By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: November 14, 2018 | 3:45 p.m.
The Purdy Store. That’s what the locals call it, and anyone who’s ever navigated down eleven miles of increasingly narrow, winding roads from Emporia – or six miles from Jarrett – to get there, can understand why. Other than farmland, there’s just not much else around – which goes a long way toward explaining why the locals are so happy to have it reopen.
“This was our little Wal Mart. It had everything we need. Everything,” said Bonnie Wilkins, who grew up just down the road. “We didn’t need to go to town. We bought our groceries here. They’d give my Grandmama her little charge account and at the end of the week she’d come pay for everything. It was wonderful. It became a gathering place later own, once we grew up and went different ways and had children we’d only stop in every now and then, but when we were kids, this was our store. We didn’t know what Emporia was.”
Wilkins’ health doesn’t allow her to work at the store, but she admits that she hangs out there a lot, and she has many fond memories of the place when it first opened.
“WRAYS used to own it back in early years,” she said. “I was a little bitty kid. I’ve always gone to this store ever since cookies was two for a penny! Back in the day you could come in here and buy your blocks of cheese, slice old style baloney. See how it says ‘Welcome to Purdy Mall’ and ‘Hardware department’ in the back? 1966 is engraved out there in the concrete, so it was probably built then. I was born in ‘59 so I was just little girl then. We lived a mile and a half from the store, so when we was kids, we used to walk up here every chance we got and if we found a soda bottle in the ditch we’d come up here and buy us two for a penny cookies.”
The Purdy Store deserves the name Our Little Wal Mart as it has everything from hot dogs to an ATM machine
“I remember Mr. Wray and his wife Helen,” she continued. “When I was a teenager working the farm for tobacco we came here to get our little lunch and everything. My favorite lunch was a grape soda with a pack of cheese nabs, or sometimes we’d get a can of Georgia Hash with some crackers and a Pepsi. This store here has so much history – it really does. I mean, when you think about it, it was a good feeling. It really was.”
Store manager Mohamed Abushaar listened with a shy smile, but had very little to say beyond proudly pointing out the new ATM machine and explaining that he decided to re-open the little local country store because, “my customers from the other store (Chester Chicken) kept asking me to come here. That’s how I hear about it.”
Fortunately, his customers were a lot more willing to talk about the place – and the manager. Like Bobby Wills, another neighbor from less than a mile down the road, who stopped in to get something for lunch. And as he sat in one of the wooden booths in the center of the store and ate his oatmeal cookie, he shared that he, too, had “lived here all my life.”
“We’re glad to see it back on,” Willis said. “It was built in 1961, and it’s been through a lot of owners. It’s hard for a country store to make it now. But when this place is closed down, you’ve got to drive 9 miles to town to get a gallon of gas or a cold drink, which is very much of an inconvenience. The problem is it’s hard to get people to patronize a country store. I like it because I can take a break, run up here and eat lunch, or just come hang around. This store is kind of a part of the hist of Purdy. There used to be four, and they all made it. We had a post office and all but it’s all gone now. Population right round here’s probably not more than 25-30.”
Proprietor Mohamed Abushaar said he re-opened the Purdy Store because all his customers at Chester Chicken wanted him to
The back room with the sign saying “Hardware Store” stand empty now, but the shelves in the front part of the building hold everything from laundry detergent to some really hard-to-find old fashioned candies, and up by the front door you can get hot dogs, hot wings, barbecue, chicken fillet sandwiches, even sausage and egg biscuits.
“He’s got some pretty decent food,” Willis said, nodding toward the menu sign behind the cash register, “and for the locals around here’s it’s very convenient. He’s done a good job. He’s from Yemen and I give him a hard time but he’s got a real good personality. I’m just glad it reopened. I hope people patronize it enough to keep it open. Time will tell.”
And as Abushaar looks up from pricing candy, you just know from his great big smile that while he may not have much to say, he’s been listening to every word – and he will find a way to keep The Purdy Store going.