Tag Archives: southern living

The Paper Bag Experience

I can remember going into our local community grocery stores at Martin Cheek’s or Alexander’s Grocery and shopping for a quick “go to item” and coming back to the car with item in tow tucked inside a paper bag.

Easy tuck under your arm… carrying a paper bag

My memories of helping my mom carry in the groceries from the car, and not ONE of those bags was plastic y’all.

I maybe telling my age but, paper bags were the only option at the local grocery store. Over my lifetime, things shifted and plastic bags have become the standard.

Plastic bags are everywhere!

As we approach the beginnings of year SEVEN in the hardware business, I realized the other day that paper bags are ONE thing our customers have grown accustomed to with each purchase inside our historic, hardware walls. Yes, we hand stamp our name on each individual paper bag! Bag stamping is a routine part of what we do each week.

We hand stamp our paper bags… various sizes available

Processing and writing this blog post, I began to wonder… Are businesses that offer paper bags perceived by the consumer as a more “customer service friendly” small business???? Is the overall atmosphere somehow uniquely different from a business that only offers plastic bags at checkout????

Wilkes County Hardware, established long ago in our town center… finding a home on 10th & D Street after the legacy of EE Eller’s thriving business here in this building from 1905-1941.

Humor me please… Think about this for a minute… where do you currently shop where plastic bags are the norm???? Grocery stores, big box stores??? Can you think of other locations with plastic bags???

Just a question… hardware style

Reviewing my current own shopping habits, I recall several stores in our area use plastic over paper bags. Good versus bad, paper or plastic, that is not a bone of contention that I’m undertaking today in the blog post. But, I must admit, I do love a good paper bag! And I do frequent some small shops that offer paper bags over plastic, which is part of the reason why I love these shops! But I must admit, it’s more than the paper bag, it is simply the overall shopping experience.

Y’all, don’t you feel a bit special with a cute paper bag from your purchase? It’s like the shop owner has taken a bit of extra pride, and care into their own livelihood. And marketing that small,unique business with the paper bag. Paper bags are easy for gift giving, reusing, or even recycling.

Our selection of paper bags ranges from small to larger size with handles

Further into my reflection, I would like to dive into & explore a tad more into my thoughts about the “atmosphere” in a business with paper bags at checkout versus plastic. Here’s a story I would like to share with y’all today…

I needed a couple of baby gifts, and I wanted to give each one a special gift. I stopped into, A Baby Celebration in our local downtown area. The shop was packed full of all sorts of sweet baby stuff!

A Baby Celebration, a sweet little baby shop in Downtown North Wilkesboro

As I finished up my purchases at the baby store, I’m thinking in my mind, now I need to gift wrap these and get these gifts to the new soon to be parents. It was almost like the owner read my mind. Maybe she sensed my stress of gift wrapping…having to head out to find the perfect gift wrapping paper or gift bag to place these sweet gifts into. But, that wasn’t the case! The owner then quickly pointed up to the display wall and she asked me to select a gift bag for each gift. I was tickled pink, and it was included in my visit!!! Customer service at its best y’all!

My point is, shopping small businesses can often come with perks you may not often be aware of! Shopping at small businesses, not only can you find quality merchandise, amazing service, friendly atmosphere, gift wrapping, & yes, even paper bags!

Our classic brown paper bag

Which brings me back to the thought of what could customers infer from small businesses where paper bags are standard?

In my mind, my inference about small businesses that offer that simple, classic paper bag is often a way to keep customers coming back into your store. Customers tend to associate such memorable things with your business… that cute paper bag you carefully placed items into, the excellent customer service you provided, or even the amazing products offered inside your store.

A view inside our hardware store

Regardless of whether it is the paper bag, or other reasons, as a small business owner, you want your customers to return often & regularly.

So y’all might be wondering why did we choose paper bags over plastic? Here’s our answer:

We quickly decided against plastic and opted for paper, check out our reasons why…

1. Nostalgia, when y’all enter our building you have literally stepped back into time. The age of our building dates back to the early 1900’s. We are offering our customers such an experience. I’ll call it, The Paper Bag Experience, stepping back into a time where life was a bit simpler, friendly service, shopping in an “old school”hardware store with the classic brown paper bags as standard fare for packaging.

Wilkes County Hardware is a classic old hardware store with the wood stove, working freight elevator, ladder wall and much more!

2. Classic Sophistication, let’s face it, a sweet,,little paper bag is much cooler than a slinky plastic bag😂 right???

3. Social responsibility, Paper bags have a few advantages over plastic when it comes to sustainability. Paper bags are recyclable and biodegradable.

4. Marketing to our customers, our goal is to ensure that every customer feels special! What is more unique & special than a stamped paper bag with our logo information on it???

