Entrepreneur finds niche in Lilly market

 In Cambria County, entrepreneur, News

[Published by the Johnstown Tribune Democrat on March 5th, 2020 by Randy Griffith. See original article: https://www.tribdem.com/news/entrepreneur-finds-niche-in-lilly-market/article_639cf41e-5e98-11ea-8893-47187e0e55e4.html ]

LILLY – Stuart Custer says he found his ideal business opportunity when he opened Custer’s Market last August at 512 Main St. in Lilly.

His hometown had been without a food market or convenience store for about eight months after DuLuca’s Market closed.

“I went to school for business,” Custer, 27, said Wednesday at the business. “I was keeping my eyes open. I was looking for a good business opportunity.”

Custer understood the value of the market in his community, and saw the potential for success.

“I was working here part-time,” he said. “When it was closing, I walked down to the bank that day.”

Despite his enthusiasm, it took a collaborative effort for Custer to get his name on the business. In addition to Somerset Trust Co., he contacted several economic development groups and eventually contacted Johnstown Area Regional Industries.

“That’s when it all fell together,” Custer said. “JARI had existing relationships with the other people I was working with. I doubt that situation would have happened as perfectly as it did without JARI.”

Celebrating Custer Market’s first six months of success, representatives of JARI, Somerset Trust Co., St. Francis University Small Business Development Center, Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission’s Startup Alleghenies and the federal Small Business Administration gathered Wednesday at the store for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. All three Cambria County commissioners also participated.

“This is a demonstration of how we are assisting some businesses throughout the region,” said Michele Clapper, JARI vice president for economic development.

The economic development groups teamed up to help Custer with financing and entrepreneur coaching, among other programs, Clapper said.

“This project demonstrates how JARI, the Startup Alleghenies program and St. Francis Small Business Development Center came together with a private lender, Somerset Trust Co., to support new business in our region,” JARI President Linda Thomson said. “We are thrilled to be a part of it.”

Custer also acknowledged support from his parents, Mary Lou and Doug Custer, who helped renovate and spruce up the market.

The town needed a market, Doug Custer said.

“Lilly has an interesting history, but it always had some sort of a small store,” Doug Custer said. “That goes back to when this used to be the Piper Coal Co. Store.

“It hit the town pretty hard when it closed.”

Stuart Custer said his neighbors’ response to the business has brought success.

“The support has been outstanding,” he said. “People came out in full force. This past six months has been amazing.”