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    backroads

    A Country Store Carries On

    by | 7 | Mar 16, 2015
    Cooper's Country Store, The Real Deal

    Cooper’s Country Store, The Real Deal

    It’s been called the best country store in South Carolina. You can buy Virginia cured hams there, and you can buy gas, diesel, propane, shotgun shells, wrenches, and frying pans. Why you can even buy hog heads for headcheese, red hash, fig jam, hoop cheese, Blenheim’s Ginger Ale, and cheap wine there. As country stores in this part of the South go, it’s famous. Its fame, in fact, earned it a spot in the esteemed Southern magazine, Garden & Gun. So, if you have a hankering to see a genuine survivor, an honest-to-goodness country store, get in your car and drive US 521 to Salters, South Carolina. There sits Cooper’s Country Store on a major backroad to the Grand Stand.

    Colorful Calories

    Colorful Calories

    You can’t miss it. The red-and-white two-story store commands the eye. The big Exxon sign on top the living quarters adds its splash of patriotic colors to the scene. So does the Pepsi sign to the right in front of the upstairs porch. The store is classic and just about everything about it delights the senses. Go to the rear and stand near the fine Southampton hams hanging in a screened-off cage. Inhale an aroma that has been making mouths water for many, many decades.

    Everywhere you look, a jumble of sights delights the eyes: cookies, candies, hand-lettered signs, and an amazing table featuring the shiny brass heads of 12-gauge shotgun shells. Fan belts hang on racks. The bacon here makes many a breakfast at the beach a feast. Curiously out of place is a surveillance camera, a sign of the times and not at good one.

    DSCF0020

    Southampton Country Ham

    Toilet tank repair kits, eyebolts (Good for hanging Pawley’s Island hammocks), and collectible but not for sale old farm implements grace the store. A precursor in a way to Walmart, old country stores like Cooper’s provided just about anything country folk needed.

    Cotton farmer, Theron Burrows, built the store in 1937. Known from the start as Burrow’s Service Station, it sold Esso gas. The name changed in 1974 when Burrow’s son-in-law, George Cooper, and Burrows’s daughter, Adalyn, took over the venerable store. Russell Cooper runs the store today.

    Tools and more

    Tools and more

    Like a lot of old country stores that surrendered to time, Cooper’s Country Store is a two-story affair with a home upstairs where the proprietors once lived and occasionally still stay. The French have a beautiful architectural term describing the covered entrance beneath which vehicles drive through: “porte cochere,” a porch where vehicles stop to discharge passengers. Well, you can be sure a lot of vehicles and passengers have passed through here, and so should you.

    I should issue a warning to people hell bent to get to the beach. Don’t stop at Cooper’s Country Store. You’ll linger far longer than you intend. God knows you may end up late to the land of traffic congestion, Yankee accents, “anyways,” and wacky golf. But, for those who want to see what was a common part of their grandparents’ lives, you’ll find the old store at the intersection of 521 and 377, the junction where the past meets the present.

    If You Go…
    Be sure to drive through nearby Salters to see an old whistle-stop town.

    For more information: SouthernFoodways.org.

    ###
    • Images: All of the photos were taken by the author, Tom Poland

    Tom Poland

    Tom Poland, A Southern Writer – Tom Poland is the author of twelve books and more than 1,000 magazine features. A Southern writer, his work has appeared in magazines throughout the South. Tom grew up in Lincoln County, Georgia, where four wonderful English teachers gave him a love for language. People first came to know Tom’s work in South Carolina Wildlife magazine, where he wrote features and served as managing editor.Tom’s written over 1,000 columns and features and seven traditionally published books. Among his recent books are Classic Carolina Road Trips From Columbia, Georgialina, A Southland, As We Knew It, and his and Robert Clark’s latest volume of Reflections of South Carolina. Swamp Gravy, Georgia’s Official Folk Life Drama, staged his play, Solid Ground in 2011 and 2012.He writes a weekly column for newspapers and journals in Georgia and South Carolina about the South, its people, traditions, lifestyle, and changing culture and speaks often to groups across South Carolina and Georgia.Tom earned a BA in Journalism and a Masters in Media at the University of Georgia. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina where he writes about Georgialina—his name for eastern Georgia and South Carolina. Visit my website at www.tompoland.net Email me at tompol@earthlink.net

     

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    • Thanks, Tom. Been there way too many times. Always a great marker that I wasn’t lost on my way through the low country dark. Seemed to remember industry finally coming to that part of in the the middle a nowhere -- a large new federal penitentiary.
      Not wishing to take away from this wonderful place, but a spanking new favorite of mine is the Sewee Outpost (http://www.seweeoutpost.com) -- pricey, but maybe the best cheese biscuits I’ve ever had.

      • Tom

        Lee, thanks. Yes it is a beacon. And the big federal prison is close by. I’ve been to the Sewee Outpost and it is a good place to visit.

    • Trevor Irvin

      Nice to see a place that you can still grab a fan belt as well as some bacon and a hogs head of cheese at the same stop. I’ll have to stop in if I if travelling nearby. But it must be hell having to endure the horror of a Yankee accent, rubbing up against different kinds of people is so disquieting.
      Regards,
      T

      • Tom

        Disquieting and dangerous too! Check out the store. It’s a classic.

    • Nick K.

      Great story Tom! Might be what the Kahrs’ store in Augusta would have become if it had survived.

    • Margaret Kneece

      South Carolina is fortunate to have you, my friend. You’ve unearthed a lot of real SC gems that many of us never knew existed. Thanks for the info! Another day trip added to the list!

    • Vonnie Wilford

      Would love to go see this!

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