Tag Archives: store history

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. Our original building was constructed in 1905.

In the early 1900’s, our building was known to all the residents of Wilkes as EE Eller Produce. Mr. Eller was a major poultry buyer/ dealer where local folks would bring in chickens, and turkeys for processing.

Here’s an old advertisement from local newspaper

The processed chickens & turkeys were loaded up on the railroad cars just down the street. The North Wilkesboro Train Station was a bustling center of commerce in our town.

It was a major operation that farmers routinely made their journey into North Wilkesboro from the surrounding mountain areas and nearby communities.

Signs like this one were placed along the route to guide local farmers towards EE Eller Produce. A big thank you to Jerry Dameron for sharing this picture with me!

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 be awakened around 2 am.

He reported to us 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”. After that statement, we just simply didn’t have any words.

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. Maybe he was being a real “comedi- hen”… πŸ˜‚

Sometimes when the shopkeepers bell rings attached to our front door, without an apparent reason, we always joke, “it must be the chicken ghost” going back to the gentleman’s story on that Apple Festival Saturday. 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….

But it is hard to explain the random chicken feather that just floats down from the ceiling… you wouldn’t think that would still happen after all these years???

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 our store would be a great location to pick up paranormal activity. We have always declined the request of these folks.

The logo we choose is a chicken to honor our historic roots of our building

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. 

This picture was published on Facebook in 2021 after our store was closed on evening. A follower noted the figure was in the reflection of the window. No one was outside the building or inside when I snapped this picture

Could it be the “chicken ghost”???? I suspect it could be “fowl play”.   OR even a “poultry geist”πŸ˜‚.

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 πŸͺ 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??? 🍎🍎🍎🍎

Wood Stove

It is an all encompassing feeling of warmth and memories. Time spent circled around the wood stove at Wilkes County Hardware -feeling the heat from the fire, warming up your hands and cold noses from the cold, outside air. The smell is distinctive- burning hardwood, and the lovely “smoky” smell it creates in the store. The wood stove is an iconic part of our legacy and our history. It has definitely kept that “Old School Hardware” feel in place for our customers and myself as a business owner.

The wood stove is definitely one of the most recognizable features within our store that people initially see once they walk in the front entrance. No matter what time of year it is, those who have never visited our store always ask about the wood stove. It is definitely an “Oldie Goldie “. Questions range from “Does it still work?” to “How old is it?”

Most people are surprised to find out the wood stove is WCH’s main source of heat in the winter! It cranks out a great deal of heat for the store. But if you wander into the far corners of the hardware store, you will sense the difference… it takes longer for the heat to travel there. Of course, the closer you are to the stove, you have to be very careful to make sure that you don’t put anything too close to the wood stove that would melt.. yes, chocolate 🍫 does not stand a chance around the stove!

Our wood stove is regularly cleaned, polished, and maintained in order to keep it in the best possible condition for daily use in the cooler weather.

We do keep a nice woodpile out behind the store so we can keep the “store fires” burning and our customers comfortable while they shop for essentials. We do have a few regular customers who purchase wood from us during cooler weather for fire pits/ s’mores, and camping fun. All of our wood is bought from local sources. Richard & I like to purchase products from our neighbors in our community.

The wood stove dates back to the early years of our building. Our building is over πŸ’― years old, dating back to 1907!!! The original stove was a coal stove and it was eventually converted into a wood burning stove. We have been told that the stove may date back to the 1920’s. This is one great thing about our store that I love… it is deeply rooted in local history.

What I also love about this stove is the power of community it holds for our town. People use it as a central gathering place to discuss daily news, and local events. Often our regular customers will come sit around the stove and just rock for a little bit before heading back out into the cold weather.

Yes, our wood stove/ store has become a great “stopping off point” for local downtown events in the winter where our customers can drop by to warm by the fire before a horse carriage ride, or just to wait and warm before for the Christmas parade is to begin.

To me, nothing is better in the cold, and snowy day to be warming around the wood stove. Many of our customers know we will be open and we will have the fire roaring. Many locals seek to visit with us on these days. Honestly, these are my favorite days.. the snow days around the wood stove at Wilkes County Hardware.

We have had a few local media broadcast/advertising folks to showcase our store via the wood stove as a centerpiece. I guess it is just that “Old School ” way of gathering around and slowing down in the busy world we live in today. Even in 2018, people are doing the “Old School ” way of going back to our roots/heritage— community building.

I’m glad we can be a small part of building a great community here at Wilkes County Hardware, wood stove or no stove… we are all in for the “Old School” Hardware life.

The Chicken Hat

Earlier this week Richard told me that we had a visit from a local hardware store owner, out of our county. As Richard put it, he wanted to see that Chicken hat that everyone was talking about. Wow! I was blown away!!!

Working towards a great logo can be daunting for a new business. A great logo is one of the biggest marketing tools that can connect your customers to your store/brand.

As new business owners, we did get some great advice from fellow business owners to be very purposeful when selecting colors and a logo to connect to our customers and our store. We have tried to heed this great advice, and have used our great neighbors down the street, Cook’s Inc to help us through the process.

Over the last few years, we have really stuck with a classic gray color for a branding color. Why??? Many reasons actually—-our store has concrete floors, which has served many purposes in our building- chicken processing plant, & as a hardware store. I think that the gray is a great compliment to that old rustic hardware store feel as well, so the color is ours to stay.

Back to the chicken hat… The story of the Chicken Hat is a journey of logo selection over the last few years. We have been working diligently with our neighbors down the street- Cook’s Inc, to select a great logo for a baseball cap 🧒. Our initial designs were very simple with the gray cap and a patch logo with our store name.

Brooke, who works for Cook’s, always challenges me to keep taking our logo to the next level. So as we were meeting one afternoon, we came up with a new design… a chicken, with red, white, blue flag inside it. The hat is of course that dark classic gray… (our best seller)

How did we arrive at this? We were trying to connect our logo hat to our store history. In the end, Richard and I have been super pleased with this new hat. I think we have achieved success with this new logo hat.

As I write this, we have chicken hats that have traveled all over the United States, and Australia. Even our local state legislator wears his to Raleigh and has gotten several great compliments on his hat. Of course, I keep telling him— tell the story about your hat… Our legacy of our store can be told and shared.

Here is our story…

Our building dates back to the early 1900’s. The building was used as a poultry processing plant for turkeys, chickens, etc. These animals were literally herded down the mountain and pushed into our store and processed. They were then loaded up on the railroad, which is just down the street and taken out of town. High estimates are close to 1 million chickens & turkeys were processed in our building in a years time at the height of production.

Maybe it is sometimes the story that helps you brand yourself, maybe it is the story that folks will remember… it could be a little bit of both.

I’m not sure if our neighbor hardware store really found what he needed the other day…. what the deal is with that chicken hat, but we sure love it here at Wilkes County Hardware. I hope his curiosity was satisfied.