Seaside General Store | Harkers Island, NC
Barry and Mila Guthrie
Barry and Mila Guthrie, and family have owned and operated Harkers Island’s Seaside General Store, a combined gas station, convenience store, and restaurant, since 1986. One of the largest employers on the Island, it is known for the best cheeseburgers and local seafood in the area as well as being a family-friendly place where you can always find whatever you may need on your drive to the beach.
In August of 2011, Hurricane Irene ripped through the area and caused a significant decrease in traffic of fisherman, locals, and tourists to Seaside General Store. They also experienced some damage from the storm. After a referral by the Small Business Administration, Barry contacted the SBTDC’s office at East Carolina University for disaster assistance and was partnered with business counselor David Mayo.
After their first meeting to discuss the SBA disaster loan program, David set out to help remedy some of the other issues Barry mentioned. He researched market trends, product placement best practices, and completed a financial analysis for each area of the business. He came up with strategies to remedy some of the problems and presented them to Barry. David assisted Barry with advertising for the restaurant, changing food suppliers for both the restaurant and the convenience store, finding and implementing a point-of-sale system, expansion of the restaurant, and updating the product offerings and organization in the store.
“The ideas that David came up with gave us the push we needed and confirmation to move forward with many of the changes that have made our business more efficient and profitable, including the point-of-sale system and scanning applications that help us better manage our inventory,” says Barry. SBTDC efforts helped Seaside General Store determine a marketing and inventory strategy to propel future sales and increase profitability. With the downturn of the economy, Barry knew he must implement different business strategies, and consequently worked to expand into different markets. The team can now assess which sales items should be cycled out to make way for more profitable items.
The SBTDC’s strategy for Seaside General Store focused on the current strengths of the business, cut out an unprofitable division, and emphasized division profitability. Seaside General Store has almost 30 employees, many of whom are like family and have worked there since the business opened. When asked if he has any advice for someone considering starting a business, Barry advised “Do something that you love, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. You never know. You just may end up with a long-term, profitable business surrounded by friends, family, and people like the SBTDC who can help you along the way.”
Story originally featured in the SBTDC’s 2012-2013 Annual Report.