77 years and counting

The Muletown Mini Mart has been in business and within the Blackburn family since 1984. Photo courtesy of Amber Pate.

The Muletown Mini Mart has been in business and within the Blackburn family since 1984. Pictured left from right: David Dowdy, Crystal Stiltner, and Amber Pate.

MINFORD- While war raged in Europe and the Pacific, Frinnie Blackburn decided to start a business. Through all the changes that have occurred in the world and Scioto County since, his business has stood the test of time.

Since 1943, candy, hot dogs, and other goods have been provided by the Blackburn family of Minford. Now operating the Muletown Mini Mart off State Route 335, forging ties with the community and relying on each other have allowed the family to continue business to today.

“We show our customers and our community that we care about them,” said Amber Pate, Muletown co-owner. “We know our customers so well that when some of them come in, we already have their stuff ready because we know what they want.”

Pate and her cousin, David Dowdy, great-grandchildren of the original owner, now share ownership and plan on continuing the operation for as long as possible.

“We want to maintain our family name and tradition,” said Pate, who she and Dowdy plan on becoming store managers before passing it on to their children.

The mart is known by its customers for its deli, hot dogs and bulk candy, to which Dowdy projects four to 5 tons are purchased each year. Around 100 hot dogs, nicknamed “Blackies” after the family name, are sold each day, Pate shared.

These products are only part of the Muletown experience, they say, where they stress the importance of being friends to their customers, creating a “Cheers-like” experience.

“I’ll ask people sometimes, ‘Why do you come here instead of going to one of our competitors?’ and the No. 1 thing I hear whenever I ask that question is ‘You guys are friendlier than almost anywhere else,” said Dowdy.

At times that means spotting customers for whatever they can’t afford that day, he said, with the understanding that they will pay back when they can.

“You don’t get that at a chain,” he said, in addition to a yearly customer appreciation day, which provides free coffee and breakfast to all patrons.

This service has allowed their customers to feel comfort with them, telling Dowdy and Pate about their days and inviting them to graduation parties.

Frinnie started the family business in 1943, selling meat, vegetables and fruit. During his time as owner, his second son, Roger Blackburn, was born. His first son, Gary Blackburn, was three at the time and eventually bought the business from his father in 1983. The original store, located out of New Boston, is now operating as a fuel center.

Only a year later, Roger and his wife, Loretta, started the Muletown Mini Mart. The couple retained ownership for 27 years, eventually selling to their daughters Crystal Stiltner and Cindy Blackburn in 2011, who are now managers.

With many families now working from home due to the coronavirus, Pate said combining family with work does not seem to be a challenge because it’s all they know.

The co-owners say that by staying honest with each other, they have maintained the business and family unity. Being a part of a family business is something to take pride in, they said and keeps them pushing forward.

“I think it makes us closer, the fact that we are forced to be around each other 40 hours a week,” said Dowdy. “You take care of the store because it’s going to be yours. If it’s going to be yours, you are going to act like it’s yours now.”

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.© 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.