Katie Chaney went from Anderson to the Governor’s School for the Arts … to Wofford College … then Germany … Austin, Texas … and Portland, Oregon … before landing in the Upstate … where the times of recently opened her own candy and grocery store, Hester General Store in Dacusville.
Her journey was not just geography. As a child, Chaney says she never felt like she fit in. But in the end she discovered a love of cooking, success as a human resources recruiter, marriage, a child and now a business – dreams come true.
“The more I put myself out there, the more I realized I belonged,” she says.
“At the Governor’s School, I was among the creators. Then I went to Wofford and met professors who had so many great ideas. They traveled the world and took me on those trips.”
More at Hester General StoreGroceries will bring together fresh baked goods, prepared foods and community
Chaney, who majored in art history and German, chose to live abroad after college — in a small town in Germany’s Black Forest region. Her two-year adventure was marred by loneliness in the remote area.
But she cultivated a love of cooking to fuel her creativity and need for food on a budget.
“It was very difficult,” says Chaney. “One of the things that kept me busy was food, because I had to cook for myself. I was a poor postgraduate.”
“It started to click into place … my study of art history and architecture and my love of old things. I had the idea of a long pastry counter where people would line up to see the pies, a nice display of goods and an outdoor area with chairs where people could enjoy the community.”
She looked for seasonal ingredients and shopped at farmers markets, then read food blogs and books to teach herself how to cook.
“I didn’t know it would start this path for me, but it made me happy living abroad and understanding things,” she says. “I saw how people relate to their food and where they get their food from.”
Chaney found her entrepreneurial spirit in Austin, where she moved at the suggestion of a friend and began recruiting employees for startup companies.
“I was usually the first HR hire at a company and would stretch those teams as the company grew,” she says.
“I learned a lot about what it takes to start a business, how to engage people with a vision of what you’re trying to do.”
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She also learned that people in her country did not shop and eat like they do in Europe.
“I was honestly surprised that the US no longer lives seasonally,” says Chaney.
Chef begins realizing entrepreneurial dream in Upstate SC
After she met and married her partner in Austin, they moved to Portland for two years. They returned to the Upstate and made a home in Travelers Rest after their daughter was born.
The couple started a consulting company, but Chaney still spent hours comforting a child who couldn’t sleep.
“You’re swinging and you’re thinking about what you want to do,” she says. “I was helping my partner follow his dream. I felt like we were making good money and doing great things.”
But Chaney wanted an outlet for her entrepreneurial dream of creating food — and experiences.
“What would it look like? What things would I sell? What kinds of foods would I make?”
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She took her ideas to her former creative writing teacher, Mamie Morgan, who had taught at the Governor’s School.
Not only was Morgan gushing with enthusiasm, but she also claimed to know the perfect place for Chaney to make her dreams come true.
Chaney overcomes obstacles to acquire a historic building
Perfection was in the eye of the beholder.
Hester’s Store was built in 1893 with general merchandise on the first floor and a barber shop upstairs. The Hester family owned the property until 1983, and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. It is 16 miles from downtown Greenville and 31 minutes from downtown Simpsonville.
The building had been empty for years when Chaney first saw it.
“It was piecemeal, but it started to click into place … my study of art history and architecture and my love of old things. I had the idea of a long pastry counter where people would line up to see the pies, a nice display of goods and an outdoor area with chairs where people could enjoy the community.”
She made an offer on the property in 2021. The bank loan was close to closing, but fell apart when the property could not be appraised. It was basically worthless.
“It was a devastating moment,” says Chaney.
She reached out to the LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce, where someone knew an SBA lender at South State Bank. By the beginning of 2022, the project was a “hit” again, except… “We thought it would be three months. And it took eight months.”
The hurdles were many – a historic building comes with a host of legal restrictions, no plumbing, outdated wiring, no HVAC and no refrigeration. The kitchen had to be installed (partly by crane) on the second floor. And no hood or ventilation was allowed either.
None of this deterred Chaney.
“That means we’re cooking locally sourced vegetables and baking pastries in convection ovens,” says Chaney. “No smoke. No flame. No grease.”
Here’s what to expect at Hester General Store in Dacusville
The Hester General Store was completed and opened on December 16 with pies, cakes, breads, cookies, pastries, vegan and gluten-free foods, poached eggs and savory and sweet fruit parfaits for breakfast, cereal and bean bowls for lunch, as well as perishable and non-perishable food items, including ground beef and pork.
In the spring, foodies will focus on picnics and do-it-yourself snack boards.
Most will be provided by local farms. Greenville artisans and entrepreneurs will be represented, including Naked Pasta as well as greeting card company Ink Meets Paper—a queer, female-owned company that prints its own paper. Chaney says she’s committed to uplifting others, whether it’s her 15 employees or other local businesses, especially those owned by women and mothers and those in the LGBT community.
“My vision is that Hester General Store helps people create magical moments. I think about people’s traditions. Whose pie or cake is on the birthday table? If you can connect with people through their food, you have a customer for life,” says Chaney. “I’m putting out things that people like and want.”
The Hester General Store will be open from 7am to 7pm seven days a week.
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