Customers Enjoy the Variety – and Surprises – at Wakarusa Shop
Writer / Angela Cornell
There are many reasons to start a business. Some can’t stand the thought of being bored after retiring. Others see a need and want to fill it. For Wyman Hochstetler, the owner of Madison Country Store, it was a combination of both.
First of all, it was a retirement project for an older relative.
“My wife’s aunt was semi-retired,” he says. “She wanted something to do. This was always my wife’s dream, and I shared it too. It’s always been our dream to have a store, so this was the bump we needed – when her aunt moved to us.”
It all started in Hochstetler’s basement.
“We actually started with the warehousing in the basement in our house,” he says. “There was a small retail area.”
Within two years of their grand opening in 2012, they needed something larger, so the Hochstetlers had a portion of their property rezoned for commercial use and built a storefront.
Since then, the business has only grown. At present, they draw customers from a radius of 40 to 50 miles.
“We have regular customers from Osceola, South Bend, Mishawaka, Milford and Warsaw,” Hochstetler says. “We see people from further away than that. There’s a lady from Valparaiso that comes here once a month.”
Of course, Hochstetler’s aunt still works at the store.
“She’s past her 80th birthday now and she’s out here every day,” he says. “It just gives her something to do.”
It wasn’t just his aunt’s needs that Hochstetler sought to meet. Since the store is a discount grocery, he is able to provide products for neighbors, friends and strangers.
“Our number-one goal is to have a discount store that’s very clean, and at competitive prices,” he says.
One of the draws for Madison Country Store’s customers is that they never quite know what they will find. Inventory changes daily, and everything in the store is typically priced at least half-off from regular store prices.
“It’s like ‘Happy Christmas’ when they come here, because inventory changes so much,” says Hochstetler with a chuckle.
Customers know they will be able to find a wide variety of items, even if they never quite know what they’ll find. Perhaps there will be king-sized candy bars for 10 cents, two-liter bottles of juice for $1.50, or $3.50 bottles of shampoo that would cost $7 at any other store. They also sell a wide variety of other products including pet food, cereal, office products and much more.
Hochstetler works through a broker who schedules trucks from across the country to drop off products at Madison Country Store. This means that although Hochstetler can choose which businesses he can buy a truckload from, he never knows for sure what will roll off the trucks when they arrive.
“It just depends,” he says. “Most trucks have a lot of something, and then the next truck has a lot of something else. It changes, and that keeps it interesting because it keeps inventory flowing.”
It’s not all dented, slightly damaged, or nearly out-of-date items, however. They also sell meats and cheeses produced in Walnut Creek, Ohio, as well as Crystal Spring Creamery products.
Hochstetler’s favorite part of the business is being able to interact with the customers.
“Just being able to see how happy they are to find something at the prices that we have – that’s awesome,” he says.
Customer service is vital for any small business owner, and Hochstetler is no exception.
“The customers are our priority,” he says. “We’ll do whatever we can to make the customers happy.”
The business wouldn’t be possible without Hochstetler’s wife and partner, Edna, and their employees, especially with the amount of work that goes into keeping this discount store clean and shipshape.
“The product doesn’t always come in clean,” he says. “As far as the cleaning process goes, it’s looking at each product and cleaning it – making sure it’s a product we want in our store before we take it out in the retail area.”
Madison Country Store is located at 67506 Beech Road in Wakarusa. They accept cash and check only as payment. Call 574-633-4143 for more info.