When family members went to Jaemor Farms owner Jimmy Echols about opening a satellite market to sell its renowned peaches and other fruits and vegetables, he said he had a lot of reservations. But standing at the grand opening Thursday of the new Banks County location near the intersection of Interstate 85 and U.S. 441, he said he feels a lot better.
Jaemor Farms held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new market in Commerce, which was well attended by local, state and federal leaders, lawmakers and business executives. Many of the speakers at the event spoke of their relationship with Echols as a friend or extended member of the family.
“Jimmy was one of the first persons I talked to when I ever thought about running for office,” said U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville. “This is a home treat right here.”
The new retail market had a soft opening July 15 and family members said the store has so far exceeded expectations. It’s generally taking in nearly $8,000 a day, almost double the target the family set for it, Jimmy Echols said.
“It’s got off to a great start,” he said. “Our sales were just tremendous that first day. I think a lot of people came just to see what it was like. And that’s great if we can get them to come back.”
Several generations of the Echols family have farmed for more than 100 years, growing fruits and vegetables, such as peaches, strawberries and blackberries. They currently sell about 90 percent of what they grow at their store off Cornelia Highway in Hall County, which opened in 1981. The store on U.S. 441 is the farm’s second location.
“The traffic is about 50 percent local and 50 percent people who have never heard of Jaemor,” said Drew Echols, farm manager and Jimmy Echols’ grandson. “That’s the good thing. We’re reaching people that we have not reached before.”
Drew Echols said the store is selling a lot of bread and pies and local residents are stopping by the store a few times a week to stock up on small amounts of fruits and vegetables.
Jaemor offered samples of its homemade ice cream in peach or strawberry flavors and a variety of fried pies, doughnuts and other goodies after the ribbon cutting. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a speaker at the event, said he wasn’t leaving without some peach ice cream and a fried pie.
“(They) represent a family business that continues generation after generation and that is so rare,” Cagle said. “It’s a great success story and a family that has given back so much.”
Other speakers included Collins and Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. Collins sent baskets of Jaemor peaches to leadership offices in the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
“It was pretty cool,” Collins said. “They all loved them.”
“There’s a great demand for locally produced products,” Black said. “More and more Georgians are connecting the dots where their food comes from and national security and that’s good news for the agricultural industry in the state. The Jaemor model is being replicated all over the state and the country,” he said.
“Food is personal and if you can have a relationship with the one who’s producing it,” Black said, “I just think families are going to gravitate toward that and it’s a good thing.”