More Than A General Store

Long before the sun comes up Rodney Edwards opens the shutters on the old general store in Villanow, Georgia, reports CBS News Correspondent Harry Smith.

Sleepy-eyed customers will soon be arriving because every Monday through Friday, Rodney's wife E. Beth prepares fresh baked biscuits with sausage, steak, or chicken.

"Usually the people who come in early want steak, ones that come in later want sausage," she says. "I don't know why it works that way, but it does."

The store gets busy after a while. But most folks have a minute or two to chat and share a little gossip or maybe ask E. Beth for some advice.

"You gotta tell me when my goats are gonna deliver," demands one customer.

They come for gas, groceries, and who knows what all else.

In the back there are plumbing supplies beneath the deer trophies. There are nuts and bolts and nails.

Fancy it isn't, but in many ways it is the same store it was when it opened back in 1840 - a country store serving the needs of its community.

Susan Dicarlo comes six miles out of her way just to buy feed here.

"There's not many places like this left," she says.

Indeed there aren't many places where old timers like Ben Reed and Bradley White can sit a spell and smile about neighbors long gone, or where a little black box holds the hand written records of debits and credits.

The Edwards' extend credit to most everyone they know. So it has always been at the old country store. Ancient IOU's are hidden behind the baked beans with the canned goods -- pencil scratches of faith and promises to be kept.

There's no school or even a post office anymore in Villanow. More than ever, the old store is the heart of this little corner of Walker County.

The Edwards' kids work behind the counter when they're not in school. E. Beth knows that while they are in the store, her children are learning more than how to run the cash register.

"I hope we're teaching our children this is what's important," she says. "People are what's important."

Rodney and E. Beth say their old store is a living, breathing dinosaur -- something that should exist only in a book or a museum somewhere.

We have people tell us all the time we don't live in the real world," says Rodney. "And we don't. And I'm glad of it."

Instead, theirs is a world of trust, friendship and good neighbors on the corner of highways 136 and 201.

Reported by Harry Smith
©1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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