BP Old Northeast General Store patron Jennifer Ashley with owner Steve May

BP Old Northeast General Store patron Jennifer Ashley with owner Steve May

Do you remember a time when your local mom-and-pop corner store was clean, had something for everyone, and employed a warm and friendly staff who cared about its customers and community? These attributes for the recently opened BP Old Northeast General Store were the dream for owner Steve May. His dream has been realized.

Steve grew up in rural Ohio where the local general store played a huge role. Steve recalls, “It’s where we bought our bottles of Coke and penny candies. And where people were friends and neighbors before they were customers, and where a sense of community was supported. If you are thinking that this sounds like an episode of The Andy Griffith Show, then you get this vision. We all move so fast in our daily lives that I think we appreciate the idea of simpler times. Whether it be the local bakery, restaurant, or gas station, I see this support of the local community in our neighborhoods, and I wanted to be a part of it.”

His most recent collaboration with a nearby successful bakery has been quite fruitful. “This is another venue to purchase local goods and support community businesses. We also offer great wines and local brews from St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Sarasota.” Steve is very proud of the regional products that his customers have to choose from.

The down-home look of his store is not by accident either. When Steve purchased the store it was gutted and made to reflect the establishments that he patronized growing up.

Steve cares for his clientele. His store features a community bulletin board where customers are welcome to leave or take a business card, advertise items for sales or catch up on local happenings. And if the staff sees that a customer brought a dog to the store, they will come out to your vehicle and offer a free dogie treat. What other store does that these days?

Store patron Jennifer Ashley said, “I come here because of the friendly staff. Steve recognizes me and always has what I need. He gets to know his customers personally.” David Brannon adds, “I drive out of my way to visit this store. I am greeted by my name when I walk in. It’s the genial approach and attention to customer service that keeps me coming back. What Steve has created is truly amazing and unique in this day and age.”

The following was one of Steve’s most cherished moments. “We sometimes encounter people who have fallen on hard times. One day, I was dealing with such a customer. He was disheveled, had little money, and was just looking for something to eat. Then I noticed that one of our regular customers was impatiently waiting in line. She was often fussy and critical. I made sure that he was taken care of and helped him a little with the bill. She then approached the counter with tears in her eyes. She told me she was moved… not because I gave him some extra food, but because of the way I treated him with respect and dignity. In her words, ‘It was a lesson in kindness.’” This is the essence of Steve May and in his own words “The way it should be.”

Steve has seen his dream come to fruition. His community store is a shining example of convenience and kindness fashioned by a simpler time – the way all local stores should be.

by Sean B. Alderson