5. One cool impact of using paper bags in our hardware store, paper bags are often used for gift giving.

In closing, the psychology behind paper v. plastic may not be resolved in this blog post today, but we are thankful that our customers keep returning and continue to support our small business at Wilkes County Hardware.

Richard & I truly appreciate your patronage as we launch into year SEVEN of the hardware business. The Paper Bag Experience has been impactful inside our historic walls. Shopping at Wilkes County Hardware is a definitely a unique experience. Whether you come for nostalgia, love of hardware stores, or locally sourced goods, we can neatly tuck them into a classic brown paper bag as you leave the checkout.

As always, thanks for reading & sharing my blog. I really appreciate my followers and your kind words. Thanks 😊

Unlocking the Mystery… Keys

All keys are not created equal.

Keys… all different types!

The variety of keys could boggle the mind if y’all really stopped to think about it (house keys of all shapes & sizes, master lock , mailbox, car, boat, RV, & ATV keys)the list goes on and on!

Sometimes it takes a few minutes to survey all the different key blanks in order to find the right one before placing into the key machine. Our selection is vast.. and we continue to try to grow this portion of our hardware business

At Wilkes County Hardware we are known for making keys that work. We stand behind our keys. If ever a key doesn’t work, we will gladly replace it with one that will!

The key desk is usually one of the busiest places inside our store

I would guess that not many places are left in our town locally where you can go inside and get a key made accurately in a matter of a few minutes. And I’m not talking about putting money/key into a machine… taking a chance on the luck of getting it absolutely perfect… we are talking about getting your key duplicated by an individual using a key cutting machine. Keys are what we do well. Below are a few examples of what we do everyday for our customers.

We make keys the old fashioned way… not simply put into a machine to duplicate, using a key cutting machine like this one, we can cut out an extra groove if necessary.

A house key is probably the easiest to duplicate. Using the original key is the best way to ensure the most accurate duplication.

Most folks would be surprised how many keys we make in a single month.

Getting car keys duplicated can be a more of a dubious task. Many of today’s car keys are more costly to copy due to their anti-theft/electronic features. Car keys come in many varieties…chip keys, sidewinder keys, & fob keys if lost, can be a costly replacement.

Here’s one of the tools we use in order to determine if a customer has a automotive chip key

At Wilkes County Hardware, we can replicate most automotive chip keys. The vehicle should be present for a replacement chip key, or really any car key duplicate. It makes it so much easier!

The key machine hums all day long

Wilkes County Hardware has been receiving several calls related to lock shop services… ie, Can you come out to my house to rekey my locks? OR I have locked my keys inside my car, can you come get them out… 😳OR can you make me a new key from the switch???? No, we simply duplicate keys at Wilkes County Hardware.

Each week we receive multiple phone calls at the hardware store requesting information for lock services. We only duplicate keys at Wilkes County Hardware and rekey locks.

For many years Wilkes Hardware & Wilkes Lock Service were synonymous, and owned by one person. That is no longer the case. These two businesses have been separated from each other for over 17 plus years.

The old lock service sign is still on the store front… we hate to remove vintage signage

We are common neighbors on 10th Street with two very different businesses. We gladly refer all lock shop questions to our neighbors next door.

As a simple reminder, Wilkes County Hardware offers basic key cutting services, chip keys, & rekeying locks in our store. We are very blessed with an amazing staff who do a fabulous job of keys!

Wayne has been a master key guy inside Wilkes County Hardware for many years. We are blessed to have him on our staff.

Thank you for supporting our local hardware store business for the last SEVEN years!!! We appreciate your support always!!!

🔑

🔑

🔑

🔑

🔑

Wayne taking time to examine the old lock on our front door, he is a man of many talents

August … Foggy Morning Breakdown

When I looked outdoors this past Sunday morning from our front windows, I was extremely excited to see a thick layer of fog among the trees.

Sunday Morning August 7th
Monday August 8th, another foggy morning

For those of you who may not be aware of old weather folklore, every foggy morning in August, equates to a snowy day in the coming winter.

My grandparents always used to track the foggy mornings in August. I have found that I also like to capture foggy mornings with my camera to try to capture a moment of the quietness in nature.

This is the first year that I’m going to try to track my findings concerning the August morning fogs.

Fog hanging low into the trees

I’ve heard that folks used to put a large dried bean into a jar for each “big” morning fog. A smaller bean was used to indicate a “lesser ” fog. I don’t recall my grandparents ever doing this but Granny’s visual memory was acute. Granny would catalog these foggy mornings into her long term memory. As the snowy weather conditions were being talked about on the local news, she had those predictions from August to confirm or deny the pending weather track.

I’m not totally sure how accurate this method of predicting snowfall but I’m ready to give it a go for this coming winter.

A “light” August morning fog indicates a lighter dusting of snow.

So I’ve decided to revise my take on the bean jar plan… instead I’m using old keys as my guideline. Stay posted this month for keys in the jar update!!!

