BY BRUCE BRANUM
The Greenville Standard
You just never know what life may bring or what small town may find its way in your heart.
This is story of McKenzie’s newest/one of the oldest stores and the owners, Tara and Gary Corley, who found their way back home to Alabama and fell in love with the Town of McKenzie, the community, and a simpler way of life.
Tara, who is from Graceville, said she met Gary in church in Clanton. He was an Airforce kid and was actively serving at Maxwell AFB. They fell in love and were married six weeks later.
After retiring from the Airforce, Gary went into nursing and from there, he and Tara moved to Louisiana.
It wasn’t long and they were both called to the ministry and then decided to move to Clewiston, Fla., which had a population of 7,000 or so and located on the south side of Lake Okeechobee.
They served there as pastors of the Evangel Assembly of God for 23 years.
They have five children, all adopted. Two sons are in the Airforce, two daughters which are married, and one son who is in high school.
Tara said, “We’ve been here since January of 2020 after retiring as pastors in south Florida. We originally planned to take a year’s sabbatical and after the year we found an opportunity here.”
She added, “We were looking for house in Alabama to be close to our families and found one in McKenzie that would be close enough to all our families, if needed, because everyone is getting older and needs looking after and where we are now is within an hour and a half drive to both our families.”
“We found our house online and looked at it and fell in love with it and begged the realtor how we could get into it. It went fast. We saw it at Christmas and closed on Jan. 15, 2020. We figure it was the Lord just working things out for us. When he has a plan it usually comes together,” she said.
As they were working on their house, they would go by Lowery’s Hardware to seek supplies and they weren’t always open.
The thought then entered their minds, “why don’t we buy the hardware and open our own business.”
When the Corleys approached Billy and Jill Lowery about buying the hardware store, Tara noted, that out of love for McKenzie community, the Lowerys said, “You know what, if you want to buy it, we’ll help you and we’ll finance it for you.”
She said the Billy and Jill Lowery had wanted to retire from the store they opened in 1974 but just couldn’t stand to see it closed.
Tara said, “We negotiated through the summer and came to terms and were able to get everything on paper. “
With COVID it took a little longer to get their business license and they legally opened on the Oct. 19, 2020.
“We’ve been adding new things and cleaning up and there was a large inventory in storage we needed to make room for in the showroom,” she said.
Tara added, “We’ve pretty much got everything in stock our customers have been asking for and open to carrying more items. If we don’t have it in stock, we can order it.
“We may charge a little more since we are not a big box store but we make up for that in customer service and a smile,” Tara said laughingly.
Tara said it has been a challenge but the community has been very supportive and gracious.
“We’ve adopted McKenzie, and so far I think McKenzie has adopted us but I don’t know if they actually claim us as ‘McKenzians’ yet,” Tara said.
In the future they plan to have a family fun day with give-a-ways to include T-shirts, hats, back packs, water hoses, drill bit sets, and much more.
She added there are small things and big things and gift certificates. “We want to put something in the hands of everybody as a thank you for coming to see us and to build excitement that hey there’s something going on there,” said Tara.
If you’re in the McKenzie area, stop by Corley’s Hardware & More and say hello. You are sure to receive a friendly welcome.