General StoreOnce the center of the community, general stores offered the best of the area through wares, craftsmanship, and fresh produce.  They were the staples of the community as well as a place for farmers and laborers to warm their feet during the idle winter days.  It was also a simple warehouse of goods and convenience. The family member sent to town, picked up a paper, community news, (a.k.a. gossip), and any items on “the list”.

Today in rural WNC, the gas station’s coffee pot, the benche at the Hardee’s, and other similar spots, are where locals gather to talk and share.  Darlene Wolnik, blogger, shares a recent general store experience in Saxapahaw, NC.  Though far from western North Carolina, it lends a similar community based approach, focusing on the needs and desires of its community.  She states, “As public health and regional planners look for store models that can offer dignity and inclusion to food producers as encouragement to sell there (just as the farmers market world has done) this store should become a Mecca”.  The Saxapahaw General Store offers anything from home baked goods, hunting gear, and motor oil to commercial soda, candy, and such.  A small diner provides shoppers with additional fare from local foods.

And under the present definition of a healthy corner store, the Community Transformation Grant Project aims to work with these existing corner stores and gathering spots to increase community access to affordable, healthful, and locally produced foods.  Healthy corner stores are defined as “a corner store or convenience store that promotes the sales of healthy foods through stocking and marketing items such as fresh produce” (Deldridge Healthy Corner Store Project, July 2009).  The Saxapahaw General Store exemplifies this possibility by making the best of worlds: gas station, produce stand, and general store.  Locations in Western North Carolina may easily adapt to this model by merely adding the fresh produce component. Our goal is to enable convenience stores and corner stores to become a revival in community general stores.