CONWAY – Joyce Joyner can remember walking down the sidewalks of Conway going from store to store when she was a young girl. She can remember when the little Northampton County town, located where Highway 158 meets Highway 35, was thriving. It’s memories like these and many more that have pushed Joyner to work towards revitalizing her hometown.
Her plan for getting that started? It’s called the Train Station Farmer’s Market.
“I just sat up in bed one night and said this is what I want to do,” Joyner explained of how she came up with the idea.
After several months of planning and organizing, the “Train Station” finally held its grand opening here Saturday morning. The farmer’s market, which got its name because of the train tracks that run through the heart of the town, hosted a variety of vendors, food options, and some local entertainment. Though the temperature outside rose up to the 90’s on Saturday, plenty of people still came out to the parking lot of the Conway Town Hall to visit all the vendors under bright colorful tents.
Some vendors had a hodge-podge of yard sale items while others sold specialties like jewelry, wood-crafted items, or different kinds of food. Representatives from the town’s fire department, police department, and rescue squad also came out to interact with the community.
Billie Simkins was one of the vendors camped under a tent, chatting with people who stopped by to look at her wares. The items displayed on her table were a collection of smooth blue and green sea glass from Japan, along with decorative designs she created using them.
“My husband is working over there, and in his downtime he walks the Sea of Japan and picks up glass and sends it home,” Simkins explained.
“This is wonderful for Conway,” she said of the market, adding that she already has plans to come back again next month with more decorative art. “My prettiest ones have already sold.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at 10 a.m. to commemorate the special occasion.
“We’d like to welcome each and every one of y’all here today for our first ever Train Station Farmer’s Market,” said Mayor Tommy Barrett as he greeted the crowd. “We want it to be nice for the citizens.”
After the ribbon-cutting, a prayer, and then a song from a quartet of local singers, Joyner stepped up to the microphone to thank people for coming out, also expressing her gratitude toward Mayor Barrett and the town commissioners. She went before the town board several times in order to explain her vision and gain their support.
She also recognized the three people—her brother James Deloatch, Marcenda Rogers, and Diane Jordan—who have been helping her for months to organize the event. They call themselves the “All Aboard Express Team.”
“I want to see this town thrive and be prosperous again. I’m tired of seeing our stores and stuff close,” Joyner said, mentioning the loss of town staples such as the bank, the restaurant, and the drug store. “We cannot stand to lose no more.”
Joyner urged people who want to help out to get involved and continue to support the town.
“This is a wonderful day,” said Conway Town Administrator Nancy Jenkins as she walked from tent to tent. “We’re so proud of what Joyce Joyner has done to bring a community spirit back to Conway. She’s worked very hard. And you can tell by the turnout today that it’s a wonderful success.”
“When Joyce came to me with this idea, I thought it was something wonderful because it would enhance the town of Conway,” said Marcenda Rogers, taking a moment to step away from where she was selling jewelry. “It gets us all together.”
Rogers explained the vendors were able to set up their tables and tents for free for the grand opening, but next month there will be a small fee for vendors. That money will be given back to the town of Conway.
“None of us are going to make any money from it,” said Rogers.
Joyner said she was happy to see everything come together, especially after months of hard work to gain support, spread the word, and get people involved.
“I love this town. I was born right down the street here. My father owned two businesses here, and he instilled in us not to give up,” she said, mentioning how that inspired her not to give up on making the market a reality.
Though retired from full-time work now, Joyner said revitalizing Conway is her new focus.
“There’s no better job than trying to do something for my hometown,” she said proudly.
The next Train Station is scheduled to open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 2 on the grounds of the Conway Town Hall. They hope to continue to open on the first Saturday of each month. For more information on getting involved, contact Joyner at 252-396-5870.