Saturday, July 21, 2007

Country Stores

I like country stores, not the stylized fake country stores like Cracker Barrel, but the real Mom and Pop type country store. You can find these strategically located in places not busy enough for a (ugh) convenience store yet far enough from a real grocery store to catch folks who don't want to drive into town just for a gallon of milk.
The one above, Carters Crossroads carries just the essentials that we all run out of unexpectedly sometimes. Things like eggs, milk, bread, toilet paper, beer, soda, oil, chips, etc. It is in many ways, a typical country store, yet like any outback store, it's unique in it's own way. Carter's claim to fame is the bull riding "arena" (some corral fence and wooden bleachers) that adjoin it. Every so often the store hosts bull riding mini-rodeo type events.
When I was a kid (uh oh, run!) growing up in St. Augustine, I worked every harvest season from 8th grade until my first year of college at Povia Brothers Farm. Mostly I worked in a packing house back in town, but sometimes I would drive trucks out to Elkton where the farm was located. In Elkton there was a country store called Masters (a fine Minorcan family) Grocery. It was an old wooden store building right out of a hollywood movie set.
On Fridays, the migrant workers (poor whites and blacks, not illegals back then) would get paid and they would fill that store at the end of the day to cash their checks. The nearest bank was 15 miles away in St. Augustine and these farm workers did not own cars. The store owner would stand behind his cashier as she handed out cash,with a huge pistol strapped on his hip for all the world to see.
The message was clear.
That old store is a pizza restaurant today.

My long time readers will remember this picture from an older post. I'm using it again because this is the kind of thing I usually duck into a country store for ... a snack. Country stores are a treasure chest of odd and easily consumed snacks.

You can expect to see big jars of pickled eggs, pickled pigs feet, pickles, pickled sausages on the store counter. Nearby will be all manner of dried and smoked jerky and slim jim type products plus fried pork rinds. Should you wander over to the shelves, you may see easy open cans of "potted meat" and beanie weenies.

Some country stores have a sort of mini-restaurant corner too. Down in Holey Land I stopped in a country store for lunch and had an open face roastbeef sandwich with real mashed potatoes that I still recall fondly on sleepless nights. It was amazing.

I like the smell of these combo country stores ... they always smell a little like breakfast was just cooked ... like a grandma's kitchen ... I may not be putting this into words very well, but I know I like it.

I imagine country stores are similar all over the country, even though the local foods and regional snack traditions would be different ... as it should be.

Got a favorite country store or country store snack?

For my high school buddies, Kevin and Billy, it was a Ray Charles and a moon pie.

I usually went with a strawberry Nehi ... peer pressure had no effect on me.

27 comments:

SophieMae said...

I've been trying for years to convinc ds of the pleasures of a coke (not Coke, I'm a Pepsi gal) and peanuts. He just doesn't like nuts. Go figger.

When I was fresh out of high school and walking a good 10 miles a day, my favourite treat was one of those Ray Charleses and an apple turnover. Believe it or not, they used to actually put some apple filling in those things.

Up in Tallahassee, there's Bradford's country store. It's kind of a legend... famous for it's sausage. I just like the ambience. 8-]

If you're ever wandering around Marianna area, after you see the caverns, be sure and stop in the little store at Two Egg, FL. Stay alert. If you blink, you'll miss the whole town.

Laura said...

Sadly, I don't have a country store to offer up, but I have seen those jars of pickled eggs and pickled sausages around the state in various places.

I do have a favorite old country restaurant to tell you about, if that's okay.
When we bought our land out near Hawthorne, the only restaurant for miles around at the time was the Fried Chicken Factory on route 301. Nothing fancy but all the locals ate there. They had formica tables and old plastic drinking glasses, and the best ice tea on the planet. It's the only place I've ever ordered my ice tea sweetened.

Hub got hooked on their fried catfish, and I remember being so exhausted from clearing the land and sometimes working in the cold or the rain, that getting inside that restaurant to get a hot meal was the best thing on earth.
And the locals never cared if we showed up in jeans and work boots, because they were all wearing the same things, too.

