Postcards From the Road

Buchanan's updates present with the past

Staff WriterJanuary 18, 2009 

Hogan Whitlow, 5, takes a pull from his bottle of grape soda on the steps of Buchann's Store near the Warren County community of Manson.

STAFF PHOTO BY SCOTT SHARPE

By Scott Sharpe, Staff Writer

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MANSON -- Every customer who squeezes through the skinny double doors of Buchanan's Store passes under a red wooden sign bearing the words, "IF WE DON'T HAVE IT YOU DON'T NEED IT."

Be it bait, batteries, beer, bubble gum, bobbers, bug spray or brains, (pork brains with milk gravy to be exact), they've got it. Straw hats? In the back. Spark plugs? Over by the rack with the pantyhose. Pigs feet? In the big jar by the cash register. Crayons? To the left. Brunswick stew? To the right. Fifty pounds of dog food? On the front porch. Vienna sausage? Next to the pork brains, of course.

North Carolina's landscape is decorated by long-closed country stores, leaning like crooked gray wooden gravestones from a different era. The store, opened in 1978 by Robert Lee Buchanan and his brothers, has seen cars replace horses and mules, roads paved, and tobacco and cotton fields go to weeds, but in a day of glowing quick marts and superstores, it stands as a survivor.

The floor is the original heart pine with nail heads shiny as new dimes, worn smooth and silvery by countless pairs of bare feet and boots. The squeak and slam of the front door sets the rhythm of the season, slower in the winter and constant in the summer when the crowds come to nearby Kerr Lake.

Lucy "Cookie" Currin, Buchanan's granddaughter, now owns the place and is determined that it remain the center of the community while celebrating the past. She, like many customers, treasures the comfort that comes from the nostalgia and history. If it has worked for 130 or so years, why change it?

On a January Saturday, drinks, crackers, sandwiches and candy cross the counter all day long. A customer walks in looking for pantyhose -- and $3 worth of hoop cheese, sliced from the wedge on the counter. Like the sign says: If they don't have it, you don't need it.

Buchanan's Store is at 6547 Drewry Virginia Line Road, north of Manson.

scott.sharpe@newsobserver.com

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