What do Cat Pajamas and the Five-Star General Store have in common?

Posted by on Jun 17, 2017 in General | 0 comments

Local celebrity writer Daniel Wallace has written about both!

You may have encountered Daniel Wallace any number of ways: playing ping pong on a Monday night in the Ballroom, on NPR recently talking about his new book, Extraordinary Adventures, or reading from Cat’s Pajamas to a full house in Chapel Hill. Or you may have read the great article Wallace wrote for Our State magazine in 2015 about this Five-Star General Store here in Saxapahaw.

Daniel Wallace is known for his weaving of tall and small tales which are insightful and funny (if sometimes dark, as clouds and life can be), about everyday people, and the wonder and perpetually surprising rhythms and happenings of lives that ring true and familiar, whether colorized and planted in Birmingham, Chapel Hill, or Saxapahaw.

I am a Wallace fan (FOD, as his friend and fellow local celebrity writer Alan Shapiro put it), and I am a fan of the Five-Star Store, where, as Jeff Barney has said, the goal was never to get big but to become more deeply rooted. The General Store’s goal has been and is to be open to all, and to provide, generally, what The People want, basics that serve the community with care. A dynamic everyday plan requires and revels in the vital energy of everyone here and also everyone who comes, as Wallace wrote, to be a stranger or just to be strange.

Just as the Chapel Hill’s Just Bee Apiary collective (whose products we carry!) understands that the relationship between taste and home comes from “terroir” (from the tiniest invisible Earth element to the melding of sweet and sour colors), Jeff and Cameron, the staff, and those who serve and join us participate at every level in the Store and community creation. We participate by sharing garden bounty and fresh meat, creative dishes and carefully crafted products , by filling orders, dropping in to say hello, picking up sundries, buying gas, or ordering two sides of brussels sprouts once a week with dinner. We enthusiastically feed the roots as well as the garden of this community in all kinds of ways, by caring. Jeff refers to the food made and served as “soul food”: “what makes it soul food is its uniqueness to this place and these four walls.” Everyday creation.

In his 2015 article, Daniel Wallace wrote about believing that there are unmapped tracts where dinosaurs might roam, in Bigfoot, in the possibility of stumbling over a treasure trove, and believing now in Saxapahaw. I’m a never-ending believer in possibility too, and in the “magic” that makes this village what it is. Here’s an example: Friday night the film, The Neverending Story was shown in the amphitheater next to the Haw River Ballroom. Lots of children (old and young) were watching the age-old “fantasy” unfold—“the Nothing” threatens to destroy Fantasia and beckons the human boy (Bastian) to fulfill his part, by caring enough; adventures ensue.  Left Bank Butchery’s hot dog cart was there, and the Haw River brewery was open for business. All of this, and a full-moon too.

Extraordinary adventures reveal what drives us, charge us to pay attention, as messy or extravagant as any moment may be, whether catching or eating big fish, dancing in front of the Haywagon stage, looking over the river from Cup 22, the Eddy, or a backyard close by beneath a full moon, or chilling at a five-star gas station with bakery baskets, local melons, good food, big smiles or … whatever each brings to the table.

And speaking of tales and extraordinary adventures, I saw the film Wonder Woman, which just came out in local theaters to box-office-record-breaking ticket sales. The first time a female superhero has had her own Big Box Office film, in the trail of Batman and Superman! Jill Lepore’s book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman came out in 2014, and Lepore is talking to audiences everywhere about what got her on the trail of the superhero’s beginnings. She is a historian and journalist who was asked by the New Yorker to write about Margaret Sanger and the beginning of Planned Parenthood. One bit led to another and she landed in archives where the Sanger Papers and the papers of Gloria Steinem and Ms. Magazine were kept. It turns out that within the iconic Superhero story is a fascinating family story threaded with its own intrigue and adventure.

William Moulton Marston, the psychologist who created Wonder Woman, wrote a regular column for Family Circle about conventional family life with his mistress, Olive Byrne, even as he and Olive Byrne and his wife, Holloway, lived their most unconventional life. Marston was thought of as an “expert on truth,” but lived a secret life, then presented that secret life as a kind of utopian fantasy connected by iconography and more to the currents of our human and national history of mental, emotional and physical slavery and the great hunger and struggle to break the chains that bind. Jill Lepore completed the collage of connections, to Margaret Sanger in particular, by following the pieces of documented clues. There are always clues.

