Historically, general stores were the one-stop shop for rural communities, carrying everything from cow feed to penny candy. While many went out of business as cities expanded and chain big-box stores came to town, a few gems have managed to survive the era of online shopping because of their historic charm and unique items. Whether they're in a big city or tucked away on an old stretch of Route 66, these classic American stores are worth taking a detour to enjoy.
Originally built in 1882, the Original Mast General Store drummed up business with the cheerful slogan: We sell “goods for the living; coffins and caskets for the dead.” That's their unique way of saying they've got everything a person could need, dead or alive. The store sells modern wares such as camping gear and books, as well as old-timey apothecary items. The store also hasn't been hit by inflation; you can still get a cup for coffee there for 5 cents.
Immortalized in a Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson song, the small town of Luckenbach, Texas, prides itself on its slogan: “Everybody’s Somebody in Luckenbach.” Inside the oldest building in town sits the Luckenbach General Store, where you can pick up snacks or souvenirs or grab a beer at the connected bar and dance hall before enjoying live music on the outdoor stage.
After Mary Bradley's homemade country sausage was a hit around town, the family started their own store in 1927. The business is now in the fourth generation of the Bradley family and continues to sell its famous sausage, as well as hogshead cheese, liver pudding, cracklings, grits and other country staples. The building itself is on the National Register of Historic Places.
This hidden gem is full of signs and artifacts from historic Route 66 and was first reopened by famous Route 66 conservationist Bob Waldmire. Former owner John Pritchard previously kept his 1957 Chevrolet Corvette parked out front. Though a newer, white ‘Vette now sits in its place, the store, which sits along the longest continuous stretch of old Route 66, hasn’t lost its charm. You can get souvenirs, clothing, snacks or anything else you need to refuel on your road trip.
Yelp/Dick's 5 & 10
Before modern-day discount stores, Americans looking for a bargain would head over to the five-and-dime stores to peruse a wide range of cheap household items. While most five-and-ten-cent stores have gone extinct, you can still take a step back in time at Dick's 5 & 10 in Branson, Missouri. Open since 1961, Dick's carries chotchkies, candy, home goods, sports gear and more than 100 kinds of soda.
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Claiming to be the oldest continually operating general store in America, the Brick Store has been in business since the 1790s. The store still has some vestiges of its colorful history, including vintage cash registers and some old counters that are slanted to accommodate women in giant hoop skirts. The store has its own smokehouse and is famous for its sandwiches and homemade fudge and New Hampshire maple syrup.
Thanks to its 2007 restoration, the 90-year-old T.B. Sutton General Store in Granville, Tennessee, has once again become a community gathering place as well as a welcoming stop for passers-through. Besides offering the expansive wares of a general store, the feed room has been converted into a dining room for an on-site family-style meal hosted every Saturday, accompanied by tunes from a player piano and Sutton's Old Time Happy Hour, a live radio-broadcast bluegrass music performance.
The Paint Bank General Store in Virginia encourages patrons to pull up a chair and stay awhile. Walk across the indoor swinging bridge, lounge on a lawn chair or play a game of cornhole on the lawn out back or eat some comfort food at The Swinging Bridge restaurant. This small-town country store prides itself on carrying "a little bit of everything," including cuts of buffalo meat, Christmas ornaments, hunting rifles, soaps and toys.
Named one of the best hardware stores in America by Popular Mechanics magazine, Cliff's Variety in San Francisco, California, is much more than a well-stocked hardware store. Founded in 1936, this landmark store also carries party supplies, colorful wigs, pool floats, fabric and more unique home and garden items.
St. James General Store on Long Island was established in 1857 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building has been structurally unchanged since 1894 and the store reflects the turn of the century in its decor and wares, which include local honey, wooden toys, porcelain tea sets and chocolate-covered molasses pops.
Located in Boston's historic Beacon Hill neighborhood, Charles Street Supply is a hardware store but also serves as a bit of a bodega as it sells everything a city dweller would need. On top of tools, blinds, firewood and home goods, it also carries back-to-school items, kites, candles, and more among its more than 24,000 products for sale. They also rent out power tools to people who only need something to make a quick fix.
