Customers hungry for hams find tasty fare in Kennewick

Almost one year to the date Vivian Terrell opened the Tri-Cities’ first HoneyBaked Ham Café, the entrepreneur feels the business has been a success.

“I feel good. I’d give this last year an 8,” said Terrell, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

A steady stream of customers came through the door during a recent day at 731 N. Columbia Center Blvd., Suite 122, in the Columbia Summit shopping center in Kennewick, across the parking lot from Planet Fitness, The Bookworm and Dutch Bros. Coffee.

“The challenge is still getting the word out about us,” said Terrell, who will celebrate the one-year anniversary of her franchise Dec. 19. “Just taste it. The toughest part in the first year has been about getting people familiar with HoneyBaked Ham. People think we only sell ham.”

Founded 60 years ago, the Georgia-based HoneyBaked Ham Co. has 400 locations nationwide as well as an e-commerce site.

The company specializes in glazed hams, turkey breasts, whole turkeys, side dishes, desserts and a variety of main dish proteins. Hams are glazed on site.

Customers can come to the store to pick up their meats, along with a variety of side dishes and desserts that can be heated up at home.

The lunch menu includes sandwiches, soups, salads and side dishes.

Terrell came to the Tri-Cities from Florida in 2006 after she was hired to be the circulation director for the Tri-City Herald.

Eventually, she left the Herald and was looking to run her own business.

At one point, she zeroed in on three franchise opportunities.

“I was back home in Florida, and I stopped by a HoneyBaked Ham store,” she said. “People were in line for hours and out the door, because they were putting out a quality product. It’s not processed ham. It’s not pressed. It’s real ham off the bone. They have a loyal following, too.”

The lines out the door she refers to? It’s true. Just Google HoneyBaked Ham and look at the news stories. People line up for the hams and turkeys.

Terrell went through an eight-step process with HoneyBaked Ham corporate to be approved as a franchise owner.

A franchise owner must have at least $350,000 of net worth, at least $100,000 of liquid assets and a strong credit history to be approved. The introductory franchise and development fee is $30,000, and for any new stores the price is dropped to $20,000.

The company has four franchise lending institutions it works with and uses for franchisees.

Terrell was so sure of the company that she dove in and owns the franchise rights for the Tri-Cities.

“Eventually, I am thinking of expanding,” she said. “But I’d do a smaller store, like 1,200 square feet.”

The one in Kennewick is the size of two strip mall pads, or 2,800 square feet.

“I’m also considering opening a store outside the Tri-Cities area, such as Walla Walla or Yakima,” Terrell said.

Terrell established a limited liability corporation in May 2017 and received approval to be a franchise owner a month later. The restaurant buildout took two months, from October to December.

“We opened on Dec. 19 (2017) with the paint still wet,” she said.

The Kennewick store is the second in Eastern Washington. There is one in Spokane.

The café has been busy, Terrell said.

“The tavern club is our most popular sandwich, and people will come in for it for lunch and dinner,” Terrell said.

The ham classic, which is $6.59, is also very popular. And the hams. Always the hams. A bone-in 8- to 10-pound ham ranges from $63 to almost $80.

“Some people are just extremely loyal,” said Terrell, who shared some anecdotal stories.

“I love talking to my customers and being able to listen to their stories,” she said. “One person said, ‘Thank you! Finally! You’re here!’ ”

Another thanked her because his mother always made him drive to Portland every year to get a ham from a HoneyBaked Ham store there.

“So many people are so grateful that we’re here,” she said.

But those are the ones who already know about the store.

Terrell takes the product to those who don’t.

“I’ve got to go out and do sales calls a few times a week,” Terrell said. “I hand out samples to businesses. We offer catering and boxed lunches. So it’s a grass-roots effort. I show them and say, ‘Look what we have to offer.’ ”

It’s worked.

This year, one company ordered 28 hams for its employees for Christmas.

Thanksgiving, she said, went well.

“Quite a few people pre-ordered hams,” she said. “We also sold whole smoked turkeys, roasted turkeys and Cajun turkeys.”

She’s expecting a big Christmas season, too.

“The most important thing I can say is for your holiday, we can be your complete holiday headquarters,” Terrell said. “I want to be able to provide the highest quality items for your holidays.”

The season should keep her 10 employees busy.

“Most of them have been here since we opened last year,” she said. “The most rewarding thing is giving people a chance for employment. I do mentor a lot of these young people. For most of them, it’s their first job.”

It’s been a great experience this first year, Terrell said.

“The best thing about owning your own business is being able to give back,” she said.

That means providing a product to someone who won’t have to drive a long distance to get it. Or donating food or money to a charity.

“I was looking for a company that would allow me to give back,” she said.

But the focus in the coming months will be continuing to get the word out.

“We offer samples all of the time,” Terrell said. “I want to get to the point where people are lined up out the door. We provide the best-tasting ham in the Tri-Cities. You will love it. You will be hooked.”

Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The store will have extended holiday hours. Visit website for details.

Honeybaked Ham: 731 N. Columbia Center Blvd, Suite 122, Kennewick; 509-579-5855; honeybaked.com.

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