Fish Hawk Acres wins SBA Rural Owned Business of the Year

Buckhannon market and catering service specializes in chef-prepared meals made fresh daily with regional foods

Fish Hawk Acres wins SBA Rural Owned Business of the Year

Fish Hawk Acres wins SBA Rural Owned Business of the Year

Longtime friends Dale Hawkins and Teresa Lipps opened Fish Hawk Acres in 2007, operating their farm-fresh catering business out of the back of an IGA in Rock Cave, Upshur County. 

As their customer base expanded, so did they, and now you can find Fish Hawk Acres at its own storefront in Buckhannon. The catering business has grown to include a restaurant, café and market where customers can enjoy fresh-prepared daily specials, salads and desserts or shop for West Virginia-made food products and handcrafted wares.

"We have seen tremendous growth in the past 3.5 years since our market has been open," said Chef Dale Hawkins. "Our catering business has blossomed and continues to grow. People find that we take the work out of the hassle of entertaining and they can enjoy their event, have delicious food and professional staff to handle the daunting task of feeding a large group.”

Fish Hawk Acres wins SBA Rural Owned Business of the Year

Rural-Owned Small Business of the Year

The vision and tenacity demonstrated by Hawkins and Lipps is just one of the reasons Fish Hawk Acres has been awarded SBA’s 2019 Rural Owned Small Business of the year, said Susie Higgins of the WV SBDC, who serves as their business coach and who nominated them for the award.

“They’re great people—very humble folks. Their love of West Virginia shines through in everything they do,” Higgins said.

Hawkins is a graduate of the Pennsylvania Institute for Culinary Arts and served as an apprentice for the Disney World Culinary program, and Lipps’ culinary skills are self-taught through the traditions of good, old fashioned home cooking and taking it to the next level. Both had worked for others and wanted to make the leap to owning and operating their own business.

“Being in business for one’s self is the American dream,” Hawkins said. “We have the talent and skills, and we wanted to put our knowledge to work for ourselves and serve our guests.” 

When the idea for Fish Hawk Acres was born, they turned to the WV SBDC to help make that dream a reality.

“Susie Higgins has been instrumental in helping us, providing us solid business plans, assisting us with securing low-interest small business loans and other resources available. Her guidance helped point us in the right direction,” Hawkins said. “The West Virginia Small Business Development Center is a treasured resource.”

Fish Hawk Acres wins SBA Rural Owned Business of the Year

A vision come to fruition

From their outstanding catering services, which extends as far north as Pittsburgh and east into Virginia, to their Buckhannon restaurant, which continues to expand, Fish Hawk Acres has proven to be a smashing success.

“I believe their vision has come to fruition,” Higgins said of her clients. “Fish Hawk Acres is a destination business. People come from all over to get the specials and the baked goods, and they’re showcasing West Virginia products by other vendors at their market, which helps local artisans.”

The business also benefits the local economy by employing approximately 8 to 9 full-time staff and 15 to 20 seasonal and part-time staff, not including the out-of-town catering teams, Hawkins said.  

“We work hard and our staff works hard to satisfy our customers. We strive to do all that we can for our community, support the local agriculture and make a difference,” he said, adding that it’s an honor that Fish Hawk Acres has been awarded Rural Owned Small Business of the Year.  

“Being recognized is a great achievement, and receiving the award is even better. We always say it is a great compliment when people ask for seconds at a meal. Likewise, this is a great compliment to our business to receive this award.”