The Wonder Woman stories, like many superhero stories I imagine, are animated by references to fables and stories about the ancient Greeks and other ancestors, including the Amazonians. There are always battles between “corrupted” humankind and the forces of Good. This is where the cresting wave of extraordinary adventures always rises, like the running wave of a river through green land with high banks and low, where branches reach from trees that have long bent toward the water and where the memories of men and women linger.

As our present (in any time) challenges our ideas and beliefs about Life, and our life, it seems to me we can learn best, now, perhaps, from recognizing that life is a collage, with each of us choosing and creating our reality every day, individually and together, and the surface variations are like the River that so many of us love and that reminds us we ARE the river of life too—reflective, sometimes turbulent, sometimes peaceful, moving with the life within us.

Ultimately, aren’t all stories family stories? Wonder Woman’s origins are in a fascinating family story which involves one of our pioneering advocates for equal rights. Our iconic superheroes have their own histories, created by humans, with trails and beliefs to follow: how they were crafted and inserted, celebrated and launched into our collective consciousness and run like the river, shaping our emotional story and our world.

In the League of Superheroes, each is a hero in their own right, with their own story, but when they are called upon to join forces (to work together), they do with mighty results. Another tangled family of sorts. Ambition always falters without a family story, a network of support which builds gets stronger.

In the extraordinary adventures of the current village of Saxapahaw, rivers converge in the people’s mingling, just as they do in the confluence of the Mill and bridge that overlook and cross the Haw. Colorful canoes and kayaks are part of the view and experience and create their ripples too, real and digital. We humans do that.

One recent afternoon I served food to a customer who worked for many years as a land surveyor. He had not been to Saxapahaw for a while, but grew up in the area and knows a lot of its history. He said he remembers when plans were being made to renovate and “re-activate” the Mill and more. He said he thought it was impossible. “I’m glad I was wrong,” he said, laughing as he took a bite of his sandwich. “It couldn’t have happened without the right people.”

GPS-driven, summer-drive-or-ride-in-the-country driven, steam-powered, or walking, come see us!. Grab a cold drink, pet the well-loved pets that may wander by (on leashes), order a bite to eat (I recommend the pork shoulder sandwich!), and drink in some Brigadoon. This enchanted place rarely disappears in a mist, and we can return almost anytime we are driven to. The things that unite us remain both magical and knowable. Just listen to the River.

The Amazing MB Martin, Chef and Catering Wizard!

Posted by on Jun 5, 2017 in Catering, General | 0 comments

The Amazing MB Martin, Chef and Catering Wizard!
Chef M.B. Martin

The Amazing Catering Captain, MB Martin!

This is Chef MB, a catering miracle-worker whose creations delight and are seemingly done without any visible dust or noise from her hours of labor. MB truly does make miracles happen, and I have heard wedding parties say, just in my short time working at the Store, that the food served at the wedding they attended at the Ballroom was the best they have eaten at any wedding. High praise!

I sat down with MB (interrupting her rare break and tasty-looking lunch) and asked her a few questions about her food passions and favorite things. The catering is a lot of work, she said, but she loves working with Patti G., and being able to prepare fresh and wholesome food (from selective ingredients), handling the food from start to finish and also being a part of the completed experience, knowing the client has had a good meal and made a good memory.

MB was born in Rocky Mount (NC born and bred!), and was raised in Burlington. She received a B.A. in Graphic Design, with a minor in Business, at UNCG. She was just a baby (16!) when she started working at the General Store, and began catering about four years ago. Some of the things MB loves about Saxapahaw are shared by many who visit and live in the area (including me): the community, the farm-to-table opportunities, the peacefulness of the river. She loves to spend time reading, crocheting, and is an AVID cat lover (she has 3 and a big smile spreads across her face when she thinks of them).

Along with the catering offerings, MB creates regularly in the SaxGen kitchen, where the crew puts out tasty food all day every day. (MB also makes her own Monthly Planners, which are works of art in themselves.) Her creative mind  never stops, and we are glad she is here! Next time you see MB, give her a nod, a smile, a handshake, a hug, a thank you if you feel inclined. She earns them every day.

 

What do a Library and the Five-Star General Store Have in Common?

