Tag Archives: store history

Mr. EE Eller, Chickens and Turkeys… Nothing but Clucking, Gobbling, and Plucking out the Truth

Who is Mr. Eller you may ask???

He is the gentleman who built the current building that houses our hardware store in 2022. Mr. Eller placed his business, as you may have guessed, in our current building on the corner of 10th Street and D Street in North Wilkesboro.

Wilkes County Hardware in November 2022

To our best known facts, the building dates back to 1905. Mr. EE Eller was a premier poultry & produce dealer in North Wilkesboro. EE Eller Produce Co. was one of the largest turkey, and chicken wholesalers. EE Eller was a major processing center for local farmers to bring turkeys/chickens into North Wilkesboro. Ironically, it was probably one of the first poultry processing plants in our town.

An artist rendering of Wilkes Hardware from several years ago

Farmers would literally herd their turkeys from down the mountains in Ashe, Watauga, and Alleghany Counties in order to collect the cash proceeds from their labor filled task.

Eller’s staff would 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, flocks of turkeys gobbling, wobbling with 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!!!

Signage like this one marked the path for local farmers to EE Eller’s Produce House. Thanks to Jerry Dameron for sharing this photo collection with me.

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 current 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!!!!

I have written about the history of our store before but, new facts have come to light! Let’s “de-feather” this poultry truth!

To those loyal readers of my blog, this will be new information for you. All the “plucky” truth, as we know it… A few months back, we were lucky to have a few family members of Mr. Eller to drop in for a quick visit. Up high on the wall held 4 pictures of what we had thought were the past 4 owners of the building, but it was ultimately revealed that the charcoal drawing on the far left was not Mr. EE Eller.

Many of y’all know this was the Wall of Fame inside our hardware store… check the wall the next time you shop with us, it maybe a “feather” shorter than before
Who really knows who this guy could be??? The truth is that we did not find any visible clues inside the frame or even on the back of this old charcoal drawing

Further reading and research has revealed that Mr. Eller moved from the corner of 10th and D Street building to Forester Avenue in 1941 to a larger location. Wilkes Hardware moved into the 10th Street location sometime later on, I haven’t been able to determine a definite date yet but we know it was sometime in the 1940’s.

It was fascinating to “pluck out” the facts about the origins of this historic building we currently reside in each day. As time allows, I’ll continue to research more about the history of Wilkes Hardware and even Mr. Eller. For now, I think we have “gobbled up” a few new fascinating facts about our historic past.

Hope I “beaked” your interest a bit in our history but just “winging it” and wishing y’all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

A Story in Pictures

The Smithey Building has long been an anchor store on 10th Street. Our across the street neighbors for the last 7 years. Showcasing this 33,000 square foot building here in this early morning photo of Apple Festival from a few years ago
A storm unloaded a lot of water onto our front sidewalks & back parking lot in a matter of 8 minutes! Some of our 10th Street neighbors experienced water inside their buildings after the rain. One marked component of the storm was intense lightning.
The first capture of the flames from the fire on August 30, 2022 … Tuesday evening around 5:30pm as Richard & I saw the North Wilkesboro fire department pulling into 10th Street.
Firefighters are quickly getting the hoses out and getting ready to work
Wilkesboro firefighters also quickly responded to the fire and placed ladder truck into position
The smoke was getting more intense. Businesses on the same side as Smithey’s began to move valuable goods to safer areas. Other business owners from 10th & Main Street were there to help.
Cars were moved from 10th Street. It proved to be a challenge because of the firehoses, emergency vehicles, narrow openings, and difficulty finding a few of the car owners.
Around 6:45pm NW police asked all businesses/residents of 10th Street to vacate buildings due to safety concerns. We stayed across the street at Dom’s Bakery. We felt we should stay as our livelihood was in danger.
Firefighters were pushing a ton of water on the fire. Firefighters had to take the tanker trucks to nearby water towers to get more water. I think it was estimated that the fire consumed over 4 million gallons of water.
It was at times, difficult to watch. The smoke billowing from the building.
11-12 different fire departments responded to the fire.
The top floors have begun to fall through to the main floor of the Smithey building
A fork-like piece of heavy equipment was used. It was interesting to watch it maneuver onto 10th Street in between the hoses and the buildings.
Piercing through the old windows.. yes! The original facade was covered up with the existing Smithey exterior.
Some of these firefighters have worked all day long and will continue to work into the late night
Just no words.. 😢 Around 10:00-10:30 Wilkes Oil brought a truck to refuel the existing fire trucks. They have now been on scene for 5 hours.
Richard & I spoke to the fire scene chief before we left for the night around 11pm. The fire was definitely under control and being well managed. The street would remain closed and we could open with back door access on Wednesday morning
Firefighters worked all night long. Here’s a early morning photo from Wednesday morning. The extent of fire is quite visible.
These hoses are HUGE!!
At the height of the fire on Tuesday evening, firefighters had 4 different ladder trucks going at once!!! Wednesday morning, two remaining ladders are busy putting the flames down
The buildings next door were very lucky that no substantial fire damage occurred.
Water pouring through the roof
Some of these firefighters had been on shift for over 24 hours.. working at fire department or other jobs. Exhausted but dedicated! Thank you!
All ages of firefighters were on deck.. thanks for keeping our community safe.
📸credit: Monty 😊
Bringing in the heavy equipment for demolition

Demolition started with the little corner building… the old gas station side

Building Demolition took only a few hours. We could feel a few vibrations during the demolition inside our building
10th Street was opened for full traffic by 5pm.
All within 24 hours!!!
The demo/ grading team has done an amazing job! The bricks seem to be a popular item for onlookers to stop by to take a piece of the building with them.
We have heard many stories that so many people have shared with us over the last few days of experiences at Smithey’s Goodwill. A dear couple actually meet there and eventually married. 💕
We will miss our historic neighbors but looking forward to the next chapter that the new building will bring to our town, in whatever form. 📸 credit: Sonny

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!!!

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