I’ll use the larger & smaller key method similar to the bean version that is traditionally used. So far, 2 keys in the jar!

Could this be a heavy snowfall winter???

December 2019… the largest snow for us to date!!! Wilkes County Hardware received over 16 inches of snowfall!!!!

Sonker Summers

I really hadn’t thought much about Sonker since my teenage years but an early morning walk few weeks ago brought the word back into my vocabulary once again.

Our walking group had converged on the North Wilkesboro Greenway trail and we had begun talking about miscellaneous things, ie… who was doing what over the next few days… Summer fruits seemed to be on the agenda for discussion and the term Sonker came up… chiefly the origin of the term. One of my friends never had heard of the term and begun to ask questions about it and how it was similar or different from a fruit Cobbler.

My input into the conversation…Sonker was a common summer dessert in my home growing up and I also remembered my Granny used the term often. Cobbler wasn’t the commonly used term to describe the fruit-filled pan of goodness at our house nor in my extended family households.

Sonker can be made with any type of fruit. We often had fresh blueberries or cherries at home during the summer months.

As we continued our walk and daily topics of discussion changed, I made a mental note to ask my mom about the Sonker recipe later and if she knew anything about the origin of the name.

A week or so elapsed in time before I recalled the Sonker conversation on the Greenway when I was talking on the phone with my mom one afternoon. She immediately answered my questions. She recalled an article that she had read in Our State Magazine about Sonker. She relayed key details from the article, and encouraged me to go read more about it. Mom discussed the differences between her version of Sonker and Granny’s. Granny usually had leftover fresh biscuit dough which she topped with fruit. Mom’s recipe, y’all will be able to find at the end of the blog post today.

Granny would take her leftover scraps of biscuit dough to top her Sonker.

FYI, Mom is fantastic with last minute supper guests…she can whip up an easy dessert effortlessly. My sister & I often challenged her to this task, with extra guests at the table. Sonker was one of those perfect, easy desserts… baking and bubbling in the oven while supper was being served. The aroma filled the kitchen with goodness waiting patiently for the final feature, dessert fruit-filled Sonker.

Blueberry Summer Sonker

For those of y’all who are still wondering what on earth is Sonker??? Sonker is a deep-dish fruit “pie”, usually served in a square/rectangular baking pan. Sonker is supposed to be “juicier” than a typical cobbler. Sonker can be a dessert large enough to feed a family or accommodate guests in your home. Sonker is NOT a “fussy” dessert. The ease of recipe is part of the charm of Sonker. On the other hand, cobblers, tend to have more of a thick biscuit texture to the breading and the texture on top appears to be “cobbled”. The dough is dropped or spooned onto the top of the fruit typically in a cobbler. The end result of a well baked Sonker, in my opinion, showcases your fruit, cobblers often showcase the beautiful breading.

.

Have an abundance of fruit??? Make a Sonker and freeze the rest of your fruit for a special Sonker treat for later on in the winter months

Upon my Mom’s urging to further read & research, I also learned that Surry County hosts a Sonker Trail and a festival each October. Surry County even has a classic Sweet Potato Sonker with a creamy/milky type “dip” which is a finishing feature of the Sweet Potato Sonker.

Y’all still might be thinking …really, IS a Cobbler the same thing as Sonker??? In my opinion, these two are very “close first cousins.” Honestly, I simply prefer to use Sonker to describe my fruit-filled deep dish pies.

According to the research articles I have read, the term “Sonker”, was derived from a Scottish word meaning straw saddle. The Sonker experts tell us that they suspect that cooks used the analogy of the crust likeness of the fruit-filled pie to compare it to the Scottish word.

North Carolina settlers have connections to Scotland via the Great Wagon Road

Also, the Sonker experts believe that the term Sonker originated in Surry and Wilkes Counties. I suspect that if you aren’t a “native” to these two geographic areas NOR your parents, you may not know the term Sonker.

My husband had no clue what Sonker was all about, even though he has lived in Wilkes his entire life BUT his parents were not “natives” of Wilkes. Cobbler is the term he definitely prefers to use for the fruit-filled dessert.

My sister, on the other hand, a Wilkes County native, who now lives out of state, is teaching her young daughter to make Sonker… thereby keeping the legacy of our mom’s recipe going strong.

I would suspect the term Sonker is locale specific. My grandparents lived in both Surry & Wilkes Counties during their lifetime. So I believe they were well connected to the locale and it was reflective within their vocabulary and local food choices. Sonker was definitely a sweet part of summer during my younger years. I hope to continue my Sonker Summers by experimenting with my mom’s classic recipe and just simply enjoying the “fruits of my labor”.