Posted by on May 22, 2017 in General | 0 comments

What do a Library and the Five-Star General Store Have in Common?

Roots run deep, to land we love, and through time, families, neighbors, and communities. Roots of knowledge, learning, and memories also run deep, generationally, and are linked to the places where we land and the people and places we love and remember. Places we like to be.

Recently I read an article called Raleigh’s 50-ft Librarian by Scott Huler in Our State magazine (2014). Huler wrote about NC State’s Hunt Library, in west Raleigh, which opened in January 2013 at a state cost of about $115 million.  “Think again!” might be the building’s motto, its designers said.  Susan Nutter, the Libraries’ Director, wanted a library for NOW, not more bricks and rectangles. Students and faculty wanted a building that would keep changing, keep growing, and would give them a chance to change and grow with it. A goal and design emerged to house the system as an efficient dynamic human environment of research, interactive learning.

The state-of-the-art technology is constantly in use in creative ways, yet the design’s focus became on the interactions of people. The place is designed for activity, discovery, and collaboration. The architect (whose company also designed the Bibliotheca in Alexandria, Egypt, which opened in 2002) said it is almost the opposite of the way libraries of the past are thought of: lots of books with dusty spines, lots of quiet, solitary patrons sitting in cubicles for long periods. Books are primarily retrieved by bookBots that dive deep (and transparently, so patrons can watch them through the glass) into stacked metal bins which hold most of its 1.5 million collection. There is no browsing among those volumes, but the space is well used and the bookBot apparently captivating to watch.

The Hunt Library may not be one that my parents would have recognized, but they surely would have appreciated its creation. The students and faculty asked for a library that, at its core and in its every facet, serves its students and adapts to the now of this time and more, and that’s what they got.

The Hunt Library vision and creation reminds me of this humming General Store in Saxapahaw. A community is vital when its people serve each other in ways that complement each other and the whole, the place, and the community. At the Store, this is a conscious mission, just as it was and is at the Hunt Library. These visionaries knew what they wanted to create and would not settle for less: test limits; see what holds; see what breaks; listen; innovate. Creating a lively gathering place which serves each of us is our way of consciously building a structure to nurture the best of our everyday creations.

Collaboration and bonds with neighbors (we’re all students and teachers!) is the substance of a place where people know the value of their buried roots and the flowering that comes from them as well as the necessity of change. Here, at the General Store, produce changes with the seasons, new local products appear, staff changes, neighbors go and come, children go away to school and some return. Memories are shared and new ones made. People are drawn to and back to Saxapahaw, and everyone is welcome.

When Jeff Barney and Cameron Ratliff began to think about the community they love and its potential to grow as a supportive economy, they imagined, with fellow visionary and native son Mac Jordan, a place where a village could gather for food, drink and provisions, run by people whose varied backgrounds have taught them that we each influence our environment every day by interacting with all who darken the doors and step over the threshold. Every day I learn more about the amazing people who work and gather or pass through the Store and the village: the chefs who daily dish out food to exclaim over and tell your friends about; staffers who sew, dance, make lace, candles, music; some who are models, mothers, fathers, composers, artists, yoga instructors, gamers, readers, writers, graphic designers; customers who are farmers, artists, builders, carpenters, parents, students, teachers, consultants, gardeners, inventors, and veterans of all kinds; and we also get to enjoy many beautiful boisterous and studious children of all ages. What gifts.

As new businesses and relationships appear and grow, the mission remains the same. The Store is well-established and re-inventing all the time, along with the great neighbors and visitors we serve. Those who work and gather here are as independent as ever and still always strive to work together and appreciate the daily delights and opportunities of NOW. My parents might have been overwhelmed by the many menu offerings and amazed at some of the shelf items, but I think they would have been happy with what they were served. And they completely understood the mission. It’s about people first, and talents and values converge. Thank you all!

Live, Organic, Vegan, Energy A.K.A. LOVE

Posted by on Apr 28, 2016 in General, Grocery | 0 comments

Live, Organic, Vegan, Energy A.K.A. LOVE

At the Saxapahaw General Store, we strive to be inclusive of all.  This is why you’ll find locally made kombuchas and sodas sitting next to Pepsi and Coca-Cola products, and Little Debbie snack cakes alongside an arrangement of local, organic, and natural energy bars.  One of these local, organic energy bars is made right in Durham with 100% raw, organic, gluten-free, and vegan ingredients.  They call it love, and we agree!  You can find the Cashew Brownie, Ginger Spice, and Goji Cacao flavors of Love Bars on our shelves as a more healthy and nutritionally dense option for your snacking needs.

