Tag Archives: Mast General Store.

The General Store


The Mast General Store at Valle Crucis, North Carolina, captures a golden moment in time when Blue Ridge people got most of their merchandise from a local store. An incredible variety of goods (shoes, work clothes, iron cookware, sewing notions, etc.) could be found between the four walls of the general store or mercantile. It was too costly (if not impossible) to travel to a city were one could shop in a department store, so these small enterprises took the opposite tack:  Instead of specialized departments, they offered a conglomeration of all the basic things a family might need for their subsistence, but were unable to make for themselves.

Managers of the Mast Store have assembled many of the brands that were popular during the Great Depression–Moon Pie, Nehi, Carhartt, etc.–which makes a visit all the more authentic. Tourists like to sit on the store’s back porch (shown here), sipping a cold soft drink like those their grandparents drank.

Here you’ll find hand-carved wooden toys, flannel underwear, lye soap, jars of pickled okra, and much more. I’m always astonished to find that such things are still made in the USA, much less sold here, but this renews my confidence that we might be able to survive the next Great Depression after all.

Appropriately, the local post office is located here. You surely remember what a post office is. Before the Internet and its e-mail, before the Smartphone and its text messages, people communicated with one another in writing with letters and postcards. They still do in Valle Crucis. You can rent a mailbox here, buy some stamps, or weigh a parcel to ship back home. Another reassuring fact if you’re worried about an electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear Armageddon.

I highly recommend a visit to the Mast General Store when you’re in the area. It’s good for your blood pressure, not to mention your pocketbook.


Come, Set a Spell

ImageThe porch has long been a vital gathering place for Southern folk. In the heat of the day, neighbors took refuge in the cool shade of someone’s porch to talk for hours at a time. The most hospitable greeting that a mountain homesteader could give to the passing stranger was, “Come, set a spell.” An invitation to the porch was like an invitation to the family table.

Even the most humble home had a porch of some kind–not just a stoop or an awning. One measure of its importance was the fact that most homes had porches long before they had indoor plumbing.

Any place of business that wanted to attract the public would extend a welcome with a spacious porch, so mercantiles and feed stores had them. Courthouses didn’t, of course, because magistrates wanted no one loitering there! Popular “tourist traps” of the South follow that tradition even today with wide, shady porches and several rocking chairs. (Ever been to an outlet of the “Cracker Barrel” chain?) The photo here is from the back porch of the Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, NC, not quite as glitzy as other tourist destinations. And they’ve not forgotten the spirit of Southern hospitality!