Nobody knows how old the Hogtown Gas & Food Mart is. Juanita Roe, 87, and her late husband, Robert Elden Roe, bought the place in 1960, but Juanita says the history of the market goes way back. George Caudill, 70, who eats breakfast there every morning at 6 a.m., says, "I am the oldest customer of this market." But the market is much older than he is. "It may may be more than 100 years old," says George.
The store is the central gathering place for Hogtown. From opening at 6 a.m. until closing at 7 p.m., the place is busy with Hogtown residents, some shopping, but most eating, drinking coffee and chatting with friends. "We serve breakfast, lunch special, pops," says the market's business card. "Fountain drinks, snacks, kids games, pool, air hockey & much more."
The store is most famous for its home-cooked food, serving fried catfish, several varieties of hamburgers and a notable sweet potato candy. "People love this place because we make special homemade food every day," says Brenda Wilson, 50, manager for six years. "Our prices are reasonable, and we always treat customers kindly, like family."
The only thing nonlocal about the business is the current owner. Liaqat Anjum, 59, emigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan 10 years ago with three of his children. His wife and another child stayed behind. Liaqat planned to help with a relative's business in New York, but he moved to Kentucky four years ago when he secured U.S. citizenship. He bought the Hogtown Food Mart a year and a half ago.
"This market gave me a lot of opportunities," says Liaqat. He speaks of a hard time coming from Pakistan to the United States but brightens as he describes the warmth of the Hogtown community and the conviviality of his customers. Income from the market has helped send Liaqat's children to college and supported his wife and child back in Pakistan.
"I spent good time with my neighbors when I was running this market," Liaqat says. "Now everyone here is a family to me."