By Sara Jane Richter

Six decades make sixty years, and for any local business to have lasted that long is quite an achievement.  Hennessey’s 4T’s Family Market has reached that milestone.

A fixture in town since September 1963, 4T’s Family Market has provided a service to everyone in town at some time or another.  Running in to pick up a loaf of bread or making a late night baby formula purchase, everyone has taken advantage of having a well-stocked, local grocery store just across town.  John Taylor and his late wife Bonnie believe that John possessed the skill set to own and manage his own grocery store after having managed a store in Stillwater and Bill’s IGA in Kingfisher.  They just needed a store to prove that point.  The Rickley family grocery store in Hennessey came up for sale in the summer of 1963, and the Taylors sealed the deal and opened for business in September of that year.  John did most of the business from cutting meat, stocking oranges, and sweeping the aisles. 

Initially, the store served the community as an important downtown storefront just north of the long-gone south stop light.  The Taylors eventually purchased land on the northeast corner of the Highway 81/Highway 51 intersection—one of the busiest intersections in the State of Oklahoma—and built a new store which opened in 1982.

Since Highway 81 now jogs around to the west now, the super hot crossroads has cooled a bit, and that change has challenged the Taylors.  Recently, they find other challenges too because of a changing economy, a changing marketplace, and a changing business model.  4T’s has competition nowadays from discount stores, convenience stores, national retail grocery delivery, online shopping, and nearby big box stores with curbside pick-up.  The day of the family-owned business has seen its halcyon days of glory as has most smaller businesses.  It’s hard to compete.

Tim Taylor currently runs the store with help from his younger brother Terry.  Tim and Terry are two of the 4 T’s.  John and Bonnie named the store for their four children whose names all begin with the letter “T”:  Tim, Terry, Tracy, Tammy.  Tim says that he couldn’t have scripted a better life or place to live, raise a family, or have a business.  Hennessey has treated his extended family right, and they have reciprocated in kind.  For example, during the tragic ice storm of 2001, the Taylors allowed shoppers to take what groceries they needed from the store shelves and pay for them when the ice melted, the tree limbs were gone, and electricity was restored.  People didn’t disappoint the faith that the Taylors had in the good folks from Hennessey. 

Tim insists that the people make his job the best in the world and calls his customers a “joy.”  The store’s philosophy clearly states that the store has one purpose:  “serving our customers.  This is the only task we seek to accomplish.  When we meet the needs of our customers, they will reward our efforts by returning.  Our customers are our ‘life-blood’ and we will endeavor to treat them as such.”  Tim looks forward to interacting with customers on a daily basis and has seen several generations go through those check-out stanchions.  Part of his responsibilities include delivering groceries to local shut-ins which is really just another way to interact with the folks who have made the grocery a successful enterprise for so long.  

The Taylors have always believed that their staff of friendly, competent employees are the best part of the workings of the business too.  Self-check-out does not exist at 4T’s.  They’ve never had difficulty in filling positions; employees enjoy the family atmosphere as do customers.  Besides the staff, Tim considers the store’s meat department the biggest asset.  He promises too that the produce area will see major upgrades within six months to compete with the competition and show Hennessey that improvements can always be made to a tried-and-true company.  Even though Tim says that times are tough, they are still good.  Because of supply chain issues brought about since 2020, the grocery has developed good working relationships with other small grocery concerns in central Oklahoma.  When one business learns of a good deal on a large shipment of items, the network will go into action.  Phone calls will be made to other stores offering to share part of the large shipment with them.  In this way, many stores reap the benefits of good deals, good food, and good partnerships.  It’s just good business.

Founder John Taylor still owns the building and serves as grocer advisor to his two managing sons.  Tim wouldn’t have it any other way as his dad has 84 years of experience and gives sound advice that his sons always appreciate.

And with sixty years on the horizon, we’ve got a celebration to prepare for!  Help show the Taylors some love and appreciation for all they’ve done for the community at their 60th anniversary celebration on Saturday, June 3 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.  Hot dogs will cost a dime, and the birthday cake will be free.  The centerpiece of the celebration will be the giant mural banner created by Royal Signs.  This collage of photos of the stores, customers, events, and drawing winners will grace the inside of the store.  Come by!  Get a hot dog!  See who you can identify in the mural that will illustrate sixty years of a small-town grocery store, its grateful patrons, and its proud owners.