Your personal preference of the term Sonker or Cobbler could be ingrained into your vocabulary mindset. But cobbler makers & lovers, I hope that you will add Sonker into your vocabulary AND into your food palate. Let’s keep our local food history alive and growing! Go experience Sonker this Summer.

Mom’s basic recipe for Sonker :

Ingredients & Utensils

-Square baking pan (this recipe is easily doubled or even cut in half in order to accommodate the number of people you wish to feed, for my 8-9 inch square baker I use 3/4 cup instead of full recipe)

-1 stick melted butter

-1 cup self rising flour

-1 cup milk – (I added a dash of vanilla to mine but it is not necessary)

-1 cup sugar

-Fruit (fresh, frozen, or canned… use what you have on hand)

Fresh blueberries, a staple of Sonker Summertime

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Melt butter in baking pan.

3. Mix together milk, sugar, flour and dash of vanilla (if desired) into bowl as butter melts.

4. Once butter is melted, pour milk /flour/sugar mixture over the butter into pan. Do not stir!

5. Add fruit on top of milk/flour/sugar mixture. The breading will disperse throughout the Sonker as it bakes. Sprinkle extra sugar on top of fruit for extra sweetness if desired.

Canned fruit typically has plenty of extra sweetness, so skip the sugar topping if desired.

6. Bake until crust is golden brown.

7. Note: You may want to let your Sonker cool down for 10 minutes before eating. No one wants to get burned eating a hot Sonker.

8. Sonker is goes well with vanilla ice cream, enjoy y’all.

I believe y’all can find a few different versions of Sonker recipes online… this one is definitely nostalgic to me and my favorite one.

The Wooden Rocker

I realized a few weeks ago that I had never really vocalized the importance of the wooden rocker in our family. It has always been a central part of our 27 years of married life. I hope y’all enjoy the Wooden Rocker a little bit more each time you visit us. Happy reading & rocking y’all!

Many people who stop by to shop with us will often say, “oh my goodness, you are sitting in Harry’s chair! “ True, HG loved that rocking chair but did y’all realize that chair has not always been a fixture at Wilkes County Hardware???

I never really had vocalized the story behind the rocker until a few weeks ago when I was speaking to Carl White as he visited with us at the hardware store. The seed was then planted for a new blog post.

The rocking chair actually appeared at Wilkes County Hardware after we purchased the store. The wooden rocker was actually one of the first furniture purchases that we made as a young married couple at Gray Brothers Furniture. I rocked my son as a tiny baby to soothe him into blissful slumber in that same wooden rocking chair.

Here’s a snapshot of the same areas… 2015 on the left ( shortly after we purchased the hardware store) and a few years later in 2019. The rocking chairs were added into our store & at first the staff was unsure where they go “fit”. We always found a place for one more chair.
Harry’s rocking chair was carried upstairs to safety after the flooding incident in 2020.
Eric Brown & Keegan Watson both worked to repair the rocker. Keegan ultimately had to take it apart safely at his workshop and secure the back. We are blessed 💕
Here’s our son, Benjamin full circle… in the old wooden rocking chair… circa 2019 visiting with Skye.

The rocking chair carried memories of our home to our new business. One of the things we wanted to bring to our new existing business was a more “homey”, welcoming, hardware store experience. Over time, the locals and staff became accustomed to the wooden rocking chair. It was now a “fixture” and a new portion of our store legacy. Harry loved that chair but he also sat down wherever there was an empty spot. He was never picky about where he was going to dwell for his daily visit.

The rocker is also featured on one of our logo t-shirts. Thanks to Cooks for creating the amazing graphic from my heart and mind and ultimately bringing it to reality.

For those of you who may not have been blessed to know Harry, he was an amazing individual. Harry loved life, each and every day. Harry was a dear husband to his sweet wife, a great family man, and cared deeply for his surrounding community.

💕

Harry spent a lot of time with us at Wilkes County Hardware. He was our resident advisor, & he greeted all of our customers with a smile. Harry would sit and talk with those who would take time to sit down with him while he rocked in the rocking chair. Harry loved people, engaging conversations, and in general terms, living a simple life.

Harry gave Richard & I love each and every day. I know in my heart in the first year of ownership of Wilkes County Hardware, he gave Richard confidence to keep going, pressing on to do what needed to be done, changing the layout of the hardware store, & adjusting to running a small business. Harry was one of our biggest supporters and we are eternally grateful for his love and friendship.

In the second and third years of ownership, he became an honorary family member. He was never far from our minds or hearts. His sudden parting left a huge hole in our hearts.

The plaque of remembrance on the wooden rocker was a great and powerful way to honor such an amazing man who brought so much love, new hardware store life memories, and blessings upon us. His lasting impact on our lives are ever changed. We have wonderful friendships formed as a result of his influence. One person truly can make a difference in the lives of many people.

Thanks to Mark Cook for making this happen 💕

As Harry would say, S’agapo