Chris and Carrie Hinely were on top of the world in March 2008.
A work friendship had blossomed into a romance and the two were newly married.
But, within months, the bottom dropped out of the economy – and their world.
By the end of the year, both had been laid off from their sales and marketing jobs, and they were scraping to get by.
“We were poor. We were living on savings and credit,” Carrie Hinely said.
Flash forward four years.
The Hinelys are celebrating the opening of the second location of the Peanut Man – a family-run store that sells peanuts, fresh pralines and a range of other tasty treats.
The new store on Lincoln Street in the Vista is meant to bring their products to a central location in the Midlands and closer to corporate customers, who order their gift baskets, Chris Hinely said. Their popular Northeast Richland store, which opened three years ago in the Village at Sandhill, will stay open, he added.
The Hinelys – with their rows of old-fashioned candy, racks of S.C. products and mouth-watering cases of candy apples and chocolate-smothered pretzels – make it look easy.
Getting to this point, though, has been anything but. In fact, the Peanut Man almost was derailed before it was started.
Chris Hinely first started noticing problems at the software company where he worked in mid-2008. Commissions were diminishing, and paychecks did not come at all some weeks.
He initially thought selling fresh-boiled peanuts on the weekends would help bring in some extra money to pay the bills. However, in August 2008, Carrie was laid off from her marketing job in a new home community. In December, Chris received his own pink slip.
Peanuts were all the couple – with three growing boys – had left.
Chris Hinely set up his wagon anywhere he could – a spot on Clemson Road, a Walmart parking lot and even Main Street – only to be promptly kicked out of all locations.
“I was just, like, ‘It’s over,’ ” Chris Hinely said.
The couple went to visit family in Savannah to take a break and reassess, visiting their favorite candy shops. “That is where the Peanut Man really began,” Carrie Hinely said.
There was nothing in the stores that the couple couldn’t make, she said.
With a renewed spirit, they returned to Columbia and set out in earnest to make their dream a reality.
Their date nights were spent at Books-a-Million, sharing a cup of coffee and reading books on marketing and building a company. They couldn’t afford to buy the books but learned a lot about operating a business.
“God knew what he was doing,” Carrie Hinely said.
With help from Village at Sandhill and any family member or friend who came by to visit, the Hinelys opened the first Peanut Man in 2009. They now have eight employees and will hire another half-dozen for their second location in the Vista. Sons, Matt, 21, Jared, 16, and Mitchell, 13, all pitch in to help at the family business.
Still, there are challenges.
The couple didn’t have money to hire a commercial electrical contractor to do renovations on the new store, but they found somebody who was willing to take a trade for Christmas baskets of goodies. They also work long hours every day with few breaks.
But, for the couple, the hard work has been worth it.
In less than two weeks of operation on Lincoln Street, they already have gained some regular customers and recorded a busy weekend of sales, Carrie Hinely said.
“I’m still amazed every single day. I wake up, and I can’t believe it’s happening. It’s very rewarding,” she said. “I wouldn’t change it. That’s for sure.”