It’s been nearly a decade since the old Pungo Food Mart on NC Highway 99 in Beaufort County closed.
Now, new owners, Nikki and Jordan Paniagua, are restoring it in hopes it will offer a more convenient shopping option for their community.
“Twenty minutes each way give or take to get to your nearest store,” said Nikki Paniagua. Plymouth which is about 20 minutes give or take from here. Then you have Pantego which has one convenience store. That’s probably about 15 minutes. Belhaven is probably about 20.”
The Paniaguas are high school sweethearts from Beaufort County. About three years ago, they returned to the east after Mr. Paniagua spent more than a decade in the United States Air Force.
It was then that they discovered how far they had to travel just to pick up the basic necessities.
That’s when they had the idea to restore the old Pungo Food Mart.
“I grew up coming to this store,” said Mrs. Paniagua. “My parents grew up coming to this store.”
Nikki’s father, Michael Dunbar, says when he was a kid the old Pungo Food Mart was one of several stores, but ended up outlasting them all.
“This store eventually put the other stores out of business, and it was about eight, nine years ago when it actually shut down,” said Dunbar.
Then late last year, the Paniaguas decided to make it there’s.
It’s called MJ’s Country Store named in honor of the couple’s 11-year-old daughter Mia and four year old son Jordan.
Crews are busy working to open the store by March 16th.
“Right now, we’re trying to get our kitchen up and running, finishing painting the walls,” said Mr. Paniagua. “We had to change some stuff around, and we’re trying to get that up and running at the moment.”
The owners said MJ’s will have hot breakfast and lunch to-go everyday.
Once the store opens, you can check the store’s Facebook page for daily specials.