Thursday August 2, 2012 | By:Felice E. Krycia-associate editor | News
For the past 10 years John Braymiller and Anne Smith have been greeting customers and making friends at John’s Corner Store, 501 Sunset Drive, Hamburg.
Since opening on May 31, 2002, Smith estimates they have welcomed over a million customers to their store, with an average day seeing several hundred people coming through their doors.
“We are more like a small neighborhood grocery store than a convenience store,” Smith said. “We believe in taking the time to get to know you. Every person is important.”
Smith, a retired seventh grade math teacher who still substitute teaches, has had years of experience dealing with people, along with raising four sons.
“She is definitely the brains of the operation,” said Braymiller, who also has decades of experience and has three sons and a daughter of his own. He was produce manager at Bowen’s Shopwise in Gowanda, as well as being the head meat cutter and meat manager at various stores, including Avery’s Bells in North Collins for 15 years, Pellicano’s Meats for eight and Shurfine in Eden for six years.
“My goal always was to own my own business,’ Braymiller said. “When this location became available, we looked at it and made the decision that this was it.”
As Braymiller will tell you, the store almost did not happen though, because the day after he received the key for the building, his appendix burst.
“I spent the next 11 days in the hospital, and I almost died from it,” Braymiller said. It was a slow road to recovery for him, taking him about six months to build his strength up.
“I had a lot of support, from Annie; the owner of the building, Bill Barrett; vendors who were supposed to be coming in, family and so many others,” Braymiller said.
Since that rocky start it has been a labor of love for the pair to bring their store to where it is today, often spending 100 hours per week handling every aspect of the business.
Now, many of the people who come into the store are repeat customers, looking for some of Braymiller’s signature Polish and Italian sausage that he makes right there.
Or maybe they want some of his handmade salads or deviled eggs or a made-to-order sandwich. On occasions he will also bake pies and other dessert items.
“I can’t tell you how many customers have come here with their own serving bowl and they ask John to fill it up with one of his potato, macaroni or some other salad, which they then take to a party,” Smith said.
Along with all the fresh food items, there are also many of the staples one needs, including paper products, canned goods, breads, milk, cold beverages, eggs, etc. all at competitive prices.“We’ve been told we have the coldest coolers in Hamburg,” Braymiller said.
There is also 40-feet of gum on display, along with a wide variety of candy and there is usually 32 varieties of scratch-off lottery tickets to choose from and all on-line games are available, Smith said.
But it is the people that come into the store that makes it all worth while for the pair.
“I’m a people person and I get a kick out of talking to customers, no matter what their age,” Braymiller said.
“I enjoy talking to them and with the younger ones, I’ll joke with them, but they can’t get away with anything around here either.”
“We believe in treating others the way we want to be treated,” Smith said. “It isn’t unusual to see John give some candy to a mom or dad and (with the parent’s permission) tell the child to go home an pick up their room so they can have the candy.
“And it’s fun when a former student drops in, maybe with their children and they suddenly recognize me,” she said followed by a wide smile.
“Plus we tend to treat our employees like family, which means teaching them a good work ethic. Many of the teens that have worked here have earned enough money to buy their first car,” she said.
It is all about having that local feel, even when the customer isn’t local.
“We have had customers from all over the country and many places around the world stop in here,” Braymiller said, with the most recent visitor being from Finland. “It is exciting to meet them, welcome them to the area and make them know we are happy they took the time to come here.”
Because the store has so many visitors from out of the area, (there are several hotels in the store’s vicinity), they now have a souvenir section boasting Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres and other items.
“Bottom line, we enjoy what we do. We feel it is important that there be small family-owned businesses, where the customer is more than a source of money, that they are individuals and we know their names,” Smith said.
John’s Corner Store is open Sunday through Thursday 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 6 a.m. to midnight. For more information or to place an order, call 646-1788.