Crook family nears one century of business in Senoia
It is as much about home as it is about business. And though the scope of the family business has grown over nearly a century, lifelong Senoia resident Ellis Crook and his son Greg are an example of the belief that history is relevant and that providing good service is the key to the future.
Ellis Crook today is the owner of Crook’s Market Place, Crook’s Tire Pros tire center, the convenience store next door, the new Addy building immediately to the east where Crescent South Insurance is located and the Food Outlet in Newnan that opened in May on Temple Avenue in Newnan.
What began as a one-man general merchandise business operated by Ellis’ father nearly a century ago has evolved into several businesses that employ approximately 70 people, some of whom have worked with Ellis for more than 20 years.
“We’ve got a lot of good people,” said Greg.
“That’s what makes you,” Ellis added. “People who care about what they’re doing.”
The most recent additions to the family business are the Crook’s Tire Pros building and The Addy Building that opened in January. Named for Ellis’ mother, Leola Mae Addy Crook, it houses Crescent South Insurance, an independent insurance agency carrying a full line of major insurance products that originally opened its doors in 1995. The building, said Greg, will soon include a new hair salon business and has room for up to two additional businesses.
The new Crook’s Tire Pros building opened in December 2009. Greg said they decided to partner with the nationwide Tire Pros as a franchise to maintain a better inventory, marketing and POS (point of sale) system.
“It allows us to complete with the national chains and offer a nationwide road hazard warranty. So that helps us give an advantage to our customers,” he said.
Unique to most tire centers in the area is a nitrogen dispenser for vehicle tires. Nitrogen keeps the tires from heating up as much and maintains tire pressure longer which reduces tire wear and adds longer life, Ellis noted.
“If people come in for four tires but only need two we’re going to tell them to buy two,” Greg said of the family business approach.
“Then they’ll come back for the other two,” Ellis said of his business philosophy. “I don’t want anybody to be sold something they don’t need.”
The newest business, the low-price, warehouse style Food Outlet at 249 Temple Avenue in Newnan is a cost-plus 10 percent supermarket that opened in May in the building previously occupied by the Piggly Wiggly store, Ellis said.
His thoughts back in Senoia, Ellis spoke with a smile about Crook’s Market Place, Senoia’s only grocery store that is located on Ga. Highway 16 just south of downtown. Yet for Ellis, that smile transcends the decades, back to the time when his father had a general merchandise operation beginning in 1913.
He sold a lot on credit and eventually went out of business, Ellis said, adding that around 1929 his father began farming and hauling freight. As with so many others in America, the Depression took its toll, Ellis explained. But in 1942 he rented a peach orchard and subsequently paid off his debts.
And it was the following year that he bought the small store where the Bank of Coweta is currently located across Hwy. 16 from the Market Place. Ellis said his father sold two mules for $500 to purchase the building.
“He sold a little bit of everything,” Ellis said with a chuckle. “You sell anything and everything.”
And it was during those years that Ellis came into the picture. As the years progressed, the family bought the property across the street where the convenience store is located on the corner of Hwy. 16 and Broad Street. That building opened in 1947. It was later torn down and replaced with another that was converted to the convenience store and gas station. Ellis bought his dad out in 1960 and continued the business of providing a variety of goods and services to the residents of the growing Senoia area and beyond.
It was just across Broad Street that Crook’s Market Place opened in 1981. Ellis said it was the first air conditioned store in Senoia. And, aside from its different locations over the past century, the supermarket is the only one of eight grocery and general merchandise stores still in operation in Senoia.
“With the growth of the city in recent years there have been a lot of positive changes. I remember as a kid when agriculture dried up. And it stayed that way until (this) renaissance,” Greg said of the city of several thousand residents, and still reflecting on the Senoia of old and the place in the community that businesses like grocery and dry goods stores used to hold. “When the fire trucks went by people used to call Crooks to see what was going on.”
It has been nearly 100 years since Ellis’ father opened a business in Senoia. The days turn into decades, his businesses and service offerings expanded and his customer base grew. Yet for Ellis Crook some things remain the same. As Greg said, “For my dad Senoia is the utopia.”
“You know the people and you are dealing with your friends in business,” Ellis explained. “In Senoia you feel safe.”