By Jeff Martin
Three weeks into her new business venture, Jodi Oakes of Cattaraugus is having a pretty good time.
On Tuesday morning this week, she was at the town barn in East Otto. She’s found that selling supplies typically found in old-fashioned mercantile stores is easier to do during the early morning hours. A dozen customers had come for supplies by 10 a.m., and that’s what is making her happy these days.
Her new business concept, Oakes Traveling Mercantile, is gaining attention and customers. A stay-at-home mother for the past 10 years, Oakes said she found herself with time and income needs.
“The kids are at school now and I needed a job,” she said. “This is great for me because I’ve always wanted to run an old-fashioned mercantile.”
Setting up a business plan through the Cattaraugus County Business Development Corporation, Oakes said it took about five weeks to complete a plan. She was able to secure a New York grant to help with startup costs, a critical hurdle for any first-time business owners.
She based many of her ideas on what the Amish sold in their small stores, most of which are private.
“I was lucky to be able to shop at those little stores – it gave me ideas,” she said.
Purchasing a pre-owned concession trailer, the Oakes acquired a pickup from Darryl Oakes, who operates Darryl Oakes Logging. The 16-foot concession trailer is filled with popular supplies sought by rural residents.
Purchasing the material in bulk, Oakes sells a variety of baking supplies, including flours, yeasts and sugars; cooking implements; puddings, cereals, a variety of mixes and other food preparation items. All items sold are made in the U.S.A., an important aspect of what she wants her business to be. As time goes by, she said, she’ll build on what items she sells.
“I want to see what people want and need,” she said, adding that more and more people are canning.
“That’s something I’d like to move into,” she said.
While her business sets up shop at various locations throughout the area, Oakes said she’s willing to travel to peoples’ homes if needed. That helps people who are home bound, including the elderly and those without transportation. In fact, Oakes said she’s open to any suggestions the public may have.
The mercantile mainly operates out of the Oakes’ driveway, located at 6570 Kickbush Hill Rd. in Cattaraugus. The mercantile will remain open at its home location, from 3:30–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri. and on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m., until summer hours begin.
For more information about future locations and inventory, call Oakes at (716) 257-0161.