7 questions with Hester General Store’s Katie Chaney

Hester General Store officially opens for business Friday, Dec 16 in Dacusville.

Katie Chaney, owner of Hester General Store in Easley, South Carolina

Katie Chaney, magic moment maker. | Photo by Christen Clinkscales

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“A comforting place where people can come and rethink what tradition looks like.”

That’s what Katie Chaney, owner of Hester General Store, hopes the historic space will be. Officially open as of today, Friday, Dec. 16, the scratch-made pie shop and general store was once an just an idea of the Anderson native.

We sat on the porch of the new shop to ask Katie seven questions about how she got to where she is today, who inspires her, and what the community can expect when they stop in.

GVL_Hester General Store_ Dec 2022

This Sunny Mullarkey mural is what the store is all about. | Photo by Christin Clinkscales

Q: Tell us who you are and how you got to where you are today.

A: I’m Katie Cheney and I grew up in Anderson. After graduating from Wofford, where I studied art history and German, I moved to a small black forest town in Germany for about two years. My working language was German, and I really wanted this European, after-college experience, and it exposed me to just so many different ways of life, ways of living, and different foods. It’s actually where I like to say that I really had to start cooking for myself. This love of food and of living seasonally developed.

After Germany, I moved to Austin, TX for about five years, where I worked in recruitment and got to see how vision becomes scalable and how businesses could be more creative types of businesses and still thrive. I met my partner in Austin and after getting married, we moved to Portland, OR. They say Portland is where young people go to retire, but I honestly think it’s where creatives go to start their businesses, like 1927 S’mores Company. People are taking a creative vision of what they can do to make money and attaching people. That’s where the idea for the business started to develop.

We had our baby in 2020 and the three year plan of moving home to SC became a “right now” plan so that we can be closer to family. We moved here in November 2020, and I immediately felt the need to start exploring this idea. A friend mentioned the Hester store and when saw it, I fell in love. We purchased the store last November, closed this June and started construction right after.

Q: Let’s talk pie — what got you into baking in the first place?

A: I started cooking because cooking is a little more entry level — you can mess it up and fix it really easily. Baking’s a little bit different. Baking kind of became this respite from my stressful startup job because I was not having any work-life balance. When I lived in Germany, I got into reading food blogs and cookbooks about different food ways, different ways that people were thinking about the food of their culture, and female chefs’ stories of their path to finding themselves through food that wasn’t just based on this patriarchal idea of women in the kitchen.

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“It was pies.” | Photo by Christin Clinkscales

I started reading this cookbook by Erin Jeanne McDowell, “The Book on Pie” and I obsessed over it. I baked every pie of that book, watched every video that she had, and became obsessed with her techniques. I started making riffs on what she was doing and then thought, “This is something that the Upstate area really doesn’t have, a niche pie shop.”

There were a lot of paths I could have taken, but when it came to what I enjoyed baking, what I felt like I had the most skill in, and what would have the most impact on tradition and people’s lives— it was pies.

Q: Where do you find inspiration for your recipes?

A: My grandmother, Neva — my daughter’s namesake — was big in the kitchen. I have huge stacks of recipes from her that I’ve poured over and integrated into the work that we’re doing here. Erin Jeanne McDowell and The Joy of Cooking are big inspirations as well.

I’ve also just looked at what I enjoy eating. This is an example of it: A lot of people think pie dough shouldn’t have sugar in it because the pie that you’re putting into it is sugary. I totally disagree. I think it should taste like a sugar cookie and should be part of the experience. My mom hates pie dough; she will take the filling out of it. But she will eat our pie dough because it’s like another aspect of our pie. That’s how I put my own stamp on it: If I like eating it — and I think I have pretty good taste — I think others around me will like it as well.

I’ve also been really excited about the way that my team views food and that’s been integrated into what we’re doing. Hearing their ideas, I’m like, “Cool — what’s your family’s buttermilk pie?” It’s important to me that we’re doing something that they love and not just the recipes that I’m bringing forward.

Q: Tell us about your team.

A: My team is all queer. It wasn’t something that was the criteria but it’s an awesome, nice to have element. As I’ve shared my story with the community, people have really attached to it and see the safety that we can provide as a queer-based employer.

I was sitting in the back working on inventory one day and heard everyone giggling telling their coming out stories. Every workplace that I’ve worked at, that’s never been a topic of conversation while you’re working. To hear them talking about that with such joy made me realize the type of safe community that we’ve created for these employees, and how that’s been a byproduct of what we’re doing.

