North Carolina General Stores Offer Shopping for Simpler Times
Long before iPads and electronic devices topped wish lists to Santa, children longed for simpler pleasures such as wooden toys, kites, puzzles, battery-free games and candies. As the holiday season inspires the nostalgia of yesteryear, so do old-fashioned general stores across North Carolina, and they carry all those things and more.
Town Hardware & General Store
Town Hardware & General Store has been a fixture in picturesque Black Mountain since 1928, and occupies three historic buildings including a former drugstore and five-and-dime store. Peter and Beth Ballhaussen bought it in July 2013 and are the fourth set of owners in the store’s history.
“It has original wood floors that creak when you walk, and a bell rings when the door opens,” Beth says. “People tend to stay awhile since we have three large rooms. We have a little bit of everything. The motto has been, ‘If Town Hardware doesn’t have it, you don’t need it.’”
Town Hardware & General Store is a working hardware store with everything you’d expect from a hardware chain, but that’s just the beginning. Beyond the tools, customers will find canning and gardening supplies, cast iron cookware, kitchenware, wind chimes, axes, knives, old-fashioned cleaning supplies, soaps, shaving supplies, toys and gifts.
“There’s a trend among people of self-sufficiency and getting back to homesteading, and people come to us for meat grinders, cherry pitters, apple presses, and our huge selection of homesteading books on keeping goats or chickens, fibers and crafting,” Beth says. “People also come to us to get lamps repaired and replacement parts for their old pressure cookers or other items they’ve inherited. It thrills customers when they realize we have things they can’t find anywhere else.”
Grandparents often bring their grandchildren to Town Hardware to explore the toy selection, filled with boomerangs, handcrafted bows and arrows, art supplies, wagons, sleds, die-cast cars, paper dolls, yo-yos, rubberband guns, harmonicas and puzzles.
“Grandparents remember all these old toys, so it’s a wonderful way for them to interact with their grandkids,” Beth says. “They love getting kids interested in things that are fun but aren’t electronic and don’t zap all your attention immediately.”
More than 50 different craft sodas from around the country can also be found at Town Hardware, along with jams, jellies, pickled items, local honey and candy – licorice, lemon drops, rock candy and Goo Goo Clusters, for starters.
Priddy’s General Store
Priddy’s General Store has been serving the Danbury community since 1888, first as a bank, post office and dry goods store. Today, its original pine shelves are filled with antiques, local art, jams and jellies, ciders, honey and purple sweet potato butter – a Stokes County tradition. Customers will also find Pointer Brand overalls, local produce, country hams, glass bottle sodas and fried apple pies.
“Holiday shopping is about finding unique treasures that will warm the hearts of those on your list – old-fashioned Christmas ornaments, great stocking stuffers and candies including the hard Christmas mix, coconut bon bons, chocolate creme drops and double-dipped chocolate covered peanuts,” says Jane Priddy Charleville, owner of Priddy’s. “Kids love it here for the cowboy and cowgirl hats they want for Christmas. We assemble gift baskets for the hard-to-shop-for folks on your list.”
In February, May, October and December, locals flock to Priddy’s for a family-friendly event called Pickin’ at Priddy’s, featuring live bluegrass music.
“We are all about taking a step back and giving our customers the experience of the taste, sight, sound and feel of the good old days,” Charleville says. “I love working here and carrying on a tradition began by my grandparents. Wonderful people come here to experience a simpler time when folks had time to talk – to experience something that is wholesome, honest and real.”
The General Store in Beaufort
Along the coast, The General Store in Beaufort isn’t as old as most, but it’s equally charming. Built in 1980 with antique features by Gerald and Ruth Moore, The General Store serves both locals and tourists in this quaint oceanfront town.
If You Go...
“We’re best known for our 32 flavors of wonderful ice cream and our friendly scoopers,” says Sandra Moore Bray, the owners’ daughter. “The General Store has always served hand-dipped ice cream, and customers come in today with their young children and say they got ice cream here with their families when they were children. It’s truly a family atmosphere, and it starts with 80-year-old Mr. Moore greeting everyone at the front cash register as they walk in, wanting to know where they are from. Chances are he’s lived there, been there or has some connection.”
Besides ice cream, The General Store sells 16 flavors of homemade fudge, sportswear, jewelry, gifts, local Pirates Brew coffee, Beaufort shirt and cap combos, saltwater taffy and peanuts.
“Holiday shopping is great because we carry nautical ornaments and Christmas cards, along with holiday jewelry, fresh fudge tins, nautical puzzles, books, toys, scarves and sweatshirts,” Bray says. “I’m working alongside my parents to make sure The General Store tradition keeps on going.”
– Jessica Mozo