Old School Air Conditioner…

The photo I shared today is a definite throwback to an earlier era in our hardware store history today… I wonder how old this thermometer could be???

The heat and humidity are “off the charts” again today in Wilkes.

Our team is staying hydrated in the heat, as we have the “all natural air conditioning” in our store… open doors- catch the breeze.. and ceiling fans going.

Last summer we upgraded our ceiling fans from ONE lonely old fan to 8!!! The old one was quickly retired. What an amazing difference it has made in air flow in all types of weather!!!

So literally when we say we are an old school hardware store, we truly are… wood stove heat and natural air conditioning 😉.

Stay cool and hydrated this summer y’all!!!

Let’s Talk Turkey

Many local residents of Wilkes County probably do not realize the important connection of Thanksgiving and our historic building. So today it is time to talk some serious turkey history!  Our local newspaper, the Wilkes Journal Patriot, published a newspaper article several years ago about the famous turkey drives in Wilkes County.  I am basing some of my facts and information on that old news article and information from local oral history, that we love to tell to our customers and newcomers to our store. I hope you enjoy the “Turkey Tale” today.

EE Eller Produce Co.  was one of the largest turkey and chicken wholesalers, and a major processing center for local farmers to bring turkeys/chickens into North Wilkesboro. Ironically, it was the first poultry processing plants in our town, well before the days of Holly Farms, & of course later on Tyson. Mr. Eller placed his business, as you may have guessed, yep, in our current building on the corner of 10th Street and D Street in North Wilkesboro.

Farmers would literally herd their turkeys from down the mountains in Ashe, Watauga, & Alleghany Counties in order to process/sell their flock. Could you imagine the sight that it must have been??? All of the sudden the flock of turkeys appeared on the roads in Wilkes!!!! Men guiding them with corn along the way,  flock of turkeys gobbling, wings flying everywhere!!!! I would imagine that the sight of this was pretty common in the early 1900’s in rural Wilkes County. I bet the turkeys never suspected any “fowl play” on their journey.  The  old newspaper article did say that one of the largest turkey drives that ever was processed by Mr. Eller was 1, 500 turkeys in one drive!!!

Once a flock of turkeys arrived at EE Eller Produce, they were processed/ dressed for shipped via train. Our local train station was just down the street from our store location.  The train destinations were mostly in Northern states after leaving the North Wilkesboro station. According to local oral history, it is estimated that Mr. Eller processed at his height of business, 1 million chickens and turkeys!!!! Guess that was all “gravy” for him after that!!!!

So Thanksgiving has a new meaning for us as store owners. We are caretakers of not only our business, but caretakers of local Thanksgiving history. Our town is rich in local history and our building that we reside in today as a hardware store is a great part of that legacy. We are grateful, thankful and blessed. Thank you to all who continue to support our local business, you are giving life to our local history as well.

In closing, Wayne, one of our employees will tell you that every once in while he will see a lone feather coming flying out of the ceiling.  We all joke that it is the chicken ghost or the “poultrygiest”. I have never witnessed this, but he has many more years inside this building.  Ok, enough of the “turkey talk” and time to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

 

 

FYI: IF you have not read the post, “The Chicken Ghost” , check it out

Top 5 Questions People Ask…

Our store is rich in history and the building architecture is unique. As folks tend to say after walking around and looking up at our beams, “they just don’t build em like this anymore”. Our legacy begins to unfold with these questions that first timers or locals often seek the answers to learn more about our space. I hope you enjoy!!!!

  1. Do you use that wood stove?  YES!!! It is our main source of heat in the winter. We have locals who love to come inside our store just to warm by our wood stove, especially on a snowy day.  The stove was originally used as a coal stove. A few months back, we actually found a bag of coal upstairs from many years ago!!!!
  2. Is this the original Lowes Store? NO, Lowes Companies did begin near us and if you look out our back door you can see the where Lowes began.
  3. How old is this building? Has it always been a hardware store? Our building history dates back to the early 1900’s. The structure was rebuilt after a fire in the late 1800’s and the brick building that stands today, is the one we currently reside in as a hardware store. The first use of the our building was EE Eller Produce. Mr. Eller was a major poultry processor in our area. Turkeys and chickens were herding into the building, processed and then put on the railroad just down the street from us and sent away. It was estimated that the Eller could process 1 million in a year!!! Not too shabby for early 1900’s standards…. In the mid 1940’s the building was converted into a hardware store by Mr. Yates- the new owner. It has been a hardware store since the 1940’s
  4. Does that freight elevator still work? Absolutely!!! We use it everyday, the elevator is inspected each year by the state of NC and we have been told that it could be one of the oldest in Western NC.
  5. Is Wayne/Richard here? These two fellas are the heart and soul of our business, & many people seek these two out for advice. Wayne is the person that so many of our customers wish to have a key made by or a lock question answered by him. I told Wayne last week, that when he went to lunch each day that we just need to put up a sign to advertise that he was out for an hour and would be back at 12… he always has someone to drop by to see him while he is gone to lunch. We all laughed but it is very true!  He is well loved and appreciated.  Richard is the face of our business and many folks know him and trust his advice. We love these two dearly!!!!