I don't know if they're still in business, it's been over 10 years since I've been out that way.

Here's to the Mom and Pop operations everywhere!

kevin said...

You get the best fried chicken gizzards at those places. Sadly, the 16 oz. glass bottled Ray Charles are no longer available and the cans just aren't the same. Those were the days before twist off tops.

threecollie said...

Our country store is really a farm store...no food, but every single part or piece or bit of anything you can use in farming...the biggest Tempco dealer in the country in a little tiny town of a couple hundred people.

Hurricane Teen said...

I am a country store lover, too...My favorite one is the general store in Molasses Junction. I don't even think it has a name, but I do know it used to be owned by the Rogero family. Every time I drive through there I always stop for some boiled peanuts, fried gizzards, and sweet tea. That store has EVERYTHING that you will need. It also has a batting cage attached to it, which I have never seen anyone use. It's common to have people block you in the "parking lot," and you have to wait for them to leave before you can...I love it, though...Such a great environment for me.

Floridacracker said...

Sophie,
Fried fruit pies ... I used to love those as a teen too. MickeyD's actually had a pretty tastey one, but I can generally resist the whole fried pie and MD's these days.
I know Two Eggs and love the caverns.

Laura,
I've eaten there too, but I think it closed. I believe I heard that a while back.
Good chow tho.

Kevin,
Yowza, I love chicken gizzards. When Sandy P. worked at KFC back in the day, I could go in and order a small and she'd fill a dinner box up with gizzards for me.
What a sweetie. Pays to have connections.

ThreeCollie,
Welcome home from camp!


Hurricane Teen,
I almost included Molasses Junction, but I had not been in for awhile and you know how the area is changing ... it could have become a nail salon for all I knew!
I think Harry's Curb Mart on SR-16 also qualifies. Any thing from sausage to archery supplies as I recall. I grew up less than a mile from there.

Sharon said...

Oh yeah, Strawberry Nehi!! That was it, my great Uncle owned a country store/service station in the backwoods town my Mom is from in TN. Just like you describe, and they had the best ham sandwiches...

bluebird of paradise said...

i like country stores too. my aunt and uncle owned one in a little northern new brunswick village. every summer my mom would put my sister and i on the train and that's where we spent our summer. juniper junction. my aunt mazie would let us scrape out the ice cream tubs when they were empty. and we were allowed to keep any coins that fell on the floor behind the counter. lots of lovely memories.
an st augustine is one of my favourite places. i was there last year.

Hurricane Teen said...

I run down to Harry's Curb Mart all the time to get things for my grandma. It's the only store I know of that sells fresh Datil peppers.

Deb said...

We have a little store about 12 miles away, the Duquette General Store, that sells everything from deli sandwiches to live bait to Carrhart clothing. They recently expanded to add feed and hardware. They've been around a long time.

Floridacracker said...

Sharon,
Strawberry Nehi ... beautiful color, delicate bouquet, sweet nectar.

Bluebird,
You DO have wonderful country store memories. My grandparents had a tiny store too and it provided similar joy. Glad you enjoyed the ancient city!

HTeen,
As in actual peppers? ... not plants?
That is rare.

Deb,
I think these stores all feel familiar when you travel even though they are each unique.

Lindsay said...

Two of my favorite country stores that I frequent on a local basis are...

Pearl's Country Store in Micanopy- awesome BBQ

Chiappinni's in Melrose- cajun boiled peanuts and fishing bait

Yum!

Lindsay said...

Odd. For some reason that last comment posted under a different name. The few times I post on your blog- I post as 'thegatorgal'.

Anonymous said...

Where's the Chocola and boiled peanuts?

ArtfulSub said...

Your post brought back memories. Most importantly those of middle-class white kids who actually had things called "jobs".

And didn't depend on parents to drive them to sports/hobbie activities they weren't very good at until they turn 30.

My "General Store" distinctive memory actually was a Chain Store. A Charter/Supertest Gas Station but privately owned. Remember those?

