A Pantry of Family Values

By Sandra Zunino

Situated on Main Street in quaint, downtown Queenstown, Potter’s Pantry is a little slice of Americana. Owned by Nicole Potter Jordan, the neighborhood country store serves homemade breakfast and lunch to locals who are more like family than customers.

Nicole was only 21 years old when she asked her parents, Dick and Kaye to purchase the building so she could start her own business. She was working across the street at the bank when it came up for sale. Originally a deli, Nicole fixed the space up and opened up in early September of 1995.

“When we first opened, we wanted it to be like an old country store with a potbelly stove and some rocking chairs,” she says. Thirteen years later, despite the lack of the stove and rocking chairs, Potter’s Pantry still possesses the simple casual charm of yesteryear.

Regular customers gather at Potter’s Pantry for coffee and chitchat, or to read the morning paper over a leisurely breakfast. “We call them our breakfast club,” Nicole laughs. “We like it like that.”

Reputed for their homemade chicken salad, Kaye gave Nicole the recipe and it is now the restaurant’s biggest seller. Open Monday through Thursday from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Potter’s Pantry closes after the lunch crowd almost simultaneously with the neighboring post office and bank. Nicole says business slows down after that time, so it doesn’t make sense to stay open any later. She does keep the doors open on Fridays until 5:00.

When it first opened, Potter’s Pantry was open every day and carried convenience and craft items in addition to the deli. Figuring out along the way what worked and what didn’t is how the Pantry evolved to what it is today. During her high school years, Nicole worked for Bennett Point Store and drew on that knowledge.

Focusing on breakfast and lunch not only makes good economic sense, it allows Nicole to run the business and still have time to devote to her family. Married to her high-school sweetheart, Mike, Nicole now runs the store with 4-year-old Ryleigh, 2-year-old Gage, and 4-month old Kaeden on the premises. “I thought about selling the business after I was pregnant with my first child, but I couldn’t,” she says. “My customers begged me to stay.”

Doing double duty as a mom and entrepreneur keeps Nicole as busy as she needs to be right now, but she says she might consider expanding the store and the hours when her children are older.

In addition to serving breakfast and lunch, Potter’s Pantry also offers catering services, handling low-key, casual events. For several years, Potter’s Pantry provided meals onsite at the QAC Fair. “We loved doing it,” says Nicole. “We did it for the kids.”

Nicole attributes her die-hard work ethic to her parents. “My family had to work together around the farm,” she explains. “Dad kept us busy, and he instilled a work ethic in all his kids.”

With a slow economy and competition from larger chain stores, small neighborhood spots like this are becoming increasingly rare. Nicole admits winter will be hard on her business, but she’s not giving up easily. “I love my customers,” she says. “That’s pretty much what keeps me here.”