“The Chicken Ghost”

The tale I am about to unravel goes back way in history to the beginnings of our store… well actually before it was a hardware store. The original building was constructed in the late 1800’s and was burned in a fire. The owners rebuilt and instead of a wooden structure, they replaced it with brick, our current building today.  In the early 1900’s, our building was known to all the Wilkes local folks as EE Eller Produce. Mr. Eller was a major poultry processing “plant” where local folks would bring in chickens, and turkeys for processing. The processed animals were loaded up on the Railroad tracks just down the street. It was a major operation that farmers routinely made their journey into North Wilkesboro. I have been told that over 1 million chickens and turkeys were processed in year!!!! Now that you have just a bit of historical background information about our building, our story can officially begin. Here we go…

A few years back during the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival we had a gentleman who was visiting with us in the hardware store and he began to tell us about his experiences inside our old, historic store…. this gentleman had spent some time with our neighbor next door and he stayed in his “man cave”. Our neighbor had let this man stay in his “man cave” for a few months until he could figure out where he wanted to go and what direction life would take him next. This gentleman said that he would often wake up around 2 am. He reported that he regularly heard at night chains dragging across the floor and sounds of chickens. He never could see or find anything unusual once he went to investigate. This man then continued with his story, by stating “now I know all of this is true because I am a reincarnated Buddhist, Catholic, priest, I can sense that things happened here”. Our conversation moved to other topics and we of course were super busy in the mix of Apple Festival Day and we all laughed about the story the man told us that day and continued on with our business.

Sometimes when the shopkeepers bell rings without an apparent reason, we always joke, “it must be the chicken ghost” going back to the gentleman’s story on Apple Festival. Lots of times we think it is the wind catching the door, elevation change of the door position, etc. We can usually explain it away….

Now, I”ll share this piece of information with you as well… we have had a few paranormal/ghost hunters to come into our store to ask if they could set up after hours. They thought it would be a great location and the paranormal activity was showing up on equipment. We have always declined the request of these folks.

The last aspect of our story goes back to the blog post that I did a few weeks ago entitled “Messy Monday”, it was one of those very busy days and our cash register/credit card machine were not working-via no internet plus we had lots of other factors playing into that day that made it a very long and hard day.  After supper, Richard went back to the store that night to try to make sense of the day, clean up somewhat, etc. He did not get back home until after 10:30 pm that night— here is what he told me the following day. “I was standing near the front cash register looking down at something and all of the sudden I heard a huge SLAM sound on the front doors, ironically, the shopkeeper bell never moved.” He then continued by saying that he looked up because he just knew someone was outside possibly walking a dog on the street or someone had run into the front door from the outside… it was dark of course but nothing had alarmed or signaled on the cameras at the front door. He could see no one or nothing alarming.  Could it be the “chicken ghost”???? I suspect it could be “fowl play”.   Happy Halloween to all!!!

 

Brushy Mountain Apple Festival

If you are a local, you know the first Saturday in October is always the date set aside for the annual Brushy Mountain Apple Festival. This year will mark the 42nd year of festivities 🍎🍎🍎. It has become a bit a tradition for folks in these parts… either you flock to downtown North Wilkesboro and embrace the festival or you ignore the downtown area totally. There is not much in between. People either are ritual followers of Apple Festival or not. As a downtown merchant, we are in the first category. We love it! 🍎🍎🍎🍎

It is a unique way to experience the festival through the eyes of a downtown merchant. After purchasing the hardware store in 2015, we were told by our existing staff that they tended to close early on Apple Festival Day— they always worried about people asking to use the bathroom. We found out pretty quickly that it was not the case. In the past few years, only a handful a folks have ever asked to use our restroom. It was not a legitimate reason to close our doors to a very captive audience who are ready and willing to flood inside our doors to browse around and shop.

Many people who are Apple Festival 🍎goers return to our store to shop each year because they love being in our store. We love to see them each year. There are certain items they have come to expect to find in our store- Mrs. Hanes Cookies 🍪 for example…

It takes loads of preparation for Apple Festival. Usually at the August Hardware show, we always try to target some of our new product offerings to be in store by Apple Festival Weekend. We are well on track this year.

This year a few of our local artisans will be in store to talk to our customers as they are shopping. They get to see their products in store. Now our customers can put a face/name to a specific local artisan. I am hoping for a great showing for all!!!!

The morning of the Apple Festival 🍎 many craft vendors come inside our store to purchase last minute items they may need to finish up the setup process. That takes lots of planning on our end, & we have made a coordinated effort to stock essentials that might be needed- from the proper fire extinguishers, sharpies, duct tape, tarps, extension cords, etc.

Finally, that preparation is executed on the day of Festival… we arrive early to serve those vendors early- we set up our store beginning around 5:30am so we are ready to go, and we will work a long day- closing our doors as the festival breaks up and clean up begins.

Apple Festival is a big day, the crowds are usually big, and we love to see a full downtown. As a downtown merchant, it makes for a full heart ❤️ to see the streets packed with people and activity. Are you ready for the Apple Festival??? 🍎🍎🍎🍎