SHAMOKIN — Jared Stewart, of Sunbury, had all the normal teenage stresses heading into his senior year at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional School in September — classes, tests, college applications and graduation requirements — along with one not typically seen in teenagers.
He owns and operates Farmer Bill’s Market, a produce stand that sets up in downtown Shamokin.
Stewart, 18, had been helping his father with the business since he was 8 years old.
In June 2018, when his father got a new job and was going to close the market, Stewart made the decision to go at it on his own.
“I thought it was a good opportunity to make some money and gain business skills, meet new people and get a taste of what the real world is like,” Stewart said.
In the beginning, juggling his teenage life with being a business owner was stressful, but, after a year, Stewart has gotten the hang of it. The business involves spending a lot of time on the road, meeting wholesalers and learning to work with them. Making calls to order items not in season was a new experience for Stewart, who said he didn’t like speaking on the phone to anyone before running the market.
Saturdays are the busiest day of the week for Stewart and work typically starts on Friday, which he said is much easier now that school is done. On Friday nights he drives to Gratz to meet with wholesalers such as Bill’s Produce and Kenny Stehr and Sons.
Stewart returns to Shamokin to meet with Ben Ginck, who works the downtown market on Independence Street across from Wendy’s. He stocks Ginck up for Saturday morning and then delivers to Doogie’s Pizza on Market Street and to another man who runs a concession truck.
Even during the school year, Saturdays weren’t a day of relaxation for Stewart, who would get up at 5:50 a.m. and load produce into his vehicle to sell at the Mount Carmel Farmer’s Market in Atlas from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The market is open in downtown Shamokin on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the week, and Stewart also sets up a market at the Sunbury River Front Apartments and the Coal Township High Rise. In addition to running his own market, now that summer is here Stewart also spends Fridays working for Kenny Stehr and Sons from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Many of Stewart’s friends have part-time jobs to help them earn money, but Stewart said running his own business is an entirely different experience than theirs.
“It gives a lot more freedom and there’s the opportunity to make a lot more money than they do, but there’s also a lot more risk involved — and it’s a lot more work,” he said.
Stewart will take the skills he’s learned from running a business to West Virginia University with him this fall, where he’ll begin a six-year law program.
He said his experiences with the market have helped him learn to deal with customers all day and help people as well as improve his general communication skills. The work has also taught him money management skills. He meticulously writes everything down and keeps his receipts in order.
“I also learned a lot of hard work, so I’ll be more used to that when college comes around,” he said.
When other students are dragging themselves out of bed for early morning classes, he’s already mastered the art of rising and shining at the crack of dawn, ready to tackle the day ahead of him.