By Martie Thompson
Ryan Hoback is an optimist. As a lifelong entrepreneur, it is in his nature. And he has every intention of continuing to do business at his store on San Jose Boulevard, Hoby’s Honey and General Store, despite the construction going on next to him in the strip mall by his new landlords.
Hoback calls his store an old fashioned general store and it is exactly what he has always wanted to own. He started this business as a roadside stand in the parking lot of the shopping center on the corner of Loretto Road and San Jose Boulevard in 2011 with just one tent. He sold mostly tomatoes and honey and the one tent grew to two and then three when his tomatoes were discovered by local restaurants and he became their supplier. He moved into his present storefront in 2014 and says he plans to stay through his lease, which expires in 2020.
“The local community is wonderful and we have a great following and lots of return customers,” Hoback said.
A Mandarin resident, Hoback believes in supporting his community. To that end, he offers for sale the Mandarin Garden Club’s cookbook and supports the Mandarin Art Festival each year. His store contains locally sourced and made items; Hoback said that 95 percent of the items in the store come from either Florida or Georgia.
Hoby’s Honey and General Store carries all clean merchandise — no preservatives, artificial flavors or corn syrups. Soaps are made locally and are all natural and candles are made of clean burning soy wax.
And there is honey — all from local beekeepers. Hoback said it accounts for 50 percent of his business and the most return customers. He also sells bee pollen, which is used to boost energy or for those who are immunosuppressed. Honeycombs are available; Hoback said that they are a delicacy in finer restaurants, which serve them on cheese plates.
Hoby’s has 65 products which are privately labeled — everything from relishes to salsas to barbeque sauces. Hoback said that these items are produced by the Amish in Montezuma, Ga., and like everything in the store are all natural.
The funky yard art outside of the store tends to bring customers in. Hoback says the figures are made of recycled metal from Central America and he buys them in 20 foot shipping containers — sight unseen. He said it fits in with his general store theme since yard art used to be prominent in middle America, just like general stores.
Born and raised in Miami, Hoback started his first business — an urban clothing company — at age 19, while still a sophomore at Florida International University. By the time he graduated with his degree in International Business and Marketing, he had sold this business and moved on to a company he still owns: Motivated Entrepreneur, a business consulting company for young entrepreneurs that helps with crafting business plans and finding credit.
“I saw this as a need that I could help with,” Hoback said.
The immediate predecessor to his general store, though, was a podcasting business that supported realtors. In three months’ time in 2008, Hoback said he lost 80 percent of his business due to the recession.
“I wasn’t sure what to do next,” he said. “So I took a year off, moved to Jacksonville in 2010 and started looking for something with a little less stress. The roadside stand fit the bill.”
As for his future, Hoback has big plans. He envisions growing the store to include pre-sliced meats and cheeses. He said he eventually plans to open a second location, but his flagship store will always be in his home community of Mandarin.
“A good local store should focus on the community, not on real estate developers,” he said.
Hoby’s Honey and General Store is located at 11473 San Jose Blvd. Fall hours, which are in effect through the end of the year, are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and Monday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Photo by Martie Thompson