New in Grocery- Simple Kneads

Posted by on Mar 2, 2016 in Grocery | 0 comments

New in Grocery- Simple Kneads

We are so very excited to bring Simple Kneads gluten-free breads into the store.  They are made from scratch, with love right in Burlington, NC.  The company began when Tristaun LeClaire’s son developed a gluten allergy when he was two years old.  Tristaun began experimenting with ingredients to create his own recipe of satisfying and wholesome gluten-free bread.  The result was some pretty delicious bread that even all of our gluten lovers at the Saxapahaw General Store can get into.  Right now we are carrying their sourdough, quinoa power grains, and pumpkinickel breads.

Roots Run Deep

Posted by on Feb 12, 2016 in General, Grocery | 0 comments

Roots Run Deep

I’ve always been fascinated by individuals I encounter whose families have a deep heritage and rooted connection to a specific geographic region.  My mother’s grandmother was born in Italy and my father’s great-grandparents were born in Ireland, so I don’t have a deep familial connection to a certain place here in the United States.  Mike Kirk lives on a piece of land that has been in his family since the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). This land is now farmed as Cane Creek Farms, and is located right off of Bradshaw Quarry Rd in Efland, NC, and Mike is the farm manager.  As I write about the connection to this parcel of land in North Carolina, I realize I cannot discount the fact that before the 18th century, this land was home to Native American tribes who were violently uprooted from the place they were deeply rooted and connected with, and that there are connections to certain places around the world deeper than I will ever know.

 

Boxcarr Retirees

Boxcarr Retirees

The 85 acres of Cane Creek Farms operate with only three full time employees.  The other full time residents of this land include pigs, chickens, horses, and the retired goats from Boxcarr Handmade Cheese.  Through the sleepy winter months you’ll still find kale, collard greens, and salad greens poking up through the earth, while garlic and onions sleep underground.  During the busier spring and summer months, interns will be helping plant and harvest strawberries, blueberries, asparagus, tomatoes, and flowers, to name just a few.  Though Cane Creek is not a certified organic farm, they follow organic practices and only spray their crops when absolutely necessary.

Cane Creek Farm- Mike

If you ever stumble upon Mike’s path, you’ll find a warm, open, unassuming person.  The energy of Cane Creek Farms reflects the welcoming nature of its manager.  There is a lovely peacefulness that radiates from this farm.  The ripples have been felt by local hunters who post up on the property during hunting season, by a bee farmer from New Hampshire who travels the 800 miles to bring his 30 bee hives to Cane Creek for the summer, and all those who make the quick stop at the bottom of the Cane Creek driveway to gather fruits and veggies from the “honor system” farm stand.

We’re serving Cane Creek Farms eggs for breakfast right now at the Saxapahaw General Store, and you can find lots of their produce here at the store throughout the year.

Benevolent

Posted by on Jan 14, 2016 in General, Grocery | 0 comments

Benevolent

Over the past year I’ve done a lot of exploration into the world of social enterprises- entities that exist for more than the sole purpose of making money, but also to do social and environmental good.  I’ve learned about B Corporations, Benefit Corporations, and the growing trend of non-profit organizations to adopt some of the principles of for profit businesses so they are not solely grant reliant.  Through working at the Saxapahaw General Store, I am often in contact with many of these businesses, organizations, and the entrepreneurs who are seeking to do greater good in this world.  One such organization that supplies our little store with freshly grown veggies through the summer is Benevolence Farm.

Benevolence Farm Bell Peppers

Benevolence Farm Bell Peppers

Benevolence Farm is a non-profit organization that envisions a world more equitable, just, and nurturing for women and the communities they transform.  Their mission is to provide an opportunity for women leaving prison to live and work on a farm where they grow food, nourish self, and foster community.  This past Summer, Benevolence Farm yielded vegetables, herbs, and flowers from their 5000 square foot garden.  They sold much of their crop to us at the Saxapahaw General Store, to the Company Shops Market and the Burlington Farmers Market.  This year, they have plans for expansion.  After efforts to clear trees on the property, they will move from 5000 sq ft. of farmable land to one acre.  Benevolence Farm will also double their reach in helping women transitioning from the prison system by increasing the number of women they can host from five to 12.

