MOUNT WASHINGTON - After a lifetime of service, local businesswoman Pearl Hudson, 78, will hand over control of Pearl's Food Mart on Tuesday.
Though the convenience store and its name will remain much the same under new management, Hudson's retirement will mark the end of an era in Mount Washington history.
Hudson, who has operated the convenience store affectionately referred to as "Pearl's" for a quarter century, said her last day will be bittersweet, but it's time to pass the torch.
"I'm going to miss it like a sore thumb," she said with a smile. "People say to me, 'you can't go,' I tell them, I'm tired. I'm going home people...after 20-something years I guess you could say it's the end of an era."
Hudson said she's ready to retire so she can spend time reconnecting with her husband of 63 years, Carbon Hudson.
"It's time for us to have some quiet time," she said.
Though it's taken a lot of hard work and sacrifice to make the business what it is today, Hudson said she will miss it, but she'll miss her customers most of all.
Of the 450 customers Pearl's sees on an average day, Hudson said she knows all of them and their families.
"I'll miss my customers, not the long hours, but I will miss the customers," she said. "They're like family."
For years Hudson's regulars have gone to her with their problems, whether they needed someone to confide in, business advice, counseling or financial help.
"There's not much I haven't heard," she said laughing. "If they need somebody to talk to, here they come."
Asked what contributed to Pearl's success, Hudson said without hesitation it was customer relations.
"I think you need to treat your customers the way they'd want to be treated," she said. "That's how you build relationships."
When it comes to getting to know people, most would call Hudson a pro, which may explain why so many politicians passing through Mount Washington have made a point to stop at Pearl's to connect with Bullitt Countians on the campaign trail.
Hudson, who made an unsuccessful run for Bullitt County magistrate in 2010, though she never considered herself a politico, said she never understood why so many politicians have gravitated to Pearl's.
Nevertheless, Hudson said hosting candidates has been beneficial to the store and to the community.
As to whether Pearl's will continue serving as a scene for politicians on the stump under the new management, that remains to be seen, but Hudson said she will do her best to see that it does.
Hudson said she's confident Pearl's will continue operating as it has under her watch, adding that the new owner has agreed to retain all the employees who want to stay on.
Hudson said she hopes her loyal customers will continue to support Pearl's even though she's retiring.
Sandy Cheatham, 75, who has worked for Hudson on and off since the mid-1990s, said he's sad to see her retire, but he's happy for her.
"She's such a great lady," he said. "It's time she takes it easy."
While most of Hudson's staff has agreed to stay on, Cheatham, who retired twice before going to work for Pearl's, said with Pearl leaving it's time for him to retire again.
"I'll miss working there," he said. "The people are fantastic. You meet so many nice people."
Cheatham called Hudson a "Mount Washington institution."
"There'll never be another one like her," he said. "I love Pearl because she's straight forward. If you do something right she'll tell you you're doing a good job, but if you do something wrong believe you me she'll let you know....she's just an amazing lady."
The evolution of Pearl's began in 1987 when Hudson opened a Convenient Food Mart franchise on the property Pearl's currently occupies.
It wasn't until 1996 that Hudson renamed the convenient store Pearl's after Convenient Food Mart broke her lease.
Six years later Hudson had the business paid off and Pearl's belonged to her.
Long before Pearl's was ever conceived, Hudson dreamed of opening her own business growing up in a small town in eastern Kentucky.
It all started when Hudson was a mere child working at her parents' grocery store, which was half the size of Pearl's Food Mart.
Hudson fondly recalled frying hamburgers for customers who frequented the store, which sold a few groceries, hot sandwiches, candy, soda and gasoline.
As payment for her labor, Hudson's parents gave her a Coke and a candy bar every week.
"I loved it," she remembered. "I always knew I wanted to open my own store...I said when I grow up I'm gonna have a big place."
Now that she has fulfilled her goal of owning her own store, Hudson said she's ready to spend more time with her husband and do some traveling.
"There are a lot of things I'd like to see, especially in Kentucky...We've been all over the world and I've never really seen Kentucky," she said. "But mostly I'd like to stay home and have some quiet time."
While Pearl said she's looking forward to retirement, she's going to miss Pearl's.
"It's been hard work, but it's been fun," she said. "I've been blessed...It's been a good run."