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Byers' River City Market changing hands Nov. 1

October 13, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - For only the second time, Byer's River City Market is changing hands. Customers can rest assured, however, that there will be few changes in style, inventory or the top level of hometown service, owner Monty Jones said.

On Nov. 1, Jones, 41, and his wife, Renee, officially will turn over the keys to the market at 18 N. Conococheague St. to Dean Bowen and his wife, Rachel. Both couples are Williamsport residents and recognize the value of good and steady hometown service.

"It takes two people to run a Mom and Pop store like this, and I'm trying to give my wife more time to spend at home with our family," Jones said.

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With his recent acquisition of Always Ron's restaurant in Hagerstown with business partner Michael Guessford, Jones knew he wouldn't be able to spend the necessary time at the Williamsport store.

Since Jones bought the store from founder Ronnie Byers five years ago, Renee Jones has been working long hours at the store while managing home and family. Many other family members also have spent time working at the store.

This year has been especially chaotic for Jones and his family. The new restaurant duties were added to the already-established Always catering business and Meals on Wheels for Washington County.

Add to that a serious accident in February that injured the couple's then 12-year-old son, Tyler, who was hospitalized and then home for a lengthy recovery period. Now 13, Tyler is back at school but unable to participate in all the sports he had before.

"He did get to play baseball this year," Renee Jones said.

But damage to his triceps prevented Tyler from trying out for football. "He is learning to live with his limitations," Monty Jones said.

"Dean and Rachel Bowen love this town like we do," Jones said. "They are a perfect fit for the market."

Bowen, currently a chef at Burhans Station, will be leaving that position when he takes over the store.

"I plan to change nothing," Bowen said. "We just couldn't let the town down."

The hours will stay the same - 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. And the sponsorships of Little League and Junior Football League teams will continue, Bowen said.

Adaptations have come during the past five years as the store increased the daily specials and fast-food items to keep up with demand.

"A lot of people don't like cooking as much as they used to so they come in here for their dinners," Renee Jones said.

And the fried chicken is always available because it is so popular, she said.

Perhaps the biggest change will be the shift of the catering business and the Meals on Wheels preparation/distribution center from Byers' Market to Always Ron's, which is in the works.

A separate kitchen is being built at Always Ron's to accommodate both enterprises, Jones said.

"Most of our Meals on Wheels deliverers are happy about the move since it will be easier and closer to pick up the meals for delivery from Always Ron's than it was here," Jones said.

There are approximately 55 Meals on Wheels clients for whom Jones prepares a hot meal and a cold meal each day. He said he would like to expand that service to more clients in the future if possible.

Bowen said buying the market is his first foray into the world of business ownership.

"It's a little scary but I am confident that we can make it work," Bowen said.

Longtime friend Monty Jones said he is confident of the store's future.

"Dean has a good business sense," he said.

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