Steve Fernandez of PH Country Style Market

On the Market

As the owners of a full-service grocery store in downtown Port Huron – a former food desert – Steve Fernandez and his wife Michele Jones are serving and feeding their local community

Before opening the PH Country Style Market in downtown Port Huron in March 2022, owner Steve Hernandez lived several lives. Born in Arizona, Steve moved to Germany with his family while his father served in the U.S. Army, graduated from high school in southern California and attended college in Hawaii before enlisting in the U.S. Air Force. He served on active duty for four years and had a 27-year-long career in the U.S. Air Force Reserves in multiple roles.

Steve’s knowledge of the petroleum business through the U.S. Air Force led him to a 30-year-plus career in the petrochemical industry in Alaska before retiring to Arizona in 2017. In 2018, Steve and his wife Michele moved back to Port Huron to develop the 310 Huron Ave. building downtown, the future home of PH Country Style Market.

Following a childhood and career that took him around the world, Steve is proud to be an integral part of the downtown Port Huron community.


What brought you to Michigan from Arizona?

The origins of our relationship with Port Huron and Michigan in general started with a work assignment back in May 2012. I was named the plant manager of the Marysville polypropylene manufacturing site. This assignment brought me to Michigan from Anchorage, Alaska. At that time, we purchased a home in Port Huron and then started to establish roots in the local area. We really fell in love with this quaint community and its people.




Why was it important to you to open a grocery store in Port Huron?

After we purchased the building located at 310 Huron Ave., we started to collect information on what the community most wanted to see put into that location. After hearing from multiple people that this town needed a grocery store, we started to look into that situation. What we discovered was that this in fact was true, that Port Huron’s downtown area was designated as a food desert, and it was at this point that we seriously started to look at the potential of putting a grocery store in the downtown location.


What led to renovating the PH Country Style Market building and what is the history of the location downtown?

Once the determination was made that this building could potentially handle putting a grocery store into this location, we began our due diligence as to whether this building could house a store within its walls. This store location previously held a massive Woolworth’s store, which was purchased by them in 1939, and then renovated to house the five and dime store for its operations. This building was in use by Woolworth’s from 1939 through 1975 or so. After that it was used as a clothing store, and eventually turned into a furniture store. Then it became empty after the financial collapse of 2011 and stayed empty until we purchased it in February of 2018.




What has the community response been like?

Very positive, supportive from the very beginning and most importantly it is becoming a vital downtown meeting resource for many nonprofits here in town. We continue to be a high-visibility business due to our support of the YMCA, and other nonprofits like The United Way of St. Clair County.


Talk about the Michigan produce and products you feature at the store.

We feature produce secured from Detroit’s Eastern Market, and we also purchase our meats from Weeks Meat Market based out of Richmond, Michigan. We also continue to purchase and feature locally made products, and/or locally grown products as they become available from the Amish farmers up in the northern part of the state. It is and has always been our mission to feature and support our local farmers and product producers and stay away from national chains wherever possible. We don't sell Lay's products, but instead feature potato chips from Better Made, a Michigan company, and drinks like Faygo Pop.




A local grocery store is an important and integral part of a community – how does it feel to have PH Country Style Market be that place for Port Huron residents?

At times it has been a little overwhelming, and very gratifying when things are going well. We have purposely integrated ourselves, as the high-visibility owners, to ensure that our message is getting out and that our vision for downtown is properly communicated to the folks here in our little hometown.


Do you have any plans for future offerings, products or classes as your business grows?

The short answer is yes, but it has taken some time for us to figure out the right mix of goods and foods to offer here. We see the Amish bulk foods as an important new direction, and along with that comes access to the Amish farmers and products. We will be maximizing our efforts to bring their products to this market on a much larger scale than just weekend farmer’s markets, which is basically how most of their product gets to market currently.


What do you like about living and working in the state, particularly in Port Huron?

We like the small-town feel of this location, combined with the amazing river right next to us that has the massive freighters navigating the local waters, and of course being right here at the bottom of beautiful Lake Huron just makes it that much sweeter. Port Huron is a fabulous little town, with big-time amenities, and lots of great golf courses nearby to enjoy too! It’s kind of cold living here in the wintertime, but with so much to see and do it’s just a matter of making good use of our time here.

We feel very blessed to have made such good friendships here, both professionally and personally, and there is so much to see and do here that we just are still awed by all the great things that Michigan has to offer, including the great museums and other pro-sports activities in this region. Combine that with the great summertime weather and activities and it just makes us feel like we made the right choice to live and work here.




Learn how the Michigan Small Business Development Center helped Steven and Michele get their business plan for PH Country Style Market going and make their dream of serving the Port Huron community a reality.