This is the sixth in a series of articles that highlight compelling reasons why all of us in the Kern River Valley should shop locally. You’ll also read a profile of a local business owner and what they are doing to assure a successful business in today’s challenging economic climate.
Many people in the valley may not be familiar with the name Wyly, but if they have ever shopped at Mt. Mesa Market or attended any catered valley event, the odds are very high that they have enjoyed the fruits of Jim Wyly’s labors.
Whether he’s manning the meat counter at the market he has owned and operated since 1977 or standing over his huge trailer size BBQ grill feeding appreciative crowds, Wyly is equally at home.
The local businessman moved up to the valley as a youngster in the early 1960s with his family and a large family it was at that. Wyly, the eldest of eight siblings, speaks warmly of his family and with pride that they have maintained close relationships over the years. He recalled, “My father was in construction so I grew up helping to pour cement and dig ditches. As a result I have total admiration for people who do that kind of work, but I knew it wasn’t for me.” He and his wife of 30 years, Diane have raised their own five children, each of whom in turn have helped out at the market during their teen years.
Prior to opening Mt. Mesa Market in May of 1977, Wyly worked at Lake Isabella Market for 11 years as a store clerk and a produce man. Wyly recalls learning a great deal about the grocery trade from the store’s owner Bob Salyer. “Everything I know about running a market, I learned from Bob. He really was like a father to me. When it came time to branch out on my own, he was supportive 100 per cent.”
Wyly has been in partnership with Steve Spradlin, another well known local businessman, since taking over the market three decades ago. Of his longstanding friendship and business relationship with Spradlin, Wyly stated, “We have a great partnership. It really has been the best anyone could ever hope to have.” Not only have the two men worked well together in business over the years, they have also worked closely to enhance the community in which they both operate successful businesses.
They were largely responsible for the establishment and building of Mt Mesa Park on the five acre lot that was donated by Bill Kissack. Kissack had hoped that one day the bare lot would be transformed into a park that would be the recreational heart of the growing Mt. Mesa community. Wyly and Spradlin shared his vision and between them they raised a substantial sum of money and went to the County to find out what would be required to make the dream a reality.
Once other committed community members, valley business owners and contractors were on board, it didn’t take long to make things happen. Thanks to determination, hard work and donations of labor and equipment, Mt. Mesa Park became an integral part of the Kern County Department of Parks and Recreation.
This past winter and spring, the park was transformed once again. This time, the result was a beautifully laid out baseball field which is home to the local little league organization. Many of the same people who had volunteered help and resources to build the park originally came through once again. Wyly added of himself and Spradlin, “We’ve always tried to give back to the community that has been loyal in their support of us. The baseball field was just one more way to do that.” Wyly went on to add that he gets a real kick out of seeing kids he once coached now coming into the store with their own little leaguers proudly decked out in their team uniforms.
As for the day-to-day operations of running the local market, Wyly works hand in hand with his wife. Although they have several employees, they both work seven days a week, taking only a half-day on Sunday to relax. Vacationing together poses a challenge, so for the time being they take their trips separately. Wyly enjoys his annual out-of-state hunting trip while his wife enjoys spending as much time as she can with the new grandkids.
When asked if it’s a challenge to work so closely with a spouse day in and day out, Wyly was quick to convey his respect and admiration for his other half. “Though we both work under the same roof, we each have our own duties. I’m behind the counter and she’s out front dealing with customers at the check-out counter.” Continuing to sing her praises he added, “She works hard all day and her day isn’t over when she gets home. She’s a wonderful cook and a great homemaker. I don’t know how she does it all.”
Diane is quick to reciprocate in the compliments department. “Jim really is a one-in-a -million guy. He would give people the shirt off of his back. He has great friends who would do just about anything for him and that says a lot about Jim himself.” She attributes the success of their working relationship to a genuine love and respect for each other. “If we didn’t have that, it would never have worked as well as it has.”
Both of the Wyly’s appreciate their loyal customer base and over the years have come to develop genuine friendships with residents of Mt. Mesa, as well as the many people who regularly visit the valley and vacation at the lake. Wyly added, “That’s one of the best parts of running a business in a community like ours. You get to know everyone and they get to know you.”
Another important part of Wyly’s business is providing meals and food to valley rafting companies. “They have been great customers and I’m happy to do whatever it takes to help them out.” He adds that the rafting business is of a huge benefit to the valley as a whole. “Customers of the rafting companies come up to our valley and spend freely when it comes to lodging, food and entertainment. People may not realize the huge impact they actually have on our local economy.”
As for the future, the Wyly’s are planning on some upgrades for the business so it doesn’t look like retirement is looming on the horizon any time soon. Thank goodness, there are an awful lot of us in the valley who would be devastated if we knew Wyly was hanging up his grilling tongs and barbecue mitts for good.
So next time you need a couple of good steaks for supper and want to engage in some friendly bantering over the meat counter, drop by Mt Mesa Market and say hi to Jim, Diane and the rest of their friendly staff. You’ll find them at 12324 Mt. Mesa Rd, in Mt. Mesa or give them a call at (760) 379-2867. You’ll be glad you did.
PHOTOS BELOW: Jim Wyly, left, with Steve Campbell on May 15, 1977, the day the pair took the reins of Mt. Mesa Market.
Kern Valley residents can always count on Jim Wyly to cook up a hearty meal for events held throughout the year. Above, Wyly whips up batch of beans and tri-tips at last year’s Rubber Duck races held at Riverside Park in Kernville.