Friends’ Marketplace Celebrates 25 Years While Looking To The Future

By: Ryan Bray

Topics: Business , Orleans news

Brian Junkins is co-owner of Friends’ Marketplace in Orleans. The market will celebrate its 25th year in business in town this weekend with food, drinks, live music, raffles and more. RYAN BRAY PHOTO

ORLEANS – Brian Junkins can still recall in detail the circumstances surrounding his parents' purchase of Friends' Marketplace.

"My mom was a middle school teacher at the school right behind here," said Brian, who owns the Main Street market with his wife, Monila. "She was driving to school one day and noticed that the store might be available for sale. That's how my dad found out about it. He rushed down from another store and they were able to get the location."

That was in 1998. Fast forward to this weekend, when the Junkins and market staff will celebrate their 25th in business in Orleans with food, drinks, music, raffles and more in the store parking lot Friday from 3:30 to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The business is also giving away four $50 gift certificates each day this week as part of the anniversary festivities.

"It's a moment in time," Brian said of the milestone. "Actually, Memorial Day marks the 25th year. I know when my dad and mom started the store in 1998, they were rushing to open Memorial Day weekend."

Brian's father owned a number of stores over the course of his career, but it wasn't until seven years ago that he and Monila decided to get into the family business, he recalled. Prior to buying the market, the couple were living in Chicago, where they had started their own food company.

"We saw tons of stores all over the country, because we had a food brand that was sold in a bunch of stores," he said. "We got inspired by seeing all those different markets and different retail approaches across different parts of the country.

"When my dad was looking to sell the store, it just seemed like an opportunity for us to try and pursue, so we decided to change direction in our own lives," Brian added.

In Orleans, Friends' exists as an antidote to the large grocery chains and big box stores that blanket the region and the state. For Brian, the market exists as more than just a place to shop. It's a hub, a local gathering place ideally situated in the center of downtown.

"We like to consider ourselves like a community center," he said. "People come in, they get to know each other, they see people they're familiar with."

That local approach has won the market a lot of fanfare and loyalty on the Lower and Outer Cape. On a busy Monday afternoon, a woman from Wellfleet stopped Brian in the market's parking lot to tell him how much people love his store.

This isn't to say running the market hasn't had its challenges. Currently, one of the biggest issues facing Friends' is one that's hanging over many other local businesses, namely how to provide housing to staff at a time where year-round and seasonal housing is prohibitively expensive, if it can be found at all.

Friends' employs about 55 workers in the offseason and as many as 75 during the peak summer months, Brian estimates. Of the 10 seasonal workers that have already started with the market this season, he said about half are struggling to find housing.

"I'm confident that our business can continue to evolve and meet the needs of the community in terms of the food side," he said. "I think we need to do a lot of work on the operational side to be sure that our employees can continue to live and work here."

But problem solving is essential to running a small business, and it's something Brian said he and his wife embrace.

"Everything I'm talking about in terms of the challenges of the business are not negative for me," he said. "They're exciting, they're interesting. They're great challenges to have. The great thing is we live in a really great community, and there's a demand for the offering that we have."

As for the future, Brian said connecting to town sewer will open up the potential for the market to expand in its existing footprint. He hopes that expansion will in turn help spur additional commercial activity and foot traffic in the downtown area.

"There's growth on the horizon for Friends'," he said.

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