What do Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas have in common? Those are holidays when lots of food is eaten.
Among the choices for food, ham is near the top of the list.
Fortunately, gone are the days where one had to cook a ham for hours.
Honey Baked Ham Company opened last year on West Andrew Johnson Highway and has been winning customers since.
While the Knoxville and Johnson City stores are corporately owned, Jennifer Hernon is the area franchise owner of the Morristown location.
“I think the franchise is the best way to go,” she said. “You can connect with the community if you live here. Our store is a smaller-sized store. We’re doing well and we’re happy to be in Morristown.”
Honey Baked Ham’s slogan is “Treat your customers like gold.”
When Hernon and her husband Dennis were retiring from their jobs, they were looking for something to keep busy.
“About five or six years ago, my husband and I were looking for something to do after retirement,” Hernon said. “It was around the holidays and I said that I had our Honey Baked ham.”
At that time, the Hernons were living in Tazewell, but were considering moving to Morristown.
“He said that Morristown needed a Honey Baked Ham,” Hernon recalled. “So we started the process of talking with them and we were at the point of going for Discovery Day.”
Plans changed, however. He started having weakness in his legs. After examination by doctors, he received a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“We had to put off our plans,” she said. “It was a hard time, but he was disappointed about not being able to operate the business, but I told him that I would go ahead and do it,” she said.
Dennis passed away in March 2016.
As a result of his illness, Dennis wanted to make sure that Morristown’s Honey Baked Ham store had a disability friendly workplace, meaning hiring some persons with disabilities to work there.
Alan, the Hernons’ son, has Asperger syndrome, has worked at the store from the beginning. Alan received assistance through the Walgreen’s Ready Program, due to his being a former Walgreen’s employee.
Kenneth, the Hernons’ other son, also works at the Morristown location. Kenneth is a student at ETSU, majoring in exercise science.
Hernon also has other two people with challenges who work there.
“You’ve got to find their little niche in what they can do. We’re happy to have them,” she said.
Honey Baked Ham made sense for the Hernons because both were registered dieticians.
“I’ve done just about every job that a registered dietician does,” she said. “I’ve worked for the extension service, I’ve taught university classes, and I’ve worked as a clinical dietician at a hospital, worked at the health department with WIC and high-risk pregnancies. I thought it was time to retire from being a dietician and do something different.
“We didn’t want a fast food where a lot of stuff had to be fried,” Hernon said. “We wanted something that had a good variety of foods that are healthier and leaner. Honey Baked Ham has been great. They’ve given us a lot of good assistance. This year, they were designated as the third-best option for retail franchising. We’re real pleased with it.”
Morristown’s Honey Baked Ham location has experienced good business, especially around the holidays. We had a pretty good Easter because it was late this year. It is said that a late Easter is a great Easter,” Hernon said. “One of the things we hear people say is that they’re glad we’re here so they won’t have to drive to Knoxville or Johnson City anymore and wait in line for so long. We’ve been good about not having long waits.”
An area of business the store is trying to grow is catering.
“We’re really trying to work on our catering. Whenever we did the analysis of the area, one thing that really stuck out was the need for more catering,” she said.
Hernon stated that there are growing pains with the start of a new business.
“It’s a trial and error thing where we are making sure the staffing is appropriate for the amount of sales that you have,” she said. “We’ve got a really good group of core employees.”
Honey Baked Hams use quality ingredients.
“Our hams are premium hams,” Hernon said. “Honey Baked Ham dictates how the animals are fed, the conditions they are raised in, how they are slaughtered. There are only three or four suppliers in the U.S. that supply for Honey Baked Ham. We get the hams here, refrigerate them.
As part of the quality chain of command, any ham is refrigerated upon shipment, the right amount of ham is used with any excess disposed of, hand glazing is done at the store, wrapped in foil and refrigerated.
“We really take good care of the hams,” she said. “It’s a premium product.”
Honey Baked Ham uses as much of the ham as possible.
“We first sell as the bone-in ham, then we break ham down into slices, sell slices for people who don’t need a whole ham, smaller pieces are used for sandwiches or ham salad, and hambones are sold for soup,” she said.
Honey Baked Ham is updating its menu for the first time in 20 years.
“They’ve updated all of our side items to have fewer ingredients,” Hernon said. “Some of our lunch items are changing, too.
In remodeling the current location, the contractor was presented with the typical challenges in remodeling.
“We pretty much gutted the building,” she said. “We had a contractor who had done work for Honey Baked Ham before who did it. There’s always little problems in getting something done. We put all the coolers, freezers and one in the back. In addition to sandwiches, Kettle brand chips will soon be available at the store.
During a recent catering job, Honey Baked Ham went to the Porter Tire Warehouse for a sales seminar. The party pack of cups, ice, utensils, two gallons of tea, a cookie and brownie tray, a fresh fruit tray, two sandwich trays, pickles and a chef salad were loaded into the delivery vehicle for setup.
Nothing goes to waste at Honey Baked Ham.
“Every day that we have anything extra that we can’t sell that still has a good use by date, (Morristown-Hamblen) Central Services comes by and picks it up,” Hernon said. “We’re trying not to waste anything. We had an abundance of hambones, so we called The Daily Bread Community Kitchen and they took a whole bunch of them to use in their soups.”
There was an overproduction this past Christmas.
“We didn’t have a history of what to expect,” she said. “We did take quite a few hams to the Hamblen County Jail, The Daily Bread, MATS and CEASE. We didn’t want any of the hams to go to waste.
“We’re finding out that people will support us if we give them good service,” she said. “I just love Morristown. It’s a good place to live and work, it’s just growing all of the time.
Hernon’s philosophy mirrors the mission statement of Honey Baked Ham.
“Celebrating life, one meal at a time. That’s what we’re focused on,” Hernon said.