James (Jim) McDonald
Continuing a Family Tradition
by Tony Coppi
The oldest family owned-business in Brown County began in 1891 when Kess McDonald purchased a small building at the intersection of State Roads 135 and 45 in Bean Blossom.
The small building that still stands at the original site housed a wagon and a small stock of supplies such as sugar, flour, coffee, tea, salt, pepper, and tobacco. Most of the business was done from a huckster wagon.
Through the years the store has been identified by several different names. Originally it was know as McDonald’s General Merchandise, then McDonald’s Market, followed by C.H. McDonald’s Grocery, and McDonald’s IGA. It is now known as McDonald’s ShopWorth Super Market.
In 1962 a new building was erected next to the original building. The size of the store was doubled in 1972. In 1979 they added offices and more store space. A large storeroom in 1990 completed the building improvements.
The longtime grocery market has been passed down through five generations to James (Jim) McDonald, 36, having acquired ownership in 1990.
“We expanded the deli program last year, its done well for us,” Jim said.
“We have had two offers from gas companies to put gas pumps in, it’s something that we are going to consider. It would be a move to create a one-stop visit to stop and get gas and groceries.”
Jim grew up working in the store while he attended and graduated from the Brown County High School. He received a degree in business marketing at Franklin College, graduating in 1987. In between classes he worked at the Hillview Country Club Golf Course as greenskeeper for his room and board.
During one of his visits home when he was in college his dad Jack told him he had hired a new cashier, suggesting he might want to met her. They met, fell in love, and have been married for 14 years. He and his wife Kathy have two children: Megan, 12 years old, and Matthew, nine.
McDonald has been very active in community affairs.
For three year he was president of the Brown County Water Utility. Presently he is the secretary-treasurer. He is in his fourth year as secretary of the Brown County Community Foundation Board.
In high school he made letters all four years in football, baseball, and wrestling. He continues his interest in sports activities by coaching basketball at the YMCA and with Sprunica and Helmsburg youngsters.
McDonald also has ownership in six Indiana Subway deli restaurants.
The acquisitions began with the purchase of the Nashville Subway six years ago.
“It started out sort of by accident. We were kicking around the future of our operations. We knew at the time that we couldn’t buy another grocery store with the way the competitive market was, so we talked about Subway.” Jim said. “We just went into the Nashville Subway and talked to the lady who was managing the store asking questions about their operation and she said, ‘If you are really interested—this Subway is for sale.’”
McDonald bought their second Subway in Loogootee when the proposed owner backed out of the deal.
Two more stores were purchased in Washington. McDonald discovered a vacant Dairy Queen building in Bicknell and converted it into another Subway.
“We picked up our sixth store in Ferdinand which is down by Holiday World this spring,” Jim said.
Jim jokingly tells folks Bean Blossom is the corporate headquarters for a small chain of Subway restaurants.
Bean Blossom is just a tiny community but it does have some claims to fame.
The late Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass Music, brought national and international fame to the community with his bluegrass festivals. These festivals continue to bring tens of thousands of people to the area every year.
The late Charles Kuralt, master storyteller of the long time CBS series On the Road, spent an entire day visiting and telling tales at Short’s roadside market (now closed).
The famed Bean Blossom covered bridge, built in the late 1880s, has been the subject of countless artists and photographers because of its rustic construction and pristine setting.
It has been more than a century since Kess traded a watch and a bicycle for two mules and a wagon to start his huckster route, but the McDonald store remains the center of activity in the small town.
Jim enjoys sharing the story of the small town market’s success.
“It kind of reminds me of when I was a kid and I would go with my dad to the IGA meetings and you had all these guys in the big towns that were buddies and they would kind of snicker about ‘Here comes that guy from Bean Blossom.’ And the funny thing about it is that most of those guys have gone out of business.”