Cary News: Opinion

Cary’s Heritage: Years ago, Cary shopping options were few

Years ago, Cary only had a few stores where you could do a little Christmas shopping, from clothing to caskets.

Elva Templeton: In Cary, the stores faced Cedar Street, but we called it Railroad Street back then. They were all just general merchandise, but they had about everything.

Mary Belle Phillips: On the corner where the Fidelity Bank is, there was a tall, wooden structure general store, owned by Frank Gray and his brother. When those people died in the late 1920s, the store closed.

Wiley Jones also had a general store across from the Page-Walker Hotel. He sold fabric and everything right uptown. Mr. Scott’s ladies clothing store was just west of Ashworth’s Drugstore. She sold beautiful hats, shoes, and dresses.

Jean Mitchell: Wayne and I owned Mitchell’s Pharmacy on East Chatham Street. Later on, I sold a lot of antiques in part of the drugstore. Everybody accused me of taking over the whole store and just left Wayne his prescription department in back, which was about the truth.

Charlotte Phelps: Cooper’s Furniture store has been out on east Chatham Street for years and years.

Randy Chandler: After we closed the Cary Theater, we opened a men’s clothing store in the same building in 1960. I used to get merchandise by rail. We only sold men’s clothing, because a ladies’ dress shop opened at the same time in that brick building past Ashworth’s. It was Mr. Scott’s store, owned by the Dickeys.

So we just sold men’s suits. When the Research Triangle opened, IBM came to town, and the IBMers had to wear suits and ties. IBM’s employees really supported us. We ran that store for 20 years, 10 with Dad and 10 by myself, from 1960 to 1980. And then the mall came, and it killed my business.

Margaret Travis: In Green Level, there were two country stores. One was run by Mr. A.H. Mills, and his son, Kenneth, after he retired. The country store carried many things – from feed for animals and fertilizer to food and staple things.

The other store, run by Mr. T.C. Council, was at the bottom of the hill that he had converted from a whisky tavern. In this store, Mr. Council added a room to the back where he sold caskets.

Emma Lou Johnson: There was a little general store in Carpenter. They had been the backbone of this community from way back in my Daddy’s time. There was nothing in Cary back in the 1940s, but grocery stores. If you wanted to do any real shopping, you had to go to Raleigh.

Cary’s Heritage is taken from the book, “Just a Horse-Stopping Place, an Oral History of Cary, North Carolina,” first published in August, 2006. The book is a collection of oral history interviews conducted between local citizens and Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel.

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