Jaclyn Dunkerton says she owes her job at Starkville Nutrition to an unlikely source.
When Dunkerton came to the Russell Street business for an interview after starting school at Mississippi State University in the fall 2018 semester, she listed her past jobs for owner Wendy Taylor. One of them — a summer gig at a seafood restaurant called Tacky Jack’s in Gulf Shores, Alabama — stuck in Taylor’s mind.
“She was like, ‘I’m going to hire the girl who worked at Tacky Jack’s,’” Dunkerton said.
Through that, if nothing else, Dunkerton got the job. She was one of four employees who all started together shortly after the business opened in August 2018 and who, in time, became close friends. Dunkerton’s three coworkers were all part of her wedding in July 2020.
“They were just kind of learning, too,” Dunkerton said of her first days on the job. “That was probably the neatest thing: that we all got to learn together.”
Now, she’s the “last one standing” of the four at Starkville Nutrition — nearly three years after she started.
“I’ve been here the whole time that they’ve been open, so I’ve been able to help kind of grow this with them, which has been super fun,” Dunkerton said.
Dunkerton was named a manager a year into her tenure and is currently heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the business. She handles a variety of things, including ordering, stocking and organizing benefit days for the community.
Starkville Nutrition specializes in low-carb, low-sugar protein shakes and zero-sugar, 24-calorie loaded teas as well as serving specialty drinks that are essentially combinations of the two. Dunkerton said new customers who come in and try the concoctions often wonder what they’ve been missing out on.
“I have so many people who come in and they were big coffee drinkers, and then they start drinking these and they don’t feel as weighed down,” she said. “It has natural things to help your mind focus. It’s just natural clean energy that really makes a big difference in people compared to coffee or Red Bull or stuff like that.”
In most cases, those who like what they get from Starkville Nutrition come back at least once or twice a week.
That’s just what Dunkerton wants to see, she said.
“I love how people really do see a change and see little things you can do for your body and take care of it,” she said. “It’s nice whenever they feel comfortable with us. They like seeing our smiling faces when they come in. We kind of help inspire them to want to take care of their bodies and to just be the healthiest you possible.”
Dunkerton knows all about that. When she was 20, doctors thought she had Crohn’s disease and put her on a restrictive diet plan, cutting out dairy, fried food and high-fiber food to find out what was causing problems.
Eventually, she was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome instead.
“I really thought at one point I wanted to be a dietician because I’ve done a ton of research with my gut,” Dunkerton said.
Instead, life has taken her on a different path. After her first year at MSU, Dunkerton dropped out in order to work two jobs: her position at Starkville Nutrition and another job as a traveling secretary for horse shows.
Her husband Thomas is still at MSU, finishing his final year of school. When he graduates in May, they’ll return to Laurel to live on a farm.
But Dunkerton is far from done with her time at Starkville Nutrition. She’ll come up from time to time to check on the store and said she’d be interested in similar work down the road.
Even if that doesn’t come to pass, she’ll still stay connected with the store where three years ago she found a home.
“I’m just happy I’ll still have my hand in this one,” Dunkerton said.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.