If the brightly painted, five-foot metal roosters don’t catch your eye as you drive down San Jose Boulevard, Ryan Hoback hopes the red-on-yellow “Local Honey” banner will.
Save the subtleties for upscale specialty shops; Hoby’s Honey & General Store goes bold about their love of farm-to-table preserves, Americana kitsch, and locally crafted goods.
1950s tunes welcome shoppers to the Mandarin store’s front porch and fresh tomatoes beg to be plucked from wooden bins under the window, an homage to the South Florida farm stands that were this general store’s inspiration. Over the past four years, Hoby’s has gradually expanded from roadside tomatoes to preserves and local honey to its present day incarnation as a showcase for all things local.
“We’re kind of like your modern country store,” owner Ryan Hoback explains as he straightens an American flag. “We think there should be a place in every neighborhood where everybody hangs out. A place where everyone eats their Popsicles on the bench.” Ryan gestures toward the full porch where a painted yellow bench squeezes between Lady Liberty yard art, two more metal chickens and a giant pink flamingo. Following my gaze, he adds, “Yard art is big in Americana.”
The ice pops Hoby’s sells are Hyppo Pops, made in St. Augustine. Other local goods include 5 Points Candles, small batch soaps and Bold Bean coffee. Ryan plans to build relationships with other local artisans so his general store reflects the breadth of the First Coast.
“You see a lot of these stores in mountain towns,” he says thoughtfully. Gesturing toward downtown he continues, “Unique and progressive concepts are found in
5 Points and Riverside but few here in my neighborhood, in Mandarin.”
Hoby’s is progressive in a very old-fashioned way. Everything in the store comes from Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, “except the Mississippi Cane Syrup,” Ryan confesses. And the giant metal chickens.
Cabinets filled with jams, chowchow, apple butter and Georgia dry-roasted peanuts are more than a nod to days gone by, they call suburban shoppers to a simpler way of life where local is king. “About two-thirds of our edibles are made by Amish friends in Southern Georgia,” Ryan shares with a tone of respect. “They do everything from seed to jar. They plant, grow, harvest, package, label — the way everyone used to.”
As Jacksonville’s general store, Hoby’s supplies jams, cane syrups & honeycomb to local restaurants including Orsay, Moxie, Ovinte and BB’s. They also build into the Mandarin community by sponsoring three baseball teams and the Mandarin Arts Festival. “It’s close to home, it’s family and community oriented, it fits our mission,” Ryan says.
In a word, Hoby’s Honey & General Store is all about Americana. “The local movement is big everywhere but one aspect can be missing…We should be proud and very grateful for the country we live and thrive in.”
Hoby’s Honey & General Store sells more than jars of relishes and local goods—they sell memories and a way of life. “This isn’t a museum!” Ryan insists. And we agree. Hoby’s General Store is Americana. It’s the First Coast. It’s Mandarin.