Woody’s Supermarket and Grill, a well-known market and eatery in Ridgeway, is much like the word ‘y’all’ in the south: It has been part of the community for as long as nearly anyone recalls.
Owners Billy and Angela Wheeler both understand why. They say it is because of their loyal customers and the community as a whole.
“Thanks to the community for all their support,” Billy Wheeler said, and explained that he began working at the market as a bag boy when he was 15 years old.
Back then, the business was owned by Ben Woody. Over the years, Wheeler and Woody worked out an agreement which stated that if Wheeler stayed with the company, he would get a percentage of the profit. Time and hard work paid off, and after Woody’s death, Wheeler said he and a partner took over the business. Billy Wheeler has been the owner for more than 20 years now.
Trouble began about eight years ago, when another store opened next door. In 2016, business at Woody’s dropped dramatically, threatening to shutter the store permanently.
Tammy Hankins, a local patron, used social media to start a campaign and gain support from the community. Others quickly got involved, and the community rallied, signing petitions, raising funds, in short, going all out to help save the supermarket. Soon, business picked up.
Other hurdles have risen through the years, the Wheelers said.
About three years ago, Woody’s opened its own grill, and started offering a menu packed with an array of foods, including breakfast and dinner items. But the best-selling item by far is Billy Wheeler’s own creation, the Warrior Burger – a half-pound of beef topped with the customers’ preference of condiments, all for $6.49. The burger was inspired by the Spartan Burger, a carryover from the former Spartan Restaurant that once was situated near the current Sheetz store, Wheeler said.
The meat that is used to prepare items on the menu is cut fresh in the supermarket, Wheeler said, adding that while It took time to build that part of the business, the grill is now successful. In fact, some days the grill is just as busy as the supermarket.
Even when the pandemic hit, Woody’s Supermarket and Grill flourished. Many stores ran low on supplies and ingredients like meat, but Woody’s managed to keep a steady supply. The struggle then became keeping the prices down. Soon after the pandemic began, nearly everything increased in price, including meat and other ingredients.
Not wanting to let the community down, the Wheelers kept their prices down until internal reports showed that they were selling products, like meat, for less than the price they were paying. They realized that their prices had to go up, but the increase, they said, was smaller in comparison to some. Even now, the meat prices at Woody’s remain cheaper than many others in town, the Wheelers said.
In addition to their dedication to customers and the community as a whole, the Wheelers also are dedicated to maintaining the classic, old world feeling and look of the store.
Years ago, Angela Wheeler said her first display item was an old family bicycle she bought from a customer. Other customers seemed to like the old bicycle, and soon many brought in memorabilia to share. The tops of coolers and other flat surfaces that wrap around the interior of the store are now filled with unique items, home to everything from a giant Godzilla to a classic fire engine.
Although the supermarket has had its ups and downs over the years, the Wheelers’ guiding principal has never changed.
“People come first,” they said, adding that they put in long hours each day to serve a community which has supported them through the years.