Four years ago, Mercer University student Kelsey Harrell was trying to think of a way to earn some extra cash in the summer.
She considered selling boiled peanuts in her hometown of Bainbridge and told her dad, who suggested she sell produce as well. The two places in town that sold local produce were closing, he told his daughter, and she could help fill that gap.
“The first summer, we got a place … and we did really, really well,” said Harrell, who earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2020 and now is pursuing a Master of Business Administration. “I had no idea there was that kind of money and need for it in Bainbridge.
“And so then every year we just decided to come back, and every year we grew more of a following and grew our customer base.”
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and business boomed.
“People did not want to go to the grocery store if they didn’t have to, so we were really busy last year, and that is kind of how we got to where we are now,” she said.
Now, Harrell and business partner Delaney Mueller, a rising senior double-majoring in marketing and management, are preparing to open KGD Produce, a year-round, full-time market with a storefront in downtown Bainbridge.
Downtown Bainbridge is growing, recently adding restaurants, a bed and breakfast, and new apartments, Harrell said. More people are living downtown and coming to visit, eat and shop. But until now, there was no market in the area, she said.
“The downtown really could use this,” she said. “It almost could complete the downtown experience if there was a local, urban market, and so that’s what we’re trying to do is meet that need.”
In addition to local produce and boiled peanuts, the store will sell meat, cheese, bread, cut flowers, candles and gift shop items, as well as produce from other regions of the country. The store also will carry Lux Leonis soaps and other bath products, which are handmade by Dr. Ania Rynarzewska, assistant professor of sports business in the Stetson-Hatcher School of Business.
Mueller joined Harrell about two years ago after her first business partner graduated from Mercer. The two met playing intramural sports, and Harrell asked Mueller if she’d move down to Bainbridge to sell produce in the summer.
“I was like, ‘You know, why not? It could be fun,’” Mueller recalled. “And then after that summer I just became really involved and interested in what we were doing, and I really enjoyed it, so I just kind of stuck around doing it.”
In the summer, they sold 11:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. The new storefront, expected to open in four to six weeks, will be open the same days but have longer hours.
Mueller, who will come back to Macon for the fall semester, said she’ll go down to Bainbridge whenever she can. Some things, like running the KGD Produce Facebook page, she can do from Macon.
Harrell is finishing up her MBA online, so she can run the store in Bainbridge. She plans on hiring a couple people to help her in the shop until Mueller graduates and can live in Bainbridge full time.
“Honestly, we do get stretched pretty thin, but we’ve managed to just be able to do it with the two of us to cut down costs,” Harrell said.
Building KGD Produce has been exciting and scary, from taking out a loan, to renting a building, making minor updates to the space and connecting with new vendors.
Mercer helped prepare them to take on the challenge. For Harrell, Mercer gave her the confidence to take the risk and the tools to succeed. And Mueller said real-life exercises from professors helped her apply the coursework outside of class.
“What I learned in my classes, I’m applying now in our actual business,” she said.