Jack and Martha Woods have sold Jack's Grocery, a Main Street mainstay in Fowler, to the Thaxton family from Las Animas.
By Candi Hill
When Jack Woods left for college, he believed that was the last time he would live in Fowler. And, he wasn't sure if his future included following in the family business.
But now, decades later, he is retiring as the successful owner of a longtime grocery business in downtown Fowler.
Jack and Martha Woods have sold Jack’s Grocery, a Main Street mainstay in Fowler, to the Thaxton family from Las Animas. Brent and Sheri Thaxton of Las Animas recently became owners of Thaxton’s Market in Las Animas, carrying on a longtime family tradition of 71 years. The opportunity came about that the Thaxtons could purchase Jack’s and they did.
Jack and Martha’s last day in the store as owners (they will be back as customers) is Friday, and Thaxton's will take over on Saturday, July 1.
The store name will change to Thaxton’s Market of Fowler and there will be a few upgrades and cosmetic changes, but the new owners have said they will carry on what the Woods family has established — excellent customer service.
“We feel that the bar is very high that Jack and Martha set concerning excellent customer service,” Brent Thaxton said. “We have full expectations of attaining that high bar.”
That customer service is what keeps small businesses alive in a world dominated by mega-stores.
“Jack and Martha are prime examples of why small businesses can be successful,” Brent said. “Caring about the community, caring about the people in it and taking care of the people in it.
“We can’t compete with some of the (mega-store) prices, but we make it up with love and caring for our community. And that’s what Jack and Martha have done,” Brent added.
Jack Woods grew up in the grocery business. His father, Jack Woods Sr., and mother, Catherine, had the grocery store in Fowler, called Jack’s Market, until selling it to Charlie Heckart in 1961. At that time, the name changed to Heckart’s Market. In 1976, Heckart sold to Phil Shipplet and the name changed again, this time to Fowler Super.
In 1991, Shipplet closed the store and Jack Woods Sr. didn’t want to see that happen.
“Dad felt like the town needed a grocery store,” Jack said. “So he bought back the fixtures and what was on the shelves. He didn’t want to see Fowler without a grocery store.”
In 1991, Jack and Martha Woods returned to Fowler to help run the grocery store — which was named Jack's Grocery — with his parents. Jack Sr. owned the store until he passed away in 1997.
“Everything both of us learned, we learned from them (Jack Sr. and Catherine),” Martha said. “Jack grew up in it but I had to learn it and they were very patient with me.”
Throughout the years, technological changes have changed the way the store does business. Scanners scanned prices, accounting was done on a computer. After a check is signed by a customer, the cash register prints the appropriate information directly on the check.
Those were big changes for the family.
“Dad could spit out numbers and prices just like that,” Jack said. “Everything that we keep on a computer, he kept in his head.”
Catherine, now 90 years old, still compares prices.
But through all of the changes, one thing remained the same - great customers and the Woods family’s love of people.
The store has employed many people throughout the years, especially many members of the younger generation.
“We’ve had a lot of kids come back and thank us, even for firing them,” Martha said with a laugh. They’ve watched kids mature into responsible adults.
Most of their current employees are remaining at the store.
“We’ve had a lot of great people work for us,” Jack and Martha both agreed.
The sale of the business came about at the right time, Jack and Martha said.
“It’s just the right time,” Martha said. “You know, we’ve never really had to talk about certain things, decisions. When I feel something, he feels something.”
Thaxton’s had been looking to expand its grocery stores and Jack’s was a perfect fit. And for Jack and Martha, Thaxton’s was the perfect choice to take over what they have established.
“They’ll be good to the town,” Martha said about Thaxton's, adding that she encourages “those who have been faithful and have been faithful forever to us, to continue to support Thaxton's as much as they have us.”
“We are really glad to have that quality of people taking over the business,” Jack said about the Thaxtons.
As far as retirement plans, Jack said “absolutely nothing.” But, both agreed their main focus will be on their children and 10 grandchildren.