In the last several weeks we have looked at the progress we have made from the early dry goods store to today’s modern supermarket.
And over the years, many names have been associated with the grocery business in Hartsville. But only one can date back to the middle-1800s and is still in business today — the Reese family!
We are fortunate in having a history of the Reese family and its grocery store business, as written by family member Dale Reese.
“Reese’s Grocery has evolved from the Civil War days into a modern supermarket now called ‘Reese’s Piggly Wiggly.’ It has remained a family-owned and operated business.
Bailey Peyton Reese, Sr., after serving in the Civil War, married Betty ‘Ma’ Armstrong and operated a grocery store next to where Dillehay’s Café is today. He later moved his family to the Shady Grove community along Big Goose Creek and farmed.
One of the family’s eight children, Bailey Peyton Reese, Jr., started working for Bob Wright in his grocery store in Hartsville in 1926 as a clerk. In 1933, he started to work for Eskew Grocery, also in Hartsville, as a manager. During these years of growth, not only as a clerk, manager and a farmer, Bailey married Mary Susan Nollner. To this union, one son was born, Edwin Nollner Reese.
In 1938, Mr. Allen Duncan and the Reese family bought the Eskew store and moved the business to where the Hartsville Taco Company restaurant is today.
The United States soon entered World War II and Mr. Duncan was called to duty and sold his half of the store to Edwin Reese in 1942. Edwin, being married, to Iris West, did not have to go into the service at that time. However, in 1943 he entered the Air Force and became a bomber pilot. That left his father and Mary “Granny” Reese, to run the grocery. At this time, it was called ‘Reese’s Food Market.’
After the war ended and Edwin’s Air Force service was over, he returned home to Hartsville and the grocery business, to carry on the tradition of his father and grandfather. Edwin loved flying and continued to fly for several years. When the subject of flying was brought up, he seemed to turn away and got a faraway look in his eyes and you knew his thoughts were taking him back to his flying days.
Bailey Peyton Reese, Sr. died in 1952. Edwin and ‘Granny’ Reese would remain partners in the store. ‘Granny’, as she was fondly known by much of the community, continued to work at the store every day.
She would prepare homemade goods for the store. Granny bottled fresh milk to sell, before there was a regular milk delivery service in town. Through the years, she also made jams, jellies and preserves — all loved by her loyal customers. During the years when Hartsville was full of local industries, Granny made deli sandwiches and desserts for the workers who would dash into the market to get their lunch and rush back to the factory before their lunch break was over.
It was Edwin’s decision, along with his mother, to move the business from the downtown location to the present location in 1961.
That decision was a farsighted one, believing that the town would grow and so would the business. At that time, the store was known as ‘Reese’s Big Star.’
Mary ‘Granny’ Reese died in 1974.
Edwin’s wife Iris had input in the grocery and she helped keep the family roots in Hartsville. Edwin and Iris had two sons, Mike and Dale.
After finishing college and military service, Mike and his wife Yvonne opened a store in Lafayette, which remains in operation today and is run by their son Todd Reese, a fifth generation of the family in the grocery business.
Dale, after attending college, became a partner with his dad, Edwin, and stayed in the local Hartsville grocery for 17 years. It was during these years that it became ‘Reese’s Piggly Wiggly.’ Mike now runs the Hartsville store.
Edwin passed away in 2005 and Iris in 2006.
Today, just as Bailey, Mary and Edwin did for so many years, Mike and Todd Reese carry on the grocery business, both here in Hartsville and in neighboring Lafayette.
The Reese’s grocery business was founded on the principle of hard work, honesty, friendly service and pursuit of the best products at the most reasonable price for their customers. These principles are just as important to the Reese family today as they were in the beginning, so many years ago.”