Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull 

In 1975, Stuart Dunaway, Lee Davis and Mitchell Carlson teamed together to take over the former A&P grocery store location, which Lee had managed, on School Street in Kilmarnock in order to form the new Tri-Star Supermarket.

Eight years thereafter they employed an engaging young lady to work there. Now, nearly four decades later that young lady is doing her part to keep alive the store’s great heritage of personal service as the manager, a position she has held for many years.

Her name is Francine Jones, and to the store’s many customers, she epitomizes the essence of hometown living. Francine has maintained the traditions of the store’s late three founders by continuing to inculcate in all of the employees the daily practice of the establishment’s motto, “Where respect for you is always in stock.” A sub-motto well could be, “If we do not have it, we’ll get it for you.”

In the long course of her tenure at Tri-Star, Francine has gone through the move from the old School Street stand to the former Safeway building on Irvington Road, which itself 50 years ago was a replacement for the previous structure that had been built in the time-honored Safeway “Quonset hut” style of architecture and which had stood on the site of the store’s present parking lot.

For many of the store’s loyalists, it is far more than a shopping venue, having become a social center where friends meet and greet while getting their groceries. Chatting with the employees is another expected routine at the store. As a business, the store manifests the family-oriented qualities typical of hometown life. More than a store, it is a venue.

While at the store, Francine is ubiquitous and can be found, wearing her green apron, at one point or another in every aisle, for no detail is beyond her purview. I tell her that I think she must have an apartment in the back of the building, as she is always there, but then again that is the premier quality of a first-class manager.

The same year that Francine “exchanged vows” with Tri-Star, she exchanged other vows with Tom Jones, who likes to say that he does not know which was her greater challenge. 

Perhaps some of his friends might be able to help him decide? Tom has shared Francine’s longtime commitment of service to the community, having given thousands of hours to the Kilmarnock Volunteer Fire Department, many of them as chief. Tom is a quintessential volunteer, always prepared and ready to lend his manifold abilities to whatever civic good comes his way. He is a veritable model citizen in his service to the community.

A true native of Kilmarnock, having been born and raised in the town, Tom and Francine, who grew up in a wide variety of locales, continue to make the town their home today. Both of them are dedicated homebodies, gardeners, and devotees of good order, each one liking to have everything in its proper place. Tom has a particular talent for coming up with the right word at the right time and is known as a gifted raconteur, often in a self-deprecating way.

Kilmarnock and the Northern Neck at large have good reason to celebrate this week, as Tuesday was Francine’s birthday. She is an exemplar of meeting the public’s needs and wishes in a manner that is always friendly, courteous and professional. In the process she fosters the appreciation of all that is truly wonderful about living in a small town.

Happy Birthday, Francine! You are at the Peak of Youth!