How Kettle Corn Became a Family Affair
We grabbed a cup of coffee with Cheryl and Jeff Hamm, owners of Wholly Grounds and their kids to find out how a family run business is making their mark in Downtown Oxford.
When asked how they ended up in Oxford. Cheryl said, “it all started with the Kettle Corn,” her favorite snack.
“Jeff got tired of driving around trying to find it so one day he decided to just buy the kettle and make it,” Cheryl says. “He found the whole setup down in North Carolina, so we took a weekend trip and drove down there. When we first started he would pull it out into the driveway and make a batch for me. The neighbors would smell it and come over and get their bags. That led to doing events and eventually First Fridays in Oxford.”
“The kettle corn came first to make me happy, and I still love it. I haven’t gotten tired of it yet!”
“After becoming good friends with the late Jerome Rodio, one thing led to the next and the timing worked out that we were able to purchase this building after the Lighthouse Youth Center built their new facility,” explained Jeff. “We thought we would just be doing kettle corn here. But while we were remodeling I came upon this coffee equipment, so we decided to split the store and open the coffee shop.”
“We’ve been surprised by how welcoming this community has been. Our customers have become friends, our good friends. They really are like family and if we don’t see someone for a day or two we get worried.”
“Oxford has become our new hometown.”
Cheryl explains that, “Jeff has always had entrepreneurial ideas brewing, even from the time we were first married. I also spent a lot of my childhood in family run businesses. My grandfather and great grandfather owned general stores in New Jersey and Philadelphia. I actually have some photos of their old stores hung up on the wall over there.”
“We both come from large families, I’m one of six kids with four sisters and a baby brother. Jeff is also one of six kids, but he’s the baby brother in his family. We met in high school and are going on 32 years of marriage. It’s a blessing being able to work with our kids, Kyle, Tyler, Emily, and Luke and their families.”
We asked how they keep it fun day in and day out working with their kids. They explain that they have a very sarcastic sense of humor and their kids always keep them laughing.
Being the only sister, Emily can sure keep her own. One of her charms is coming up with nicknames for their regular customers, even before she knows them.
As we sat there, “Cliff” the mailman, whose real name is Dave, comes in for his daily coffee and to share his Fun Fact for the day. Shortly after, “Grandpa Bill,” Bill Bilger the local barber, stopped in. He is one of Emily’s many adopted granddads around town. He delivered a framed map of Oxford for the Hamms to display in the shop.
The Hamms consider themselves major foodies as well as a family that loves a good pun. This is one of the ways they keep work fun. One of their signature smoothies is their green healthy option called the Hulk. And Emily came up with the name for their egg sandwich, the Eggraham Licoln. If you’re going to order it, be prepared to order it by its full and proper name.
Tyler has also taken on his dad’s enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and recently got into the hotdog business. Jeff jokes that Tyler stole his idea. “There would be no ideas left in the world if my dad did them all.” Tyler bought the hotdog cart at auction and the two drove out to Pittsburg and back in a day to pick it up.
“I’m also the reigning employee of the month, according to my self-portrait I hung on the wall”
The oldest, and self-proclaimed, favorite son Kyle opens the store at 6:30am. Cheryl jokes that “even though he has the reputation of never being anywhere on time.” She also explains that “the morning’s I don’t open the store with him, I wake up early wondering if he’s up on time and I usually end up texting him to make sure he’s on schedule.” To his mom’s surprise, Kyle says, “despite my reputation, I’ve never been late to open the doors.”
“I work on Kyle time, and if it wasn’t family I would have been fired by now”
He and his wife Patience are expecting the Hamm’s second grandchild this Spring, and her Hey Y’all mug is fitting for this Tennessee native who is studying to be a dental hygienist. When asked, what is your favorite thing about working here, Kyle answers, “the endless supply of coffee, and that I can still say ‘mom, what’s for lunch?’”
From the outside you would think working with family each day would have its hiccups. But the Hamms’ fun loving and lighthearted nature makes it a joy.
We’re glad these high school sweethearts found their new hometown in Oxford. Stop in on your next visit to Downtown Oxford and say hello to Jeff, Cheryl, and the kids!
You can also stop in during the monthly Story Time, the third Friday of the month at 10am.
Photography By: MoonLoop Photography