Stores such as Hand-Eye Supply in Portland, Oregon, have earned acclaim as a modern take on the general stores of yore that sold farm and ranch supplies. This Old Town store sells work clothing, tools and books for professionals, craftspeople and DIY-ers. The shop's focus on clean aesthetics and locally-made, ethically-sourced products appeals to the city's young creatives.
Roaring Pines is a newer business that puts a hip spin on a general store. Half home goods shop, half soda shop, the Richmond, Virginia, business slings fancy flavors of phosphate from its six soda kegs in weird, interesting flavors inspired by local ingredients or vintage drinks, such as the Opera Bouquet, a rosewater and strawberry soda. They've got your classic egg creams and milkshakes as well. After quenching your thirst and soaking up the sun on the patio, peruse the domestically made household goods, such as toolboxes, mops, pie boxes and more.
Located just outside Bowling Green in Alvaton, Kentucky, Boyce General Store has been in the same location since 1869 and is famous for its Southern hospitality and pie baked by owner Brie Golliher. Known as the "pie queen of Bowling Green," Golliher is known for local treats such as chocolate nest pie, peaches and cream pie and even pimento cheese pie. Besides shopping and dining, Boyce offers tunes as well. On Saturdays, it hosts the Pickin' on the Patio summer concert series.
Perhaps the most famous souvenir shop and convenience store along all of Route 66 is Jackrabbit Trading Post. That’s because its owners instated a shameless billboard campaign advertising the store for miles counting down the distance to the store before culminating in a billboard reading, “HERE IT IS.” The store has been family-run for three generations and features a 7-foot fiberglass jackrabbit outside.
One of the oldest stores in America, the pale yellow Old Country Store and Museum still sells local wares, penny candy, homemade pickles and vintage-style gifts. Upstairs above the store, there’s a small museum dedicated to the history of the town and the store itself.
Located along along old Route 66 in Riverton, Kansas, the Eisler Bros. Old Riverton Store actually predates Route 66 as it opened in March of 1925. The store, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has a collection of Route 66 memorabilia as well as an old-time deli, produce, flowers, crafts and souvenirs.
This five-and-dime shop opened on Memphis's famed Beale Street in 1876 and is now the only remaining original business. Locals and tourists alike flock here for phosphates, malts and milkshakes at its old-fashioned soda fountain. Shoppers can also pick up everything from magazines and mason jars to regional arts and crafts. After all, the shop's slogan is, "If you can't find it at Schwab's, you're better off without it."
Floyd Country Store stocks a wide variety of items for country living and can satisfy your sweet tooth at its ice cream counter or with its barrels of old-fashioned candy. But Floyd's biggest claim to fame is its celebration of Appalachian culture. Floyd's hosts weekly Friday night jamborees where locals gather to listen to live music and show off traditional flatfoot dancing and clogging. The store also sells music from local artists.
Another classic American one-stop shop is the convenience store. Usually located in urban areas or along stretches of highway rather than rural areas like general stores, convenience stores generally stock snacks, drinks and travel items for motorists and truckers. Perhaps the most famous convenience store is the world's largest truckstop, the Iowa 80 Truckstop. Along with an on-site barber shop, dentist, chiropractor, gym and movie theater, the truck stop has a well-stocked convenience store that sells everything from coffee to pet and camping supplies.
The kitschy South Of The Border tourist complex beckons weary travelers through the Southeast with an Eiffel Tower-like structure topped with a sombrero. Besides its on-site hotel, convention center, reptile exhibit, amusement park and restaurants, the complex has seven stores, one dedicated to beach supplies, one full of hats, one that sells fireworks, two souvenir shops and two convenience stores.
Little America, located off Interstate 40 in Flagstaff, is almost like a self-contained resort for the road-weary. Besides its on-site hotel, coffee shop and restaurant, Little America has a massive Travel Center, which includes a gift shop and 24-hour convenience store that sells tool, clothes, groceries, collectibles and gear to clean or fix your car. It's an oasis in the desert for many travelers.