadn't agreed to help his father, Robert, sell the store 20 years ago.
The elder Mr. Hudson, who took over operations in 1969, decided it was time to retire in 1984. Since no family members initially were interested in taking over the business, he found an outside buyer.
Robert Hudson negotiated most of the sale and then left on a trip to Australia, leaving his son to finalize the deal.
But his son just couldn't let the market go.
"I had been raised in the store," the 59-year-old said. "I was working here when I wasn't tall enough to reach the meat scale and I had to get a box to stand on."
The store is celebrating its 100th year.
Bill Hudson called off the sale when he discovered the buyer was more interested in acquiring the antiques inside the general store than in running the business. A little extra pressure from old friends and loyal market customers prompted Mr. Hudson to leave his job selling insurance in Lorain, Ohio, and take the reins of the family business.
"I didn't want to see it sold," he said. "It's part of my history. It's part of Cygnet's history."
The store and the Hudson family certainly have put down roots. Harry Hudson, the son of a northwest Ohio oil field worker, was 17 when he opened the market's doors in 1904. Through the years, the store has changed locations about five times. It moved to its current location, 326 Front Street, in the 1930s.
In its heyday, the market competed with four or five other general stores. Today it is the only store of its kind within a 5-mile radius of Cygnet. But that doesn't mean running the business is easy.
Although the market has a good customer base, averaging between 900 to 1,000 transactions a day and taking in $500,000 to $600,000 in sales annually, Mr. Hudson said keeping the market viable requires careful planning.
For example, since he has taken over the store, Mr. Hudson has slowly transformed the business from a grocery store to a convenience store. The hours of operation also were extended and new products like alcoholic beverages and hand-dipped and soft-serve ice cream have helped attract customers.
Mr. Hudson, who runs the market along with his wife, said he has never regretted his decision to take over the family business.
"You just can't think about finances," he said. "You need to do something worthwhile."
His wife, Diane, agrees.
"You can make people happy," she said. "It's nice to feel that you own something."
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