Benevolence Tree Line

Benevolence home 1

Benevolence Farm is having an open house on Friday, January 15.  Stop by to learn more about the cause and what you can do to help.

Find more information about women in prison and re-entry on the Benevolence.org website

Find more information about women in prison and re-entry on the Benevolence.org website

 

New In Grocery- Freebird!

Posted by on Nov 14, 2015 in Grocery | 0 comments

New In Grocery- Freebird!

“Free bird!!”

Yep, we’ve got it (not the Lynyrd Skynyrd song of course), boneless breasts and thighs from FreeBird.  Chickens raised on the FreeBird farms have more space to roam around, are fed vegetarian diets, and are antibiotic free.  The farmers here have a commitment to sustainable farming, the environment, the survival and viability of family farms, and to the well-being of their chickens.  And although our preference is always to support and source from our local farms, when we don’t, we try to seek out values-aligned companies.

Right now at the Saxapahaw General Store we are selling fresh packs of FreeBird boneless, skinless breasts, and FreeBird boneless, skinless thighs.  You can find these on the bottom shelf of our coolers along the wall, before you get to the beer, or ask one of us to help you find them!

New in Grocery- Have a Field Day!

Posted by on Oct 29, 2015 in Grocery | 0 comments

New in Grocery- Have a Field Day!

We are always changing and evolving at the Saxapahaw General Store.  Our staff changes- new team members and new responsibilities, and the Saxapahaw community changes- new residents moving in, and old friends moving away.  We also try, as best we can, to continue changing the products on our shelves to better fit our mission and to serve our community.  Last week we made room on our shelves for a new line of grocery items from Field Day.  Field Day offers organic and natural products – so no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, and no GMOs – for a lower cost than other organic brands.

Come in to check out what’s new in the grocery aisles, and let us know what you’d like to see!  We are always open to suggestions and requests from our community, and will do our best to serve you.

Turtle Run

Posted by on Oct 5, 2015 in General, Grocery | 0 comments

Turtle Run

Kevin Meehan was born and raised in Boulder, CO, studied architecture, and built homes alongside Mike Reynolds (the man who became famous for building “earthships“) in Taos, NM.  He went on to building homes with his wife in Iowa, in California, and in Wisconsin alongside Lake Superior.

In 1995 Kevin and his wife, Kim were in North Carolina visiting Kim’s parents who had recently moved to the state from Baltimore, MD.  They were exploring the area and lost their way about 20 miles outside of Carrboro.  When they pulled over to look at a map, they found themselves staring at an abandoned homestead.  The original plan was to move to Eugene, OR, start a small farm and raise a family, but they were struck by the beauty of the North Carolina landscape and the fertile soil of this little plot of land.  That same day Kevin and Kim put an offer in on this property, and 20 years later Turtle Run Farm remains the home of Kevin, Kim, their two daughters, Clare and Erin, and now Kevin’s mother.

Turtle Run original plot

Turtle Run original plot

Turtle Run Farm grows blueberries, pears, corn, watermelon, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, greens, okra, cucumbers, strawberries, potatoes, and a few herbs on 3 acres of land.  The farm has been an anchor of the Carrboro Farmers Market for the past 20 years, and the scientific experiment ground of Clare Meehan.  Clare enjoys helping her father cross pollinate some of the crops to create new hybrids.  One of the favorite hybrids, Little Cherokees, are a cross between Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes and Sungold tomatoes.  Other varieties include Erins Gold and Clares Red, named after their daughters.  A few additional projects that have taken shape on the farm are the greenhouse which was designed and built by Kevin’s agricultural studies students at Central Carolina Community College, and the Use-Yer-Foot sink, which provides a portable hand washing station for festivals and outdoor events.

Turtle Run Peppers

Turtle Run Peppers

Our visit to Turtle Run Farm was absolutely wonderful.  Kevin and his family have such an enthusiastic energy about them. It is evident by the quality of all the projects he has taken on that Kevin puts his whole heart into everything he does.

You can find Turtle Run Farm produce at the Saxapahaw General Store and weekly at the Carrboro Farmers Market.  Look for the “Use-Yer-Foot” hand washing stations at festivals around North Carolina.

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