Katie Chaney went from Anderson to Governor’s School for the Arts…to Wofford College…then to Germany…Austin, Texas…and Portland, Oregon…before returning to upstate…where she recently opened her pastry shop and his grocery store, Hester General Store in Dacusville.
His journey was not mere geography. As a child, Chaney says she felt she would never fit in. But she eventually found a love of cooking, success as a human resources recruiter, marriage, a baby, and now a business—dreams fulfilled.
“The more I pushed myself, the more I realized I belonged,” she says.
“At the Governor’s school, I was among the creatives. Then I went to Wofford, and I met professors who had so many brilliant ideas. They traveled the world and they took me on these trips.
Learn more about the Hester General StoreThe grocery store will bring together fresh baked goods, prepared foods and the community
Chaney, who majored in art history and German, chose to live abroad after college – in a small town in Germany’s Black Forest region. Her two-year adventure was clouded by loneliness in this remote place.
But she cultivated a love of cooking to fuel her creativity and need for meals on a budget.
“It was very difficult,” says Chaney. “One of the things that held me back was the food because I had to cook myself. I was a poor post-grad.
“It started to fall into place…my study of art history and architecture and my love of old things. I had the idea of a long pastry counter, where people would make queuing to see the pies, a nice display of merchandise, and an outdoor area with chairs where people could enjoy the community.
She searched for seasonal ingredients and shopped at farmers markets, then read blogs and cooking books to learn how to cook.
“I didn’t know it would open up this path for me, but it made me happy because I was living abroad and I understood things,” she says. “I saw how people connect to their food and where they get their food from.”
Chaney found her entrepreneurial spirit in Austin, where she moved at the suggestion of a friend, and began recruiting employees for start-up companies.
“I was usually the first HR hire at a company, and I evolved those teams as the company grew,” she says.
“I learned a lot about what it takes to start a business, how to engage people with a vision of what you’re trying to do.”
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She also learned that people in her home country didn’t shop and eat like they do in Europe.
“Honestly, I was surprised that the United States didn’t live more seasonally,” Chaney says.
Chef begins to realize his entrepreneurial dream in upstate South Carolina
After meeting and marrying his partner in Austin, they moved to Portland for two years. They moved back upstate and made Travelers Rest their home after the birth of their daughter.
The couple founded a counseling company, but Chaney still spent hours comforting a baby who couldn’t sleep.
“You move and think about what you want to do,” she says. “I was helping my partner pursue his dream. I felt like we were making a lot of money and doing great things.
But Chaney wanted an outlet for his own entrepreneurial dream of creating food — and experiences.
“What would that look like? What would I sell? What kinds of foods would I make? »
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She took her ideas to her former creative writing teacher, Mamie Morgan, who had taught at the Governor’s School.
Not only did Morgan gush with excitement, but she also claimed to know the perfect place for Chaney to fulfill her dreams.
Chaney overcomes obstacles to obtain a historic building
Perfect was in the eye of the beholder.
The Hester store was built in 1893 with general merchandise downstairs and a barber shop upstairs. The Hester family owned the property until 1983, and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. It is 16 miles from downtown Greenville and 31 minutes from downtown Simpsonville.
The building had been empty for years when Chaney first saw it.
“It was in pieces, but it started to fall into place…my study of art history and architecture and my love of old things. I had the idea for a long pastry counter, where people would line up to see the pies, a nice display of merchandise, and an outdoor area with chairs where people could enjoy the community.
She made an offer on the property in 2021. The bank loan was close to closing but fell apart when the property could not be appraised. It was essentially worthless.
“It was a devastating moment,” Chaney says.
She turned to the LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce, where someone knew an SBA lender at South State Bank. At the beginning of 2022, the project was again on the “go”, except that… “We thought it would be three months. And it took eight months.
The hurdles were many – a historic building comes with a host of legal restrictions, no plumbing, outdated electrical wiring, no HVAC, and no refrigeration. The kitchen was to be installed (partly by crane) on the second floor. And no hood or ventilation was allowed.
None of this deterred Chaney.
“That means we cook local vegetables and bake pastries in convection ovens,” Chaney says. “No smoke. No flames. No grease.”
Here’s what to expect at the Hester General Store in Dacusville
The Hester General Store was full and open on December 16 with homemade savory and sweet pies, cakes, breads, cookies, pastries, gluten-free and vegan treats, hard-boiled eggs to go and fruit parfaits for breakfast. breakfast, cereal and bean bowls for lunch, and perishable and non-perishable groceries, including frozen ground beef and pork.
In the spring, the grocery store will focus on do-it-yourself picnics and charcuterie boards.
Most will come from local farms. Greenville artisans and entrepreneurs will be represented, including Naked Pasta as well as the greeting card company, Ink Meets Paper – a women and gay-owned business that prints its cards by hand. Chaney says she’s committed to uplifting others, whether it’s her 15 employees or other local businesses, especially those owned by women and mothers and those in the LGBT community.
“My vision is that Hester General Store helps people create magical moments. I think of people’s traditions. Who owns the pie or cake on their birthday table? If you can connect with people through their food, you have a customer for life,” says Chaney. “I put things out there that people appreciate and like.”
The Hester General Store will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.