Shirleys say Farm Market will not reopen

Published 2:56 pm Friday, March 3, 2023

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Bennett’s Creek Farm Market owners set the record straight Friday saying the store is closed and will not be reopening.

In a news release from company president Martha Shirley, they said closure of the landmark store Feb. 20 was due to current economic challenges including higher labor and food costs, the market could not compete in the developing area.  

James “Jim” and Martha Shirley said in their news release that they want their customers and the entire community to know that “sadly neither they nor anyone else will be reopening their wonderful Bennett’s Creek Farm Market.”

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The owners also used the news release to say that use of Bennett’s Creek Farm Market’s social media account and its logo were done without their permission.

“A Go Fund Me site, featuring the logo and originally entitled Bring Back Bennett’s Creek Farm Market encouraged donations in the market’s name,” they stated in the release. “

The Shirleys went on to say this was “unauthorized” and “misleading.”

The Go Fund Me page, which currently has raised $3,840, shows it was created by the market’s former General Manager Steve Jeffreys and his wife Nicole, just a day after the business owners abruptly closed the landmark market and terminated employment of all its workers.

“A year ago my wife and I were given the opportunity to run Bennett’s Creek Farm Market,” the Jeffreys said on the Go Fund Me site. “We knew this was a big undertaking and there was history attached to the establishment. We came in and stuck with what worked and changed the things that needed to be updated.”

The closing of the Market was a shock to everyone, the Jeffreys said on the site. 

“We are not ready to give up on our dream,” the couple said on Go Fund Me. “The community has asked what they can do to help. Here’s your chance. Since we have all lost our jobs any and all funding we had lined up will be nearly impossible for us to get.”

The Shirleys said in their release that the site has now been changed, but added that they do not want their customers to donate under the impression that they are helping to bring back the market.

The Go Fund Me page is now called, “Help bring back the Market.”

The Shirleys purchased Bennett’s Creek Farm Market in 1997 from the Matthews family, who had founded the market in 1963 to sell their family farm’s produce, meats, eggs and milk, the news release stated. 

“With Jim’s vision, the market’s offerings grew through the years adding a hot case, deli, fine wines, new menus and seafood,” they said in the news release.

In 2022, Jim and Martha Shirley decided it was time to move towards retirement from their second career, the news release stated. They both wanted to have a tenant able to operate Bennett’s Creek Farm Market much as they did and continue its growth and nostalgic presence in a fast-growing community.  

“Despite hiring a new general manager and the wonderful staff, inflation was working against them,” the release said. For a small market, the cost of goods have risen beyond levels to which they could raise their prices without pushing away their clientele.

“I have turned down multiple offers from land developers because I wanted to continue this nostalgic, local market in an area where a piece of the past is so important,” Jim Shirley said in the news release. “Over 25 years I have invested a great deal of money into the business including renovations, upgrades and increased payroll.  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, he said he had to make a hard decision.  

“It is never easy or pleasant to close a business,” Jim Shirley said. “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.”

Bennett’s Creek Farm Market is now listed with John Dyers of Rose and Womble, adding that he can be reached at 757-777-7260.