Why do 70,000 people a year from around the world want to visit an old country store? Worse, they have to wind several miles around hairpin turns on a two-lane mountain road to get there. Books, antiques, knick-knacks, t-shirts, food … these can be bought anywhere. The draw of both local people and tourist to Todd General Store could be the love and pride the owners put into the operation.
Gini Mann and Bob, her husband of twenty-five years, are both energetic and sociable; but it’s more: they enjoy people; they provide a unique experience for their visitors; they treat their patrons as friends; they provide the best. Gini says, “This isn’t a place where you sit and read a book.”
Gini, mother of two children and grandmother of five who do not live locally, jokes, “I’ve celebrated the 30th anniversary of my 30th birthday.” Her energy suggests a much younger woman. She grew up along the New Jersey shore and then Philadelphia. A graduate of the University of Pittsburg in psychology and horticulture, she operated her own wholesale garden center outside Philadelphia. She met Bob in church, and they were married twenty-five years ago. After marriage, they moved to Florida and operated a commercial printing business.
Gini came to the cool mountains of North Carolina some years ago to recover from a serious automobile accident. When she and Bob retired, it was an easy choice to return to North Carolina. They started from the southwest corner of the state in search of a cool spot. Todd was it. They live in Todd, except from January to the middle of March. Beside the cooler weather, one of the big draws to the area was the music and the cultures. “The only drawback,” Gini regrets, “is I don’t get to be with my grandchildren.”
Why the store? Gini relates, “I bought my husband a job! Bob didn’t fare well in retirement. He never sits still.”
Todd General Store has been in constant operation since 1914, when the first owners, Walter and Annie Cook, opened it. They lived in the little cottage next door with their five children and ran the store. When Gini and Bob bought the store from Joe Morgan, they renovated the facility. Now it houses not only three floors of antiques, collectibles, and rustics, they also have a fine deli and soda fountain … great root beer floats.
A store in the middle of nowhere might draw people from around the world, but Gini says, “Most of our friends have been made and cultivated through the store.”
The unique features of Todd General Store go beyond the shelves filled with birdhouses, across from toilet paper, next to the motor oil, and around the corner from the catsup. There are regular activities to draw repeated visitors and newcomers to the little village store. Tuesday evening: dinner and storytelling from the National Story Telling Guild; Friday evening: dinner and bluegrass; Saturday: local authors sign their books and artisans demonstrate and sell their wares.
How did this happen? Gini said, “It sort of fell into our laps.” They are thrilled to be able to expand the culture, especially for the old-time high country residents. Middle-agers resonate with the music and the young people learn about mountain music.
And did we mention food? Gini and her cook provide home-cooked meals from scratch, with the very best ingredients … numerous sandwiches and crab cakes, to name two entrées.
How do people from around the world know about Todd General Store? The store has been featured in the New York Times, North Carolina Travel Television program, and National Geographic. People have driven from Alaska, come from Scotland, and many other places. In a recent visit a Scottish lady danced in the middle of the floor. The primary clientele are drawn tourists, local restaurant customers, and people interested in local bluegrass bands. The home-cooked food brings them back.
What does Gini do from January to the middle of March? She claims to be a voracious reader, she is an avid scuba diver, and a large portion of her time is spent at estate sales along the east coast to replenish their stock.
When asked about future developments for Todd General Store, Gini answers, “My lips are sealed.”
Todd General Store features:
- Deli and Grill
- Homemade jellies
- Ice Cream, floats and milk shakes
- Antiques, collectibles, rustic furniture
- Tuesday 5-7PM … Dinner and Story Telling
- Friday 6-9 PM … Dinner and Bluegrass
- Saturday 10-4 … Author signings; artisan displays and sales
Store hours Monday – Saturday 10-5; 12-5 Sunday (vary seasonally)
Address: 3866 Railroad Grade Road; Todd, NC, Phone: 336-877-1067, Website: http://www.toddgeneralstore.com
June Windle Bare June’s latest book is Soar Above the Yesterdays, a sequel to All Things. Soar Above the Yesterdays takes the protagonist, Susanna Elder, into another uncertain future. As a single mother in the late 1950’s, will she hole up with Grandpa back in the mountains of North Carolina and play fiddle in a local string band for the rest of her life? Would a career in music or marriage be possible? Again, she bases her hopes on her faith in God’s direction. Soar Above the Yesterdays has mystery, history, and romance … a little bit for everyone. Both of June’s books may be purchase through her website, http://www.junewindlebare.com or from Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Soar-Above-Yesterdays-June-Bare/dp/1439257752/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1285685304&sr=1-1