Don Worthington

Sale of Rock Hill’s HoneyBaked Ham a ‘family’ affair

It may not seem possible, but as meticulous as Grady and Nancy Love were in operating Rock Hill’s HoneyBaked Ham franchise, they have been even more detail-oriented in selling it.

The Loves, who ran the store on Cherry Road for 16 years, hired a consultant to develop an exit strategy. Among the questions the consultant asked was whether someone would buy their business even if he or she weren’t connected to it and what procedures were in place to protect employees. The Loves worked hard to make sure they had a solid strategy.

As important, if not more so, was the Loves’ desire to sell to someone who “understood our style, our vision,” Grady Love said. They wanted someone who understood – and practiced – the idea that business was “not about taking, but about giving back,” they said.

When it came time for the Loves to make the actual sales decision, it was much easier than they thought.

They wanted to keep it in the “family” as much as possible without selling to children or relatives.

They found the next best choice – or maybe a better one. They sold the business to the family that mentored them when they first became HoneyBaked Ham operators – Marion and Barbara Davis of Gastonia, N.C.

Marion Davis is a legend among Honeybaked Ham franchise owners. He was deeply committed to the brand.

He, Barbara, Grady and Nancy often shared a car when driving to various regional meetings.

Marion died Jan. 4, 2007. Operation of the three HoneyBaked Ham stores he owned in Gastonia, Cornelius and Concord, N.C., fell, in part, to his son, Matt.

Matt had been working with his dad while in college at East Carolina University. When he graduated, he hoped for a couple days of vacation at the beach. He graduated on a Saturday, and his dad told him to report to work on Monday.

So much for a vacation.

Several years ago Grady Love had told Marion Davis if he ever sold he would give the Davises the first option to buy. Grady Love remembered that promise and made the offer to Matt Davis.

“It was such an easy thing to call Matt,” Grady Love said. “He’s no stranger to us.”

Matt Davis looked over the operation and found what he liked. It wasn’t a store he had to turn around; the Loves had carried the store through the tough times. It was in a growing marketing and was geographically a good fit with the three other North Carolina stores.

The prospects excited him. “I’m having fun growing things,” he said.

The Loves are transitioning the store to Davis, a process they hope will be completed by sometime in April.

For Nancy, it has been an easy process. She stepped away from actively managing the store at the end of 2015.

Stepping away has allowed her to focus on one of her passions, caring for the elderly. Her efforts include visits to the homes of housebound former employees and customers. She plans to do more work at their church, Friendship United Methodist on Neely Store Road.

“I love every minute of it,” said this daughter of a Methodist minister.

Grady Love said he plans to continue his work with the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce.

But more importantly, Grady Love is awaiting a new journey. “I want to be more spiritually oriented,” he said. “I’m open to be led.”

As Grady Love talked about the future, his wife looked lovingly at her husband.

“He’s the guy I fell in love with 40 years ago” at Randolph Macon College in Ashland, Va., she said.

While they look forward to a new journey together, they are confident of one thing: While they will continue to live in Charlotte, they will continue to be residents of Rock Hill.