The Ocracoke Community Store has a grand reopening
By SUNDAE HORN
After being closed for more than two years, the Community Store was
open for business on the first day of May. Recently leased by Ocracoke
residents Susan and James Paul, the historic waterfront building is
once again stocked with groceries, produce, beer, wine, and sundries.
Ocracoke residents were eagerly anticipating the re-opening.
“When I got here to open at 6 a.m., Lydia Frieda and Grace were waiting in the parking lot,” said Susan Paul.
Leonard Conover was also there, and proudly asserts he was the first customer in the door.
“Yes, he was the first one in,” Paul confirmed with a
laugh. “But Shane Bryan beat him to the check-out counter.”
The Community Store was established in 1918 by Amasa “Mace”
Fulcher. Mace sold groceries (including tubs of lard and barrels of
molasses), dishes, pots and pans, candy, bolts of fabric, hardware,
underwear, and shoes. Back in the warehouse, Mace even kept a casket or
two in stock for the sad occasion when one was needed.
The Community Store was more than a well-stocked mercantile. It was
also a gathering place for Ocracokers. The front porch became a popular
sitting spot, where the old men would tell tall tales as they whittled
and rocked. As Ocracoke was discovered by tourists, so was the
Community Store, and it became equally as popular with visitors as it
was with locals.
Although the store changed hands several times (and was even torn down
and replaced in the early 1950s), it was always the heart of the creek
side of Ocracoke. A chalkboard on the porch reported island births and
birthdays, and a bulletin board provided other useful information. The
inventory changed to reflect the new Ocracoke (sunscreen and beach toys
replaced caskets and underwear), but the Community Store retained its
old-timey feel with its time-worn wood floors and pot-bellied stove.
When the Community Store went out of business in March, 2006,
Ocracokers were hopeful that someone would decide to reopen the store.
They had to wait for more than two years, but now the store has finally
found new life with James and Susan Paul as proprietors.
The Pauls have made several changes to the layout of the store’s
interior, but they kept the country-store atmosphere. They moved the
check-out counter and built more wooden shelves. They’ve added a
coffee machine and fountain drinks, and a large produce display. In
keeping with the store’s old-fashioned style, there are gingham
curtains and large ceiling fans, glass jars of candy and bushel baskets
Paul said she was very happy with the first day’s business. She
welcomed suggestions from customers about items the Community Store
should carry and ended up with five pages of requests. Each was met
with a cheerful “We’ll try to get it!” and a promise
that more groceries would arrive the following week.
Peggy O’Neal was one of the day’s first customers.
“I’ve been trading here about 50 years,” she said. “Since I was first married.”
Peggy grew up on Ocracoke and can remember visiting the store when she
was