Don Worthington

Rock Hill’s HoneyBaked Ham and Cafe owners a perfect match

To understand what motivates Grady and Nancy Love, owners of HoneyBaked Ham and Cafe in Rock Hill, look no further than their last name.

They love one another.

They love their business

They love their community.

Their love is based on their Christian faith.

“Their last name says it all,” said Joshua Sisler of Integrity Marketing of Fort Mill. “They just care.”

The result is a servant heart, which puts people first.

“If you take care of people’s needs, the numbers will follow,” Nancy said. “This is my mission.”

Their mission recently earned Rock Hill business person of the year honors for Grady from the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce. The chamber chose him for his business success and community activism. While the award was in Grady’s name, the chamber acknowledged that the Loves’ success is a “package deal.”

Their success is rooted in their shared experiences, particularly the time they spent in the theme park industry.

Grady, a native of Danville, Va., and Nancy, a native of Fairfax, Va., met at Randolph-Macon College. Their first meeting lasted four hours. After about six months of being best friends, they realized they shared a deeper relationship.

They have been married 37 years, and “it’s an adventure every day,” Nancy said. “It’s a roller-coaster ride.”

To pay their college bills, they worked at the Kings Dominion theme park outside Richmond, Va. Grady worked in food and beverage, while Nancy worked in the animal nursery at the park’s Lion Country Safari.

A Kings Dominion training exercise became one of the cornerstones of their business.

“When you walk through a theme park when it’s closed, it’s lifeless,” Grady said, but for the theme park business – any business – “the magic is people.”

The lesson served Grady well, as he worked in four different theme parks for 20 years, including six years at Carowinds from 1988 to 1994.

“We have absorbed that lesson,” Grady said.

The lesson means that Nancy and the HoneyBaked staff not only know the names of their customers, but also know their stories. They will even serve people curbside, if needed.

“Nancy treats everyone like royalty,” Grady said.

Nancy is the inside half of their business partnership. She makes sure the HoneyBaked Ham standards, and their own standards, are followed religiously.

“She sets standards that you won’t break, spin, fold or mutilate,” Grady said.

Grady is the outside half, focusing on strategic vision and community involvement. He is the public face of their business. A willingness to support community causes through their business and their church, Friendship United Methodist Church in Rock Hill, is one reason for their success.

As Charlotte residents who chose to open a business in Rock Hill, Grady said, they are acutely aware that Rock Hill has “adopted them” and that “being part of this community is a privilege we have earned.”

Their roller-coaster ride has had its share of crises, too.

Shortly after opening on Cherry Road in Rock Hill, they faced 15 months of “orange-barrel mania.” Road construction made it difficult for customers to get to the store.

Then came the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, followed by people losing their jobs. In 2009, the recession hit York County hard.

“Overnight, our business dropped 10 percent,” Grady said. “We were sustained by our loyal customers. They carried us.”

There were also personal challenges. Nancy said she got “burned out” by daily business demands. Grady’s outside work wasn’t a focused effort.

To meet their challenges, the Loves hired a business personal trainer, Diane Wagner of The Growth Coach.

Wagner is working with them not only to solve their personal challenges, but also to grow the business with the idea that the Loves will sell it – possibly as early as 2018, when Grady turns 65. Nancy is three years younger.

Wagner has worked with the Loves to change their mindset and to help develop a business that is systems oriented, rather than one dependent on the owner being there every hour the business is open.

She also helped them look at their goals.

“You have to think strategically to get out of the weeds,” Wagner said.

She recommends business people set smart, achievable and measurable goals, and, as importantly, take at least one hour per week to work on those goals, coming up with new thoughts and creative ideas to reach them.

Nancy said her bucket list is simple: get out of debt, give more than you take and make a difference.

Wagner said her star students have seen results. Revenue is up, Wagner said, and Nancy can step back from the business, “use the business to do what she wants to do.” Grady’s outside efforts are more focused, Wagner said.

The result is a continued commitment to reach out to others.

“I have been blessed so many times, when things were not going well,” Nancy said. “How can you not give back thanks and pass the blessings on?”