After selling advertising for the Atlanta Business Chronicle for 20 years, Kim Wilson needed a break from the 9-to-5 grind. She quit her job, but three years of blogging and gardening — and one major market crash — later, she also needed a real income.
With a gift of $1,000 from her father, Kim opened the first iteration of Atlanta’s Lucy’s Market inside an unused gas station on Roswell Road. That was eight years ago, and back then, she was only selling local produce sourced from nearby suppliers. Today, though, the company has grown into an “eclectic farmer’s market” that hawks everything from upscale holiday decor to pure Georgia honey.
Starting a business is never easy. Starting one as the economy reels during America’s Great Recession? That’s a whole other kind of crazy. But Lucy’s Market is doing better than ever, and Kim is happy to share how she’s done it. Welcome Kim and Lucy Wilson, today’s FACES of the South.
When you first started Lucy’s Market, were you nervous about making it a success, or was this a way to have something to do without getting another 9-to-5 job?
Kim: It was a way to avoid the 9-to-5, but as I look back, I wasn’t as nervous as a lot of my friends were. I had no idea it would be where it is today, but I knew I wasn’t going to fail.
When I first opened Lucy’s Market, it was 24/7. I got up at 4 a.m., went down to the farmers market, came back, got my kids up, took them to school, came back home, got a shower and then went up and opened up the market. Then I’d get home at the end of the day and get on the computer. It was never-ending. But one of the things I attribute my success to is the fact that, at the beginning, I was able to get to know my customers, and I was able to remember their names. And when you’re calling your customers by name, I think they feel a little bit of attachment, and it makes them feel like someone cares about them and remembers them.
You’ve grown a lot from that first gas station location and now have 1,000 customers visit your store each week. What have been some of the biggest challenges along the way?
Kim: Well, I am fortunate enough to have the best employees ever. Without my employees, I would be nowhere. So keeping good employees is key. That’s not a challenge, but it’s important.
Lucy, what’s your involvement with the company?
Lucy: I was a junior in high school when my mom started it, so I helped out a little. After I graduated from college, I worked for a little bit, and then I moved to Australia for a year. I expected to stay there, but my visa ran out, so I came back to Atlanta about a year ago. I started working at the market and doing all the orchid arrangements, and I really liked doing that.
Then I started noticing that we needed to increase the volume on social media because that’s one of the most important things now for business growth. We were contracting with a company who was doing our social media, so while I was still doing all of the orchid arrangements, I met a lot with the social media team and told them that we needed to make some serious improvements. Then, by December, I fully took over our social media management. I also started doing all the cut flower arrangements in addition to the orchids.
So I handle flowers, orchids, social media, marketing and public relations for Lucy’s Market.
That’s awesome! Kim, did you always intend or hope that your kids would end up working with you in the business?
Kim: No. I have two children, Lucy, who’s 24, and Frank, who’s 21 and in college. I never dreamed they would work for me because I never dreamed that Lucy’s Market would be this big. But I have found a niche in Atlanta that’s not really being fulfilled by offering prepared food, wine, gifts and these fabulous gift baskets that are so unique. And now we can ship them — you can order online, and you don’t even need to call.
For people who aren’t shopping at Lucy’s Market yet, why should they start?
Kim: Our prepared foods are over-the-top delicious. You cannot eat on site — you take it home and have it for dinner — but we do a lot of casseroles, salads, sandwiches and things like that. Then we have fresh peas, peaches, heirloom tomatoes, incredible corn … we try to always have great produce. We also opt for smaller flower arrangements that are made with beautiful, high-quality flowers because we don’t use cheap flowers.
And we have our gift baskets. A lot of people will buy a basket and take it to a new neighbor, someone who just had a baby or someone who might be sick, and they’ll put a casserole in there with a salad, a dessert, a bottle of wine and an appetizer. So we do all sorts of things, and we’re really expanding on our provisions, which include all of our olive oils, vinegars, mustards, honeys and things like that.
What advice do you have for readers who are considering starting a business and are lacking the confidence needed to just get out there and try it and make it work?
Kim: Do something you’re passionate about and that you like, but most importantly, start small. It’s when people go and open up a large store with a million dollars’ worth of inventory and they don’t know their customer [that they run into trouble]. I was able to start small and grow one day at a time by learning what my customers wanted and providing things that I would want myself.
Last question: Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things that you can’t live without?
Kim: I work out a lot, and my personal trainer has changed my life. So I would say my trainer.
I swim, and I’m just picking up golf, so balance is important, too. I am able to take time off now, and I wasn’t able to do that for five years when I was building Lucy’s Market.
And wine. A glass of wine after a full, long day.
Lucy’s Market is located at 56 E. Andrews Drive NW, Ste. 15, Atlanta, GA 30305. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Learn more at (404) 467-2109 or visit lucysmarket.com.
Thank you to the talented Catrina Maxwell of CatMax Photography for today’s gorgeous photos!
Read about more inspiring Southern women in our FACES archives!