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Farm Market wins small business award

For the second time in seven years, the Bennett’s Creek Farm Market has been named the Suffolk Small Business of the Year by the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re very excited for the employees, because they’re the ones that won the award,” owner Jim Shirley said. “We’re very honored to have been nominated once again.”

The business also won the award in 2003.

Bennett’s Creek Farm Market was started in 1963 by the Matthews family, many of whom still work in the store. Shirley purchased it 11 years ago.

“Everybody here works hard,” said Jodie Matthews, the manager of the store. “We have a good group of people.”

The store carries a variety of locally-produced and hard-to-find items, such as local honey, fruits, vegetables and seafood, jelly beans by the pound, homemade candy, an ice cream counter, milk in glass bottles, one-of-a-kind jewelry, a hot lunch counter and more.

“We try to put things in here that maybe other stores do not,” Shirley said. “We go to great lengths to have local products.”

The food at the hot lunch counter is almost always made from scratch, Shirley said.

“It’s very, very seldom you will see any sort of a prepared food in this store,” Shirley said. “A lot of the local small farmers and backyard gardeners bring us their blackberries and blueberries. We try to keep it as local as we can.”

Local crabbers also sell their catch at the store, Shirley said.

The market now will go up against city finalists from the other four South Hampton Roads cities — Eastern Virginia Family & Cosmetic Dentistry in Chesapeake; A. Reddix & Associates in Norfolk; Bayside Harley-Davidson in Portsmouth; and Classic Air’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning in Virginia Beach.

Criteria for the award include above-average goods and services and community involvement. Bennett’s Creek Farm Market supports the Little League and the schools, and also donates food to area organizations, Shirley said.

“We’ve been very active,” he said, adding he has good competition for the Hampton Roads Small Business of the Year award. “There are some really, really successful businesses we’re up against. When you get in that league, it’s a whole new ballgame.”

The finalists will be honored, and the overall winner named, at the 2010 Hampton Roads Small Business Award luncheon at noon on May 25 at the Renaissance Portsmouth Hotel & Waterfront Conference Center. To purchase tickets, visit www.HamptonRoadsChamber.com.