Are free food, prize drawings and fifty percent off special merchandise good reasons to check out Hawkins Farm Center and Restaurant in Port Royal? Owner and manager, Darlene Tipton thinks so.
Tipton said she looks forward to this year’s Customer Appreciation Day — set for Saturday, Oct. 25 from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. “We’re trying to get people’s morale back up,” she said.
Tipton said she’s noticed that 2008 has been particularly difficult for local farmers. “It has been tough with fertilizer prices and gas so high,” she said.
However, calling Hawkins a farm center is kind of like calling the county fair a livestock show. There’s just more to it than that.
Although there is a tremendous inventory of farm supplies in the company’s store and seven outbuildings, it doesn’t end with baling wire and post hole diggers.
Hawkins Farm Center is a unique combination of retail farm supplies, hardware, plumbing and electrical needs, plus convenience store and restaurant.
Tipton said she would like more folks to come in and enjoy the restaurant. It offers a lot of bang for the buck. The breakfast crowd can enjoy a biscuit and homemade gravy for $1.25. “It’s better and cheaper than fast food breakfast,” she said. A fried egg sandwich is only $1, and a 12-ounce cup of coffee costs 30-cents. A couple slices of bacon for your sandwich will set you back 50-cents.
The lunch menu offers a hearty homemade daily special that includes meat, two sides and bread for $5.25. The menu also includes burgers and a variety of hot and cold sandwiches along with five different kinds of fries.
Although the staff is used to a fast-paced environment, Tipton requests that large groups call ahead. She recalled a Saturday when dozens of hungry sightseeing motorcyclists descended on Port Royal in search of food and a rest stop. “They were lined up out the front door,” she said. Tipton said it was quite an effort to get them all fed, but in the end the bikers said they’d had a great time and vowed to return.
Personalized service is a hallmark of Hawkins Farm Center. Tipton admitted when she took the helm six years ago, her knowledge of her father’s business was slim. Luckily, she had a built-in “customer service” department in the form of several locals who gather daily to drink coffee at a table in the hardware section. People called with all kinds of questions and Tipton consulted the experts. “I just yelled over to customer service,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done without them.”
With more than five years’ experience under her belt now, Tipton seems comfortable in her management role. The store is well-stocked with brand name feed and farm supplies, bulk and bag fertilizer, greenhouse and gardening stock (including Bunton seed for 70 cents per teaspoon), electric and plumbing supplies, boots and horse products.
The convenience store carries such items as sodas, snacks, candy, frozen foods and milk.
Sportsmen can even obtain hunting and fishing licenses at the front counter. “We try to have a little bit of everything,” she said.
Perhaps the most unique shelf in the place is one that holds books by and about local literary treasure, Wendell Berry. Shielded from dust and dirt by individual plastic covers, each book authored by Berry is personally signed. “College students come in looking for Wendell Berry,” Tipton said. She said she is happy to share her knowledge of one of Port Royal’s favorite sons with the young folks on their quest, and said he will even personalize books on request.
Tipton has been running the store since her father’s death in 2002. He opened the farm center in 1964 and asked his children to keep the business open. She said her first thought was “there is no way,” but now Tipton, brothers Vangee and Wendell Hawkins, and sister Becky Vaughn are co-owners. Though she is in charge of daily operations, Tipton said the four make the big decisions together. “They help me out,” she said. “We have monthly meetings and they are there when they’re needed.”
Tipton also gives a lot of credit to the staff. Regina Pyles is assistant manager. Ernie Moser and Charles Le Compte load goods for customers. “Ernie is my right and left hand,” she said. “He is a jack of all trades.” Le Compte is Tipton’s uncle and makes the 45-minute drive from Bald Knob every day. “He came on board just to do inventory and stayed six years,” Tipton said. Carol Payton and Linda Ingabrand cook while Sue Sweazy and Theresa Payton take care of restaurant patrons and Kassie Suter is the front counter clerk.
Tipton said she hopes that the trend to support local businesses will keep more places like Hawkins Farm Center open. “The community needs a business like this,” she said. “Without this little store, it would be sad.”
The store is located at 8201 Port Royal Road (Kentucky 193) in Port Royal and is open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Restaurant hours are 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The phone number is (502) 947-5160.
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