The Country Store: In Search of Mercantiles and Memories in the Ozarks

Georgia country store, county unknown, c. 1900, courtesy of the Collections of the Library of Congress.

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The Country Store: In Search of Mercantiles and Memories in the Ozarks

by Brooks Blevins
Southern Cultures, Vol. 18, No. 4: Winter 2012

"The country store survives. The survivors—and there are more of them than you might imagine—are models of adaptation."

There’s nothing quite like going back home. If, like me, you’re a child of the rural South, you’ll know that feeling, see and smell and hear and feel that feeling. The smell of tilled earth or freshly cut hay, the crackle of a gravel road beneath hard rubber, that old whiff of red oak and varnish in the church house, low clouds of wood-stove smoke on winter mornings, jar flies on sultry summer days, lightning bugs and a Chuckwill’s-widow in a dusky hollow. You can even taste it: well-water from a faucet, Momma’s cornbread and pinto beans, cappuccino and a slice of Arrezzio’s Chicago-style with black olives and banana peppers from the country store. Takes you back, doesn’t it? Nothing reminds me of dear ol’ Aunt Nellie quite like pizza, espresso, and frothing milk—except for maybe a Harley-Davidson do-rag, lemongrass soap, and a fifteen-minute bake in a tanning bed, all of which you can get at the country store, too. You know, back there next to the hoe handles and saw blades and pig shorts—the kind for feeding, not wearing.