There were bullet holes in the wall behind the live-bait refrigerator.

"Message Sent" to potential armed robbers, shoplifters, and other riff-raff.

Immokalee. Back when it was One Third Crackers, One Third Cane-Field Migrants, and One Third retired Mafia.

They had boiled peanuts AND swamp cabbage!

LauraHinNJ said...

Remind me: do you eat the peanuts when you're finished drinking or during?

SophieMae said...

It bugged me all day and sure enough, I wrote Bradford's. It's actually Bradley's Country Store. That's what happens when I try to 'do' mornings. It's next door to Bradfordville, so a semi-natural mistake. 8-}

Floridacracker said...

Lindsay aka "Gatorgal",
Either name is fine with me, a favorite niece of mine is named Lindsay and I'm married to a "Gatornut". I think I've been in Pearl's and I drive by Chiappinni's often on my way to St. Aug.
I've always wanted to stop in,now I have to.
In Micanopy, Henry Beckwith's gun store also has that old time ambiance. There's usually old guys sitting around the table by the counter and a hound dog asleep at their feet.
Thanks for commenting!

Anon,
How did I leave boiled peanuts out?
If chocola is like Yoohoo, it's on the shelf too.

Artfulsub,
Your first statements cracked me up. How true.
I do remember those stations (and Sinclair too!).
Boiled peanuts and swamp cabbage? That's like a ... what ... a 5 star country store!
:)

Laurahinnj,
Mostly during. If you wait till the end, they tend to be hard to get.
You really must try this.

Sophie,
No problemo. Thanks for the update!

Danielle B. said...

I love it when my husband 'spur of the moment' will stop at a 'zippy mart' and come out with a couple a bottles of coca-cola and two packages of peanuts...yum....I am also a big fan of the RC and moon pie....coming from 'GAWGA' and all. I was wondering if you could help me out....I posted a photo today (Sunday) and the reader asked what kind of bird it was...I am unsure....can you tell us???? I also tried to get my husband out to Cedar Key on Wednesday...but he is so addicted to fishing at Ozello.

Floridacracker said...

Danielle,
I posted your bird answer at your site, Anhingas are cool critters and your photo is excellent.
I can understand being addicted to Ozello's waters.

Danielle B. said...

Thanks! I am assuming that this http://musingsofamiddleagedwoman.blogspot.com/2007/04/not-so-wordless-wednesday_25.html

is an Anhinga also because of the spread wings??? We are headed out today to explore some of this wonderful state we live in...I'd like to head to the east coast for a change...the tweenager is getting her feathers ruffled about it but perhaps we could squeeze a shopping mall visit in-between the nature/beach walks ;)..I love all the information you have on your blog...thanks!!!

Suze said...

You mentioned a place to eat in Holey Land - is that the Holey Land area that spans western Broward County and Hendry County??? If so, where is it? That whole area is a Land Management Area......

Floridacracker said...

Danielle,
Always good to squeeze in a little food court and movie theater time when taking kids out into the wilds!
It's all about balance.

Suze,
OOPS!! I meant Yeehaw Junction ... faulty recollection due to a 25 year gap between that sandwich and now :)
That was 1982. I was detailed to Canaveral on a law enforcement assignment and I was way out there in ranch country.

Thanks for catching that error!

Susan said...

We have a little general store in our neck of the woods - Yalaha. Have you ever heard of it? There's a sign posted on the outside that says if they're not there then they've gone fishing. The Bar BQ smells great too. We used to dump some of our peanuts into the coke bottle and then eat them when we finished the drink. Yum!

pissed off patricia said...

Anyone who enjoys peanuts in their coke is AOK with me.

Suze said...

Shoot - I didn't want to catch an error - I was hoping that somewhere in the midst of the Holey Land land management area there might be a cute general store - it would give my husband and I something to search for....oh well.

billg8tr said...

Hey it was always RC and moonpie but peanuts or m&m's in a coke would do just fine. Just wanted to stop by and say hey. The store my parents owned wasn't exactly country sitting on the middle of the island but it will always be my favorite.

Billy