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Community rallies after fire ravages century-old general store in the N.C. mountains

Community rallies after fire ravages century-old general store in the N.C. mountains

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Todd General Store (copy)

The Todd General Store, shown here in 2019, burned to the ground on Thursday night. The community is raising money to help the owners of the store rebuild.

For more than a century, Todd General Store north of Boone has been a landmark gathering spot for residents of the North Carolina High Country.

So it’s little wonder community support has quickly poured in after a fire burned the Ashe County store to the ground on Thursday night.

Scores of mourners have not only shared memories but also donated thousands of dollars to help the Connell family, who own the historic wood store rebuild.

The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, Ashe County Fire Marshal Jonathan Stansberry told the Watauga Democrat. The fire appears to have started in a kitchen area wall, he said.

‘Huge part’ of community

Word of the fire spread quickly on social media.

“It’s with a heavy heart that we have to share that the Todd General Store burned down tonight,” RiverGirl Fishing Company posted on Facebook with a photo of the flames and photos of the wrecked building after firefighters extinguished the blaze.

“No one was injured,” RiverGirl Fishing posted. “But we’ve lost a huge part of our community. Please keep the owners, their family and the community in your prayers.”

Moonshine and cigars

Todd General Store is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The store off N.C. 194 overlooks the South Fork of the New River, 10 miles south of West Jefferson and 11 miles north of Boone.

Its various owners have sold clothes, food, farm equipment, animal feed, hardware and everything in between since 1914.

It’s where crowds have gathered to hear bluegrass musicians and storytellers.

Where Bob Hyatt said he drank moonshine and smoked cigars in the 1980s around the potbelly stove.

Where her mom as a little girl traded eggs for merchandise, Sherry Spotts Herman now of Pennsylvania recalled. Bartering was common at the store back then.

Pawpaw on porch

Everyone who’s ever stepped foot in the store has a special memory, and they all continue to pour in online.

Blair Bryant from West Jefferson posted how, as a child, he ate breakfast there with his grandfather and made “so many trips across the field to get candy at the store.”

“So sad,” Bryant posted. “I can still see my grandfather sitting up on the porch of the store. Prayers to the owners.”

“Sad to have lost what is more than a landmark, more like a dear friend,” professional storyteller Dianne Hackworth posted.

Help for the owners

Just as fast as memories came the community will to help the Connells rebuild.

“Making a donation in memory of our mom — she dearly loved this store,” Spotts Herman posted.

In just a day, the GoFundMe fundraiser organized by Tonya Canter of Boone surpassed the $15,000 she hoped to raise.

Canter said she started the fundraiser as a surprise for the family “to show them they’re not alone.

“So many of us were fortunate to walk into their building and experience their dream,” Canter posted.

She thanked those who gave.

“I’m never surprised by the strength and community of my hometown,” Canter posted on the site Friday as donations surpassed $22,000. “I simply just stand in awe at each of you who have prayed, shared and donated.”

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