By Natalie Simms
What started as a small pharmacy in the Coosa community nearly 50 years ago has steadily grown into today’s GMC Value Mart offering groceries, pharmacy, meats and now specially-cooked meats and meals-to-go.
“My dad, Gary Cowan, and mom, Sheryll, graduated from UGA Pharmacy School and opened up a little shop here in July 1971. At the time, it was a little strip center with another grocery and barber shop. As other stores closed, he just bought up the entire building and just expanded as other businesses moved out,” says Kirk Cowan, who now owns the business at 3402 Alabama Highway.
“We have a full-service grocery store…I always say we have everything Walmart has but prices may not be the same. We have fresh produce, frozen foods, dairy, meats and more.”
The business has always been GMC which are the elder Cowan’s initials. “He always told people it stood for Grandma’s Medicine Cabinet,” says Kirk. “My dad left the business to me and my brother in 2008 before he passed away. I then bought my brother out in 2016 to become the sole owner. I’ve been working to continue growing the business ever since.”
The store has a full-service butcher shop with four full-time meat cutters. They offer every kind of beef, pork or chicken all brought in from their meat distributor to be butchered in house.
“We are a part of the Associated Groceries of the South and buy all of our meat and beef from Excel Package Co. They have great products … and we sell a lot of meat,” says Cowan.
Earlier this year, Cowan and his best friend, Keith Rogers, decided to fire up their smokers and offer cooked meats for customers.
“We offer barbecue, hamburgers, hams, turkeys, wings, ribs, thighs … you name it. We’ve done potatoes and corn on the cob. We’re now trying lemon pepper chicken and broccoli,” he says. “We’ve gotten a great response.”
Cowan says they have the smokers going seven days a week. They typically ask for one day’s advance notice on cooked meat orders, except for turkeys that require four days to thaw. Customers can place their orders by calling the store at 706-234-7582 or sending a Facebook message to the store from their page.
“We smoke meats daily and sell at the store. What’s not sold each day is put into the cooler and then we usually have folks come in for lunch the next day to buy those meals to heat up for lunch. We have a small area with tables and chairs and have a lot of customers from Inland come over for their lunch break,” he says.
GMC Value Mart has been taking Thanksgiving turkey and ham orders. He will be cooking some 65 turkeys, another 60 turkey breasts and a large number of hams this week. His cutoff for Thanksgiving orders was this past Saturday.
“We have a huge number of orders and will be busy this week cooking them all for Wednesday,” says Cowan.
As for the future, Cowan’s two daughters do help him in the store inbetween their studies. His oldest daughter attends Georgia Northwestern Technical College and his youngest is a senior at Coosa High School.
“I hope one of them will come work here full-time one day. For now, they each come help a few days or hours a week,” he says. “But I hope to continue to add more services. And we may have another location in the future…I don’t know…I’m still toying with the idea.”
For now, you can visit GMC Value Mart from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday-Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. The meat department is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The pharmacy is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. Delivery service for groceries and pharmacy is available for $5 fee.