The Saxapahaw General Store as it now exists began in June 2008 when Jeff Barney, butcher and self-taught chef, and Cameron Ratliff, teacher and self-taught biscuit maker, worked with former owner and mill town visionary Mac Jordan to begin a new life for the convenience store and gas station that had served the community for several years.
They imagined a spot where a village could gather for food, drink and provisions, run by folks whose varied backgrounds have each taught them they can influence their world by collaborating with their neighbors.
They hoped to serve the residents of Saxapahaw with a range of products that could allow everyone to feel welcome.
They wanted to be stewards of local foods, good wine and beer, nutritious snacks, and eco-conscious dry goods, and they hoped to participate in a new kind of local economy that would strengthen fellow small businesses, promote conscious farming, and become part of a network of small communities finding a better way to live and to do business together.
Pursuing this mission turned out to be about much more than selling food. The next several years would find them watching—and participating—as the old mill, whose bricks were crumbling and whose beams sagged around the edges, was bought by new investors and restored carefully into a Ballroom, a pub, and a series of high-end residences. The spaces, ever tinged with their former selves, have become—once again—a village center.
With the burgeoning economy, and some new residents, came change. Other businesses joined the village and seek to make their place in the community. Relationships were born alongside these enterprises, in this place whose identity is at once well-established and brand new again—and whose people are at once fiercely independent and striving to work together.
Amid all that change, Cameron, Jeff and the store staff were challenged to invent, and renew, their business and their roles in the community as they pursued their mission. Today, their store is thriving more than ever—and their original mission continues to drive their work.
Now, Cameron’s biscuits are one among many of the goods baked at the Saxapahaw Village Bakehouse, as what was once her tiny operation has grown and taken residence in the kitchen of the village pub. The general store now buys breads and pastries fresh from those talented bakers each day.
Jeff still buys consciously raised whole animals and fish for use in the kitchen, using his knowledge as a butcher creatively to create dishes from a variety of cuts of meats and fish. Soon he’ll be joined in the village by another butcher and former staff member, who plans to open a butcher shop next door within the year.
The general store staff now cater from their store, where they prepare to host guests at Haw River Ballroom’s weddings and private events. They also take a limited number of off-site clients each year, along with providing frequent orders for pick-up and delivery.
Recently, the general store began a lunch program for students next door at the Hawbridge School, a public charter school for middle and high school students. They provide nourishing, balanced, locally-sourced meals, delivered each week to students in the program.
The general store has a host of plans for deepening the work toward their mission in the coming months and years; meanwhile, the staff invite guests to join them for an experience in one of the nation’s only gastro-petro-village markets!