Cody Hamm – Alleghany Office Supply

As we move through life, our experience of dealing with adversity and trials tend to add to our faith that things will ultimately turn out well.  We learn over time that the worry that led to sleepless nights as a teenager barely generate a raised eyebrow later in life.  But leaving a steady job to start a business can cause considerable angst regardless of age.  Cody Hamm recently made that step with confidence and isn’t looking back.

Cody is an Alleghany County native who grew up in the Whitehead/Pine Swamp community.  He graduated from Alleghany High in 2011 and moved on to the Alleghany Center of Wilkes Community College (WCC).  He completed an associate’s degree in business administration at the Alleghany Center and he says with a certain sense of local pride that he, “Never set foot on the main campus of WCC.”

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Cody Hamm

His work path wound from Lowes Food in Sparta to work as an accountant at Truline Truss and then at Pioneer Eclipse.  While at Pioneer, local businessman DW Miles suggested that Cody consider opening an office supply business.  Cody took the advice to heart and opened Alleghany Office Supply in Trojan Village.

The location of his business is perfect for Cody.  It is a spot with established shopping traffic. His wife, Mackenzie, works with Blue Ridge Cardiology and can walk down to assist in the store on her lunch break or after her work day ends.  Cody’s mom also helps out and covered the store while he was still at Pioneer Eclipse.  But there came a moment when Cody had to decide if he was serious about owning a business or just flirting with the idea.  On June 13, 2016 Cody took what he acknowledges as a scary step – he left the security of working for someone else for the unknowns of entrepreneurship.

At first glance, it would appear that Cody has stepped into an unwinnable situation.  Office supplies are readily available online from a multitude of sources.  Box stores carry shelves of supplies.  A Virginia based company has customers in this area.  When asked how he plans to succeed in an extremely competitive market, Cody says that his plan is to build trust with local businesses and organizations that he can deliver quality office supplies to their door at a price that is comparable to that found online.  His hope is to capitalize on the desire to support local business and help grow the county’s economy.

His advice on starting a business? Don’t be afraid of that first step. He points out that many people have good ideas, but fear keeps them from putting those ideas to work.  He is convinced that if this venture doesn’t work out, he will take the lessons learned and move on to the next challenge.

So the question that begs an answer is, “How does a 23 year-old who has lived his entire life n Alleghany County make this kind of life altering decision?

For Cody the answer is simple – he relies on his spiritual faith.  He says with no hint of doubt that, “God won’t let me down.”  This is not to say that he feels God is guaranteeing his financial and business success.  No, Cody understands that all of his life experiences are preparing him for a higher calling.

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Cody and Mackenzie Hamm

Cody is currently the youth pastor at the Full Gospel Church of Sparta.  His grandfather is the pastor there and his other grandfather is a Baptist minister.  Cody’s long-term goal is to go into the ministry full-time.  He views the office supply business as simply a vehicle to help make that goal a reality.  Cody Hamm is a young man with plans for both immediate and eternal impact.

As he speaks and sings in area churches, Cody will continue to build his business.  He is developing a website where he can sell products via the Internet.  His current sales are roughly 25% in-house retail (store sales) and 75% customer accounts.  He is making the rounds throughout the county, calling on potential customers pitching service and quality products to local businesses.

A common refrain in rural counties is that there are limited job opportunities for our youth.  However, a look around Alleghany will expose numerous young men and women like Cody Hamm who are carving out a niche and creating opportunities for themselves.  A question we have to consider is whether we will support their efforts.

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Cody Hamm can be reached at 336-572-2592 or at chamm@alleghanyofficesupply.com

Alleghany Office Supply is located at 665 South Main Street #15, Sparta, NC 28675

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Jay Coman – Local Foods Coordinator

Alleghany County’s local food movement has an unusual connection to a building supply business founded in Durham, NC.  The Coman brothers opened Coman Lumber in the years following World War II.  When the business was sold in the 1970s, one brother, James, bought a farm in Piney Creek and permanently located to Alleghany.

Many remember James as a sheep farmer, but some of his most important work was through the Blue Ridge Rural Land Trust (currently The Blue Ridge Conservancy).  Through the land trust and conservancy over 18,000 acres of northwestern North Carolina have been protected through conservation easements or set aside for public use.

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James and Jay Coman

Jay Coman spent his high school summers on his Uncle James’ farm.  Jay was a state champion high school wrestler in Durham and his father felt that a summer of farm work gave Jay a better overall workout than time in the weight room.  Through his Uncle James, Jay was exposed to a unique combination of business acumen, love and respect for the mountains and mountain life, and shown the value of hard work.  During those summers in Piney Creek, Jay also grew to love Alleghany County.

IMG_4206Jay was awarded an athletic scholarship to wrestle at North Carolina State University.  In 2007 he was part of a team that won the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship.  He struggled with injuries during his final year at NCSU and became interested in coaching.  Jay says that for the first time he fully understood the role his coaches had played in his development over the years with their devotion of time and experience.  Jay determined that it was time for him to repay that debt by coaching others.

After graduation from NCSU, he taught history and coached wrestling in Durham.  In 2009, his Uncle James succumbed to cancer, and Jay took over the farm in Piney Creek.  He traveled back and forth for three years before fully transitioning from city to farm life in 2012.  He loved the local dedication to wrestling and he began the New River Wrestling Club which practices at the Briddle Creek School in Independence, Virginia.  He also began coaching Grayson County High School Wrestling team.  And during all that, he went to graduate school at Virginia Tech.

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In what little free time Jay could claim, he began to work the farm.  His operation has grown to 45 sheep, 20 cows and toggles between five to ten pigs.  Although he spent many summers on the farm with James, Jay quickly realized how little he knew about farm life.  He credits his neighbors as being patient with him as he learned to build and repair fences that actually kept his growing herd and flocks where they belonged.  He said the winters have been tough but that each year seems to get a little easier.

This spring Jay took on yet another job – local foods coordinator for Alleghany County.  Working through a grant with the Cooperative Extension Service, he promotes and delivers locally produced farm products to a variety of locations.  Everything from steaks to honey to produce is available the Alleghany Meat Center or Becca’s Backwoods Bean in Sparta.  Jay also services farmers’ markets in Sparta, Roaring Gap, and Independence, Virginia.  Many local restaurants serve Alleghany grown products delivered by Jay.

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Alleghany Farmers Market

Jay sees great retail growth potential for Alleghany products in the Raleigh/Durham area.  He currently delivers products directly to home customers in Durham.  He says that there is a growing demand in Triangle restaurants for ethically grown meat that is pastured raised with no growth hormones.  Chefs recognize that these products have superior taste that customers appreciate.

Perhaps one of the strongest selling point for locally grown products is the story behind where their food is produced.  There is an increased aversion by some to animals that are raised in large commercial operations.  Customers prefer to know the name of the farm where the products are produced and the farmers who produces it.  They seek a personal connection to their food.  Jay views “Produced on a family farm in the mountains of western North Carolina” as a great way to begin those stories.

In yet another iteration of life, Jay will teach history this fall at Grayson County High School and will continue to coach wrestling.  But he will remain solidly anchored to Alleghany County through Stony Knob Farm, tending to sheep and cattle and an occasional pig.

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Alleghany grown farm products can be ordered at http://alleghany.locallygrown.net/.  Jay can also cooridanate special purchases for customers.  He can be contacted at jcoman103@yahoo.com

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You can experience a Taste of Alleghany on Saturday, June 18th at 6:30 pm.  This event is sponsored by the Alleghany Farmers Market.  Proceeds will be used to promote locally grown foods and to support the farmers’ market.

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