Supply Chain Council of European Union |

Big Oak General Store serves up new dishes in second year | Mclean County

Whether you are looking for groceries for the week or wanting to stop by for a bite to eat, Big Oak General Store is the perfect spot to create your own meals or explore your taste buds with one of the store’s handcrafted creations.

The store, which opened its doors in July 2019 at 140 Main St. in Calhoun, has expanded from a one-room facility to a full-service space offering pre-made frozen meals, fresh meats, fruits and vegetables and a deli counter offering hot and cold items.

James Perkins, owner of the store, said that they opened six months before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“For us, it really made us go into full body mode,” Perkins said. “Constantly calling wholesalers, trying to get all of the products that we could for our community. We were ordering way more than we have ever had the six months previous and just hoping things would come in.”

Some of the uncertainty of the then-new store’s future was due to the nationwide meat shortage in May 2020, but Perkins said that they ended up never enduring a problem and that business was booming.

“We had pre-ordered out enough, and I was talking to wholesalers enough that we never had the shortage here,” Perkins said. “That helped us a lot. Really, through that first summer and fall, we did worry (if) the boost in sales (was) just because of COVID, people’s fear of going to the big box stores.”

However, Perkins is assured that was not the case and continued to see new customers coming in on a regular basis.

“Since then, we haven’t had that fear,” Perkins said. “It seems (that) … more people know that we’re here and are shopping more local.”

Perkins also notes that he encounters a number of people that are just finding out about the store.

“(They’re) like, ‘Oh, did you just open?’ and I went, ‘No, we’ve been open for two-and-a-half years,’ ” Perkins said. “And they’re like, ‘Well, surely you just opened a couple weeks ago.’ We have that stuff pretty constant.”

Perkins noted that with the closure of IGA on West Second Street, there were not many grocery stores remaining in the Calhoun area.

Eventually, Perkins decided to leave his career as a public and private mathematics and social studies teacher in Daviess County Public Schools, Henderson County Schools and McLean County Public Schools and purchased the building with the intention of having it serve as a farmer’s market.

While different avenues, he notes that his teaching experiences have served him well with this transition.

“A lot of the dynamics are the same,” Perkins said. “You’ve got to build relationships with your wholesalers just like you have to with your students and their parents.”

Now with two-and-a-half years of business under his belt, Perkins has begun to diversify the store’s offerings, including specialty items that can be ordered at the deli section, such as thick crust chicken bacon ranch and buffalo chicken pizzas, freshly baked brownies and donuts and sandwich creations like “The Mafia” — a submarine consisting of ham, pepperoni and salami coupled with provolone cheese and pizza sauce.

“We had always talked with another guy that has three stores up in Illinois,” Perkins said. “Him and his wife have really helped us get started, helped with wholesalers, and they told us from the beginning (that) being a small grocery, you also need to do a deli. We looked at it over and over and then finally at the (Winkler Wholesale Grocers’) grocery show this past August, we sat down with them and talked and talked to other small grocery owners and every one of them (told us) that (we’re) gonna have to get into more hot foods.”

Perkins was able to receive guidance from the Illinois couple, Chuck and Julie Rose, who gave Perkins their pizza recipes, which proved successful and eventually led Perkins to branch out to other ideas of his own to offer consumers.

“We started doing a pizza bowl — just a crustless pizza,” Perkins said. “We’ve got a couple more (pizzas) that we’re working on now that hopefully will come out in the next couple weeks.”

While Perkins was able to combat through both the alpha and delta variants of COVID without major issues, Perkins said that they are seeing more shortages in the last three months than when COVID first hit, saying it’s been “the worst of trying to get product on the shelf,” but he’s keen on staying afloat for the people he serves.

“(We’re) just trying to make sure our community has food and helping (them) out … and trying to stay on top of it,” Perkins said. “We added actually, in the last couple months, two more wholesalers, just to try to make sure that we have product.”

For more information on the store, specialties and additional updates, visit

Freddie Bourne, [email protected]

Related posts

Park rehab, Scout food drive, turkey distribution – The Daily Gazette


InnoCan Signs its First Distribution Agreement with “Active Therapeutics” for InnoCan’s CBD Derma Cosmetics products in the United Kingdom and Ireland


COVID-19 vaccine distribution could begin in 3 weeks