Grayson and Emma’s has all of your seasonal needs
Published 9:52 am Wednesday, November 18, 2015
With hundreds of pumpkins and gourds scattered across the small property along Southampton Parkway, most passersby probably think that Grayson and Emma’s Garden Spot is just a seasonal pop-up shop. Owner Neil Drake would tell you that the 14-year-old store, despite its humble beginnings, is much more than that, though.
“We started off selling just produce,” Drake said. “We put up a greenhouse and a nursery, and it was just seasonal. Now, we’re open year-round and we’ve diversified. About five years ago, we added a kitchen with a lunch area to become more of a specialty market.”
Named after his daughters, Drake has transformed Grayson and Emma’s into a local gem. The store offers everything from hot food to canned goods and flowers to specialty items.
“We sell ham sandwiches, chicken soup, chicken and dumplings, country ham, corn and butter beans and collard greens. We sell firewood during the winter, and if you come out in the spring you’ll be able to shop in both greenhouses,” Drake said. “We just kind of get feedback from customers and take the direction where it seems like the needs are. That’s why we’re leaning toward selling more food and the gifty items.”
While the majority of customers are local — Drake estimates 70 percent aren’t first time shoppers — the business’ location along a busy four-lane highway lends itself to some interesting arrangements.
“On the weekends, it kind of has a shift and we’ll have people from Georgia or Florida call us on their way up to Hampton Roads and order something,” Drake said. “Sometimes people will leave a cooler and we’ll fill it up with things for them to pick it up on their way back through. It’s unique.”
Drake said that he recognizes anybody can sell what Grayson and Emma’s does, but the friendliness of his staff and the tight-knit culture they’ve created is what makes the difference between his store and nationwide chains.
“People come by because they enjoy stopping,” Drake said. “Our local support is also wonderful. We’re on this [busy road that can attract customers], but I try to focus on our local needs and everything else just kind of falls into place. If you become so dependable on your chains, I think people miss the whole picture. I buy so many of my products locally. As many as I can fit in here. I support all of the local farmers and all of the people I employ are locals. It’s just a special thing. I think that’s just so important, and if you shop at chains, you’re going to lose that.”