Bennett’s Creek Farm Market to close
Published 11:10 am Tuesday, February 21, 2023
By Jeff Moore and James W. Robinson
Bennett’s Creek Farm Market, a North Suffolk landmark with its iconic cow on the roof, closed its doors as of Tuesday, sparking strong reactions from those who frequent the business saying they are heartbroken.
The word came in a brief Facebook post late Monday, Feb. 20 saying the market is now closed.
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“Unfortunately we were unable to make our dream come true and keep the market alive. The owners have decided to close,” General Manager Steve Jeffreys said in the post on the store’s official Facebook page. “We are thankful for the opportunity to meet and greet each and every one of you. It was an absolute pleasure. We are all at a loss for words.”
Jeffreys went on to say in the post that they are all at a loss for words, noting that the past year has been the best one at Bennett’s Creek.
“Please keep us and our crew in your thoughts and prayers,” he said in the note. “We will be back. We have a plan.”
Located at 3881 Bridge Road, the market was founded in 1963 by the Matthews family and was purchased in 1997 by James “Jim” and Martha Shirley. For years, the market has provided fresh, local produce to the Suffolk community.
Employees have shared that they received word Monday night in telephone calls and then received a message Tuesday morning confirming the decision.
“This is to inform you Jim and I have decided to end your at-will employment with us effective immediately,” the message said. “We recognize that this likely comes as a surprise.”
The message goes on to say they will be paid through Feb. 20, but instructed them to not report back to work. It states that any business property they possess should be returned by mail. They are instructed to email a list of their personal items left at the store so they can be returned to them by mail.
“Due to current economic conditions, high labor and food costs, Bennett’s Creek Farm Market cannot compete and has closed effective February 20, 2023,” the note states.
While attempts to contact the owners have been unsuccessful, owner Jim Shirley did share a statement with WAVY-TV about the closure.
“I have turned down multiple offers from developers and wanted to continue this nostalgic local market in an area where a piece of the past is so important. I have invested over 25 years and a great deal of money into the business, including renovations, upgrades and payroll,” Shirley said in the statement to WAVY-TV. “Unfortunately, I have been unsuccessful in finding a tenant with the commitment and funds to keep the market going as it is. As a businessman, I had to make that hard decision. It is never easy or pleasant to close a business. I know all too well how it affects employees and the community. It is the very reason I have put this off for so many years.”
As of early afternoon, there have been nearly 700 posts on Facebook with people sharing their dismay on the market’s closure.
Christopher B. Foster posted that Bennett’s Creek Farm Market is a community staple.
“It is not a building. I have faith that the folks that really care will continue their path and bring back all the things we all love,” Foster said. “I’ll be there for support and the first in line when they do for sure!”
Emily Miller Williams said this is heartbreaking, saying it was where her late father would buy ham juice for collard greens.
“After he passed in 2017, y’all brought fried chicken … Thank you for kindness. I pray you guys can find a new location,” Williams said on Facebook.
Jessa Kate posted that this is incredibly sad.
“We lived nearby and loved walking to the market for groceries and treats for my kiddos,” Kate said. “Staff was always friendly and the meat was the only meat I’ll purchase in the area. A true loss.”
Pamela Hassell Madray called it sad news noting the market had been there for her entire life.
“I buy the BBQ and freeze it to take to my adult son and wife in Florida and my sister and her family in Tennessee because they love it so much,” Madray said. “It’s one of the first meals they want when they all come home. Everyone will miss the actual store more than you can possibly know!”
Sarah Jean Tippett called it a sad loss for the community, noting she spent her early years working as a deli girl, eventually becoming one of the main chefs. From there she went on to get her culinary degree.
“I am so sad for the current staff that were blindsided by the owners today,” Tippett said in her post. “This one hurts…”
In one post that could prove to be good news for the former employees at Bennett’s Creek Farm Market, Tanya TBrick posted that staff can contact her at M&M Hospitality Group, which operates Bennett’s Creek Marina, Decoys, Riverstone and Vintage Tavern for work.
“This is the worst news! Suffolk is losing all of its local owned businesses,” she said. “We impatiently await your return.”
TBrick’s Facebook post includes an update saying they will be reaching out to those former workers at the farm market who show interest. “Please let it be a comfort to you – we understand the circumstances,” she said.
Jessica Brett Harrell posted a Facebook message thanking M&M Hospitality for this offer, noting that her son learned at 8:45 p.m. Monday night that he no longer had a job.
Bennett’s Creek Farm Market’s website highlighted some of the favorite offerings — fresh cut meats, local produce, fresh seafood, made-to-order deli sandwiches, prepackaged cold case items, a hot case serving three meals a day with lunch and dinner specials, local Virginia products, fine wines and beer, grocery staples, ice cream and bakery items, and local honey.
The website states that in 2022, Jim and Martha Shirley decided it was time to move toward retirement from their second career.
“They both wanted to have a tenant willing to continue Bennett’s Creek Farm Market and continue its growth and nostalgic presence in a fast-growing community. Steve Jefferys, culinary expert and visionary entrepreneur, agreed to chart the course as the new General Manager in February. Steve and his wife, Nicole as Assistant General Manager, share a vision and goal to continue tried-and-true favorite recipes while adding some of Steve’s specialties,” according to the website
The Matthews founded the market in 1963 to sell their family farm’s produce, meats, eggs and milk, according to the website. Four generations of the Matthews family members had worked in the market.
Efforts to contact store management were unsuccessful Tuesday prior to press time. This story is currently developing.