A Montgomery County, Maryland, institution that has been the quick-stop shop for local produce, beer and even landscaping supplies will soon shut its doors. The shuttering of the Country Boy Market will bring an end to a 68-year run for the family-owned business.
“It was very difficult to decide to close because I grew up in the business,” said Jim Barnsley III, 65, who began working at the store when he was 10 years old. He recalled running the cash register while standing on four wooden Coca-Cola cartons as a youngster to reach the countertop.
The store was started as just a produce stand in 1955 by Barnsley’s grandfather, then taken over by Barnsley’s father, Jim Barnsley Jr., known in the community as Mr. B.
Years later, Mr. B later shared ownership with his two sons, Jim and Tom.
The store began in Wheaton and Jim Barnsley III still has a piece of its original sign, which featured a little boy in a straw hat carrying a basket of produce. It would later move down the road to Glenmont, where it would expand to what it is today.
“It is a bit sad,” shopper Alan Nawraz said. “It’s a quick place to get in and out, get some essentials you may have forgotten from the grocery store, folks are really nice.”
Barnsley III said last year, his father passed away, followed by his brother suffering from heart failure. With his father gone and his brother unable to return to help run the store, Barnsley III said he tried to keep the shop running with his son, J. Montgomery Barnsley IV, but they couldn’t sustain the workload.
“It’s just too much for us to handle,” Barnsley III said. “Especially going into busy season this spring, we’re just not going to be able to handle it.”
He said the store has been special to his family as it has allowed them to truly get to know their community.
“People have been coming in … they come in as little kids, 10, 11 years old, and then I’ve seen them as adults, 30 years old,” Barnsley III said. “It’s just great. They support us for 40 years here.”
A shopper named Michael said he’s been coming to the store for years, and that the local produce and friendly staff kept bringing him back.
“It will be missed for sure,” Michael said.
Barnsley III said there have been challenges for the store over the years, but they always did well, even during the pandemic.
“I never saw it that busy. It was scary busy,” Barnsley III said, but he recalls never running out of any products even as they flew off the shelves.
He said it has been tough telling longtime customers that the store will be closing and said many didn’t believe him, until now. For the first time in decades, shelves are going bare as they won’t restock them.
“[Customers are] really upset and they’re asking me ‘where am I going to get apples? Where am I going to get my tomato plants next year?’ And I really don’t have an answer for them,” Barnsley III said.
The family hasn’t decided what they plan to do with the store yet, but Barnsley III said he is ready for a vacation, which has been challenging to do over the years while working 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The only time we got off was in August and September. We shut down for 10 days. We put a sign up: ‘Closed gone fishing.’ That’s the only time we got to rest,” Barnsley III said.
He said the family is appreciative of the community that kept their doors open for so many years.
“The community just really supported us, and we love them all,” Barnsley III said.
Country Boy Market will close in two weeks.