HUNTINGTON — If you have ever been to Camden Corner on the far-west end of Huntington, you already know it’s is so much more than a convenience store.
The small market in Westmoreland features award-winning freshly made doughnuts, fried chicken and an in-house deli.
“We have won The Herald-Dispatch’s ‘Best of the Tri-State’ awards for the past three years in a row for our doughnuts and fried chicken,” said owner Rick Stiltner. “Along with our deli and other locally made and grown products, we are able to compete with the big box grocery chains.”
Stiltner, 63, along with his wife Jennifer, opened the business in October 2017 at the corner of Camden Road and Piedmont Road in Westmoreland.
“I remember we sold 40 dozen doughnuts in the first hour we opened,” he said. “I was worried if we would be able to keep up with the demand.”
Stiltner says the small convenience store isn’t just another simple grab-and-go quick stop. Instead, the little shop on the corner offers a deli with lunch meats and cheeses; sandwiches; deli salads; hot dogs with homemade chili sauce; fresh baked pepperoni rolls and other items.
Tim McGuire, of Ashland, Kentucky, said he works in the Westmoreland area and Camden Corner is the only place he goes for lunch.
“This is the place to come because you can get some home-cooked style food that is so fresh and good,” he said. “I am also a big fan of their doughnuts.”
Sally Jefferson, who lives nearby, said she the area doesn’t have a grocery store and Camden Corner fills a need in the community.
“We love this small market,” she said. “When the grocery store that was in Westmoreland closed, we were not sure if we would get another place back, but Camden Corner filled the need.”
The Camden Corner owner is no stranger to the convenience store business.
“As soon as I turned 16 years old, I went to work at a grocery store in Chesapeake, Ohio,” Stiltner said. “I worked from a carry-out boy for Tradewell Supermarket to a store manager. My career lasted about 15 years, and then I took a job at the post office, where I stayed 22 years.”
He said while he was working as the postmaster in Huntington he heard the Shoppers Value Foods store in Westmoreland announced it was closing.
“The people that owned this property here was Holiday Pools, which is currently adjacent to the market, and one of the brothers was my boss at the time,” Stiltner said. “I called up one of the McCree family and asked if they wanted to sell it. After several weeks of deliberating if I should leave my job at the post office, and sleepless nights, I decided I was going to go all in and take my early retirement. I took everything I had saved for the last 30 years and now here we are five years later.”
His wife retired from her job of 27 years at HIMG, and the Proctorville, Ohio, couple began their business venture.
“My business plan when I started was that I knew the area need a convenience store and it was a high-traffic location,” Stiltner recalled. “I felt like this area need a fresh doughnut place, because Jolly Pirate had moved to Route 60, which was all the way across town.”
A variety of doughnuts are fried up each day at Camden Corner, with flavors including Boston cream, pineapple, maple frosted and strawberry jelly.
“I also knew I had to have a fresh deli,” he said.
“That’s one area a convenience store can be very competitive. There is a very high markup when you go to the superstores and big box chains. I knew I could offer a really good product at a really good price. I would dare someone to compare prices with us.”
While the community’s response to the doughnuts and deli was nothing short of “astounding,” according to Stiltner, he said he wanted something for the lunch crowd.
“That’s were the fried chicken came in,” he said. “I knew a place that had great fried chicken in South Shore, Kentucky. It was a little gas station on the side of the road, but it was the best fried chicken I had ever had.”
Stiltner said he found out they were using Charley Biggs brand of breading, so that’s what he wanted for Camden Corner.
“As word got around about how good our fried chicken is, the crowds started to build up and really continue to grow each year,” he said.
Camden Corner offers a chicken dinner special featuring two pieces of chicken and two sides like mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans plus a roll. They also have a three-piece chicken strip meal, as well as family meal deal with eight pieces of chicken, four rolls, one pound of coleslaw and 16 potato wedges.
“Now I am a convenience store, a bakery deli and a restaurant,” he said. “We have deli sandwiches, meat and cheese trays and are constantly adding new items from time to time.”
Stiltner said as an independent market it was important to him to have some locally grown and locally made products.
“I know how much hard work it takes to be successful in a small business, so if I can help contribute to someone else then I want to do it,” he said. “This community has been so good to us and we want to be good to them in return.”
The store has 15 employees when fully staffed.
“I am right there, but unfortunately it’s a tough time to get new employees,” he said. “While I don’t totally understand what changed the job market like it is today, but I do understand it’s really tough today to get good employees and keep them. We have some great managers and staff here right now and my hope is that it will continue to remain that way.”
Camden Corner is located at 3002 Piedmont Road in Huntington. It is open 6:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/camden.corner.94.