Newberry Observer

Celebrating 100 years at Wilson’s Grocery

POMARIA — This year, Wilson’s Grocery, 5941 US 176, Pomaria, reached a milestone many businesses dream of reaching, 100 years of being in business.

Wilson’s Grocery has been at their current location since 1987, but first opened their doors in 1918. They have since purchased their Little Mountain store in May 2011.

Jimmy Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Grocery, said running the family business is his pride and joy and he is content with reaching 100 years of business.

“Ten years ago I thought about ‘If I could just make it to 100 years that’s fine’,” Wilson said.

Long before Wilson took over the family business, his grandmother Istalena Wilson and father ran the store, Wilson said his grandmother was a determined woman, a trait that he said he sees in himself.

“I don’t know what age she started working in the store, but my grandmother was super determined and I know I got that trait, you can tell me I can’t move a desk by myself, I’ll walk around it three times and prove to you I can move it and that’s the way she was, she did everything herself,” he said.

By the time Wilson was born in 1961, his grandfather had already passed and his grandmother ran the store and liquor store all day, every day. It wasn’t long before Wilson got hooked on going into the store not knowing that one day he would be the owner.

“My older sister was in piano, dancing, voice, everything a little girl could do, something every day of the week, so I either had to sit in the car with mom or stay at the store with grandma,” Wilson said.

This was an easy decision for Wilson, who would stay and help his grandmother in the store, teaching him how to cook. At around six or seven years old Wilson was waiting on customers and putting stock up, being a helper to his grandmother.

“My grandmother was 75 and still running the store when I was a sophomore, one day she fell on the way home from church and broke her hip and my dad’s sister, my aunt, we came up with the idea that she would run the store until we got out of the school and then she would go home,” Wilson said.

As a teenager, Wilson would see himself learning more about working in the store, from taking orders to figuring out how much items would cost.

“When I was a sophomore in high school I’d help grandmother make orders, figuring out how much stuff would be when it came in. I’d say Pepsi Cola is coming, I ordered this and this, it’ll be $100, I’d write $100 on a piece of paper and paper clip $100 to it so when she came in it would be boom, boom, boom here’s the order he had.”

Working in the store as a child paid off for Wilson, even into his college years.

“When I went to Midlands Technical College we had a class talking about budgets, the teacher asked if anybody had ever made a budget, she explained what it was and I’d been doing that for two years, typical day to day operations,” he said.

At one time, both Wilson’s father and grandmother wanted to close the store, but Wilson was not going to let that happen. After his grandmother’s injury, she never fully healed, but continued to work in the store.

“In the summer time her and I would work a shift half a day, I’d take her, she was with a walker and I’d put her in the liquor store, I couldn’t go in there because I was too young so I’d help her get in the liquor store and I would be in the convenience store and when she wanted something she’d knock on the wall and I would see what she needed, that’s kind of how we worked it,” Wilson said.

Wilson has taken what he’s learned over the years and is instilling those same lessons he’s learned into his own son, including treating everyone with respect, even the bag boy.

“I rode on the beer truck with my dad and he always taught me to speak to everyone, even to the bag boy. I asked him why he spoke to the bag boy, he said to be nice to that bag boy, because one day he might be a store manager,” Wilson said. “Fast forward 15 years, when I walked in I spoke to people and I saw people move from time to time, saw cashiers become assistant managers, assistant managers become store managers, bag boys moved to the produce department, what my dad told me was so right and I try to discuss that with my son.”

Wilson’s Grocery first opened its doors in 1918. Jimmy Wilson, left and his wife Pam, right, continue to run the business today.’s Grocery first opened its doors in 1918. Jimmy Wilson, left and his wife Pam, right, continue to run the business today. Kelly Duncan | The Newberry Observer

By Kelly Duncan

Reach Kelly Duncan at 803-768-3123 ext. 1868 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.