"There are two people in your life, your mother and your sweetie, that must be taken very good care of, and there is no better holiday to do this than Valentine's Day," said John Hatcher, co-owner of the Hen House in the Statesboro Mall.
We all know that if "Mama is not happy, then no one is happy". So, obviously, John is on mark. For more than four decades, the Hen House has been a regional destination for all things Valentine's in the center of the Statesboro Mall. I think it's as much a tradition for Valentine's as is eating pancakes and sausages annually during the Kiwanis Fair.
Bill Hatcher recalls opening his first Hen House in the mall shortly after it was constructed in 1971. There were only a few stores open at that time — Belk, Big Star Grocery, Elliot's Cut Rate Drugs and Little John's gift shop.
It was an exciting time in Statesboro. Few communities our size had an enclosed mall constructed.
"I remember meeting with the representative from Hallmark and I asked him if he could tell me of another city the size of Statesboro where there was a Hallmark store that I could visit," Bill Hatcher said. "He told me that this would be a first for the company. All their other stores were in larger, metropolitan areas. It was at that moment I realized the magnitude of the risk. Over four decades later, it is one risk that I am glad we took."
When Bill opened the original Hen House, he was working full time as a pharmacist. After graduating from pharmacy school, the Millen native took a position with Everett Williams at College Pharmacy in downtown Statesboro. A few years later, he helped open Williams' second pharmacy location, The Town and Campus Pharmacy, near where Henry's Barbershop is today.
The entrepreneurial bug had bitten him, and he knew he wanted more. So, he opened the Hen House, which at the time was a fraction of the size of the current store. Soon afterward, he opened his own pharmacy, The Prescription Shop. Hatcher, along with his wife Betty, also opened a children's clothing store in the Statesboro Mall. Betty operated the Gingerbread Man children's shop for 18 years.
Business was good and the community was growing in 1985 when, in an instant, Bill's world changed. During a midmorning robbery of his pharmacy, Bill was shot at point-blank range. His world was turned upside down.
In seconds, he went from struggling to grow his businesses to struggling for his life. Because of the severity of the gunshot wound, doctors were concerned that if he did live, he would never walk again. Indeed, he learned to walk again and, other than a very mild limp, you would never know he had been through such a tragic event.
In 1987, he sold The Prescription Shop to Steve Gay and focused on growing the Hallmark stores. Over the years, he has opened and closed stores all over Georgia and Florida. At one point, the chain operated eight stores. Now it has settled down to five locations with Statesboro remaining the bellwether store. In addition to Statesboro, Bill and his son John own stores in Jacksonville Beach, Macon, East Cobb and Alpharetta.
"There have been two key factors to our continued success in Statesboro and throughout the chain," Bill Hatcher said. "The first was having one of the top Hallmark store managers in the country, Janice Smith, managing it for over three decades. The second was having John enter the business."
After graduating from college, John Hatcher took a job with Hallmark and spent the next few years learning everything he could about Hallmark's operation from the corporate side before returning to the family business. The knowledge has proven to be invaluable in continuing to manage and grow the company in some very challenging economic times.
Bill Hatcher has led his staff by example when it comes to the importance of being integrally involved in your community at every level. He serves his church, Statesboro First United Methodist, at the highest level possible by a layman; he remains an active and loyal Rotarian and served as city councilman and mayor of Statesboro for two terms.