WUFT News

Here before Publix, Gainesville’s Ward’s Supermarket continues to thrive

By on January 14th, 2013

In the beginning, there was just a small wooden building and a chicken wire fence for a door.

“Literally, chicken wire that locked up the door at night,” Trish Ward said.

Ward’s Supermarket is now at its third location with sturdier walls and glass doors with dark black frames. The supermarket has been operating in Gainesville since 1951.

At age 15, Trish Ward began working at Ward’s Supermarket where she met Billy Ward and three years later married him. Trish and Billy Ward are now the third generation of the Ward family to manage Ward’s Supermarket located on 515 NW 23rd Ave. in Gainesville.

The family supermarket has been owned and operated by the Ward family since the store opened in 1951.

Billy Ward’s grandparents opened the store and then Billy’s parents continued management, she said. Billy and Trish Ward are now in charge of the family business, and there are eight Ward family members currently working in the supermarket. Trish Ward said she has pretty much spent her entire life in the store with her husband.

Trish Ward said her children and their spouses work at the supermarket along with her sister-in-law and niece. Her mother recently retired.

The supermarket is the only independent grocery store left in Gainesville, Ward said. It has even been in Gainesville longer than Publix.

The first Publix location in Gainesville was opened in 1958, according to Dwaine Stevens, a Publix media and community relations manager.

Trish Ward said the ability to buy from local growers is probably the main reason why Ward’s Supermarket has been so successful.

“We support many, many local vendors,” she said. “Our key is pretty much what the rest of the world is catching onto of supporting local vendors. That’s something we have believed in strongly from the conception of our business, and I think it is probably a lot of what has kept us open is being able to buy from local people.”

She said the relationships she has formed with local growers are more than just business relationships.

“A lot of them become friends over the years. We treat them well. They treat us well,” she said. “It’s a great working relationship.”

Trish Ward’s most memorable moment

Trish Ward remembered a special moment she had with one of her employees that happened about 10 years ago in the supermarket: he got married at the courtesy booth. The employee couldn’t afford a wedding, and when he asked Trish she said, “of course.”

“We literally had his wedding during business hours,” she said. “We went out front on the front porch and got a bunch of the flowers and brought it in up at the courtesy booth. He had a pastor come in and he had a three-minute ceremony. All the customers clapped, and we took pictures. They were married, and they were happy.”

A long-time customer

Jeremiah Gordon has been shopping at Ward’s Supermarket for the last 40 years. The 61-year-old was born in Hawthorne and has lived in Gainesville for over 40 years.

“This is a very, very sweet place — family oriented and it’s good,” he said as he stood in the Ward’s Supermarket parking lot with his daughter.  “I will continue [shopping here] ‘till I can’t go no more, and then she’ll be coming for me.”

Gordon remembers shopping at Ward’s Supermarket over the years and said the supermarket always has what he needs.

“It’s amazing how things have changed, but one thing that hasn’t changed is Ward’s Supermarket,” he said. “They got a legacy here. It’s a family place, a family tradition.”

Future generations

Trish Ward said although at times working in a supermarket can be exhausting, she feels the family supermarket will remain a tradition in her family to be passed down to future generations.

“Four generations in the grocery business is very, very, very rare,” she said.  “No stores make it four generations. We are certainly very unusual.”


This entry was posted in Local and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • TEX

    Great place with good ole southern hospitality to boot…enjoy the people and the selection. Ward’s is like the way things should be …family instead of [ corporate like publix ] they [ publix ] try but just can’t do it. Good for our environment locally and nationally. True commitment through and through. The white house and congress should follow by example !!! Go figure ???

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=544177740 Ally Gill

    Not a mention of Norman’s Country or the colorful Norman family who used to run their store at the current Ward’s location. How about an update on them?

 

More Stories in Local

BqcMUJ0CcAAuJrS

2 Shot at Apartment Complex, Police Find Suspect Dead

Update 8:30 p.m.: GPD has reported that Gerald Hall has been apprehended. Updates as they are available. Earlier: Update 10 a.m., June 19: GPD is now seeking another suspect in the shooting. Gerald Hall, 43, is wanted for questioning for [...]


For The Women Released After Arrest of CPA, Recovery Just Beginning

A well-known Alachua County accountant has been charged with three counts of human trafficking for keeping women in captivity, offering drugs in exchange for sex and house cleaning.


Group Expanding Investigation into GRU Fee Tax

Seniors vs. Crime is now looking into taxes on gas and water surcharges collected by Gainesville Regional Utilities. The group was previously only investigating a complaint about a tax on electric customer charges collected by GRU.


The fee controversy centers on whether the 10 percent municipality tax should be assessed on the electric customer charge. See the complete GRU bill breakdown.

City Responds to GRU Complaint on Fee Tax

The City Attorney and attorney representing Gainesville Regional Utilities have concluded the tax on the electric customer charge is justified.


The new Fisher House located at 5106 NW 8th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32605. Just across the street from the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center

New Fisher House will Provide Lodging to Veterans’ Families

The new Fisher House in Gainesville will allow families of veterans undergoing treatment at the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center a place of comfort during treatment.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Day Sponsorship Payments
Underwriting Payments