Q: What can people come to expect when they visit the store?

A: We have fresh baked pies, cakes, breads, and pastries baked on site. Everything is from scratch and seasonal, prioritizing local ingredients within the Upstate. Perishable and non-perishable Groceries on site include perishable items like Southern Oaks Jersey Milk and Chester and Watson Farms eggs, frozen goods like Naked Pastas, ground beef + pork from Blue Wall Farm as well as pre-made pie doughs to make at home, our own ice cream, and one thing I saw on Instagram that I had to do: TV dinners.

Non-perishables will include stuff from the region, like Lowcountry Kettle Chips, grits, cornmeal, and Spicewalla spices. I like groceries where you could get a little bit of local, but that if you want Kraft mac and cheese, it’s gonna be on the shelf.

The inside of Hester General Store in Easley, SC

Can we live here? | Photo by GVLtoday

We worked with Methodical Coffee to create our own blend of espresso that will be served daily called Abuela’s Blend. It’s a 100% Columbian blend in honor of Claudia, our Head of Culinary Operations, because she took a chance on me. The name is for my grandmother and Claudia’s grandmothers.

In our kitchen upstairs, we’ll offer classes for eight to twelve people, teaching basics like how to make pie dough as well as kids classes, because I have a two and a half year old myself, so that’s a priority for me.

Outside, we’ll have a patio outside for up to 35 people, and inside a “Gossip Corner” bench where you can wait for coffee or work.

The last thing we have a vintage Pepsi cooler where bottles suspend in 40° water. They’re wet when you pull them out, but that was the traditional way that drinks were served in this space.

Q: Where do you see Hester General Store 10 years from now?

A: My vision is this: We help people create magic moments. We want to enter into people’s lives and help whatever magic moment they’re trying to create happen.

Long term I want to be on people’s TVs and have a show and be spotted at food festivals talking about the redefinition of tradition and how we did it at this historic location; how anyone could do this and how there is a platform for people like us who are queer females underrepresented in the South, and that we have a voice and a food way to share with the greater world. That’s really where I want to be.

I want to be in grocery stores and have our products available so that even if people can’t visit Hester General Store in real life, they could experience our ice cream at their child’s birthday party, or they could take our pie shells home and bake their family’s quiche in it. I want us to be doing wholesale in different locations that are very aligned to our idea of redefining historic spaces.

I want this to be a spot where families who have children that are three years old — they can see them through college and get a pie for Thanksgiving or get a cake for their graduation party. I want people taking pictures on the front porch as they’re growing up. That’s kind of ultimately how I see us growing.

A year ago, I couldn’t get out of bed. I was so sad and depressed and thought, “What am I doing and why am I doing this?” And when I sit here today, I’m like “this is why,” because I actually do have the ability to make that impact on people’s life. My vision is strong and this area needs it.

Q: Who are local leaders who inspire you?

  • Katie Thompson, Creative Director at Table 301: I’m a huge fan of Table 301, Soby’s, and how that whole network has grown over the past 25 years. It’s been fun watching Katie work on Table 301 projects and collaborating with someone who is so deeply entrenched in that true Greenville business and food startup community.
  • Sallie Holder, Founder of The Brimm: She is a wealth of knowledge and resource to me. She’s the one who helped me set my vision. I feel very lucky to have access to her community of female entrepreneurs.
  • Everett King, Everett King Consulting: She’s my interior designer and has knocked it out of the park. I chose her because she is not afraid of color and expression through color. And I love color and knew that this building needed it couldn’t just be brick and white and brown. It had to pop and have personality.
  • Dorothy Shain, Dorothy Shain Fine Art & Design: I met Dorothy through The Brimm and she’s helping with design aspects for our wallpaper and even greater ways we want to grow as a business, like packaging.
  • Mimi Striplin, CEO of The Tiny Tassel in Charleston, SC: I met Mimi through The Brimm as well and I’m a huge fan of the way that she markets her product and how uniquely Charleston it is. I went to her and said “who built your website? I want them to build my website.” “Who does your marketing, I want them to do my marketing.” She’s just this friendly, supportive person that I look up to.
  • Carrie Morey, Founder of Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits: Carrie is one of my ultimate people, especially based in SC, that I’m a major fan of because what she has built is what I want to build. She brings her family history into the biscuits that she’s making. She’s someone that I look up to and think, “that’s where we’re going.”

Store location + hours

Hester General Store (1735 Hester Store Rd., Easley). is open Monday-Sunday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

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