ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- Small business owners in St. Johns County are bracing for new, bigger competition as the population rises in the area.

Korner Supply is one of those small businesses where the front door creaks and the owner hums as he works.

Tex Barbee and his family took over what was a feed store near the Mill Creek area of western St. Johns County and "it wound up being a hardware store. That was the need for the area."

Just like Barbee knows hardware, he also knows his customers. He took a moment to explain who had just purchased something.

"Bethany works at Publix. Charlie is retired from the power company. And Janice is a teacher in Jacksonville," he said.

But what Barbee doesn't know is how much a proposed Ace Hardware, three miles away, will affect his business.

"I don't know. I'm sure because they can do more advertising, they'll get all the new people moving into the area," Barbee said.

And there are new people. According to the U.S. Census., from 2010 to 2016, St. Johns County's population grew by 24 percent to 235,000 people.

"Things have definitely changed here," customer Chase Liner said. "I've lived here since I was 3. And I remember everything being nothing but potato fields."

Some say growth has brought negative things like more traffic. Barbee explained, "It's horrible in the mornings. That traffic."

Others, like customer Cody Bronson, say the change is "for the better. There are businesses and jobs."

But many customers at the Korner Supply wonder if new neighbors and new businesses -- such as the proposed Ace Hardware -- will throw a wrench into Barbee's success.

"You feel good helping people and finding stuff for them," Barbee said. "And we go out of the way to do that."