The Sunrise Grocery has been a beloved local store in Blairsville, Georgia since the 1920s. We talked to the current owner, Jason Clemmons, about the store’s history and his keys to success.
Bob and Christine Clemmons bought the small business in the 1980s after stopping by the store while on a vacation at Vogel State Park. The Clemmons family moved from Florida to Blairsville to run the store and expanded the Sunrise business to include two cabins available to rent on the Nottely River. Jason Clemmons, son of Bob and Christine, has continued the legacy of business success by focusing on selling quality local goods.
What makes Sunrise Grocery a unique small business?
I think what makes us unique is time. We’ve tried to take people back with our store. We have old rough lumber shelving. We trade locally like they once did. The original store has been here since the early 20’s. Families have been coming to Vogel State Park for generations and we have always been their stop for the common goods, camping supplies, and their local apples and peaches. We still boil our peanuts with firewood. Our logo is an old man picking a banjo. The reason for that is that it represents old Appalachia to me. That’s what I’m trying to pass on. A certain ambiance of how it use to be here. I really think when people pass through our doors they do drift back and think about how things were. I hope so anyway.
What challenges has Sunrise Grocery faced?
The biggest challenge, for me, was about six years ago. Sunrise Grocery used to be the only thing between Vogel and Blairsville. So we would sell a lot of staples. Milk, bread, charcoal, and things like that. Then a large gas station opened near by, Walmart opened, and a Dollar General opened just down the road. We actually had people saying to us ‘What we were going to do?’ because we wouldn’t make it. Well, we decided to localize. We just increased everything local. Jellies, pottery, soaps, honey, syrup, candies, and just brand ourselves as the oldest business in Blairsville. You can’t recreate that! Not only did we make it, we’ve had our best years!
What advice can you give small business owners?
The biggest tip I could give people is the old saying: location, location, location! You have to have a location people see.
What has been the key to your business success?
I think our family’s keys to success here at Sunrise is customer service. I remember my parents going to the house to get things for customers we didn’t have at the store to save them a trip to town. It’s hard to be on top of that all the time just due to getting sidetracked on other goings on at the store, or something like that, but we try to make all people feel at home and part of the Sunrise family.
What makes Blairsville a great community to own a business?
The community of Blairsville is the best there is! People in town have always supported us. They bring their family to us when they have visitors. Local businesses come to buy gift baskets for their clients. So we have tons of support from Blairsville!
The things I love in Blairsville is the people, culture, and the beautiful mountains. I also have JMC photography where I focus on our landscape.These mountains will talk to you if you listen. It’s like no other place on Earth. That’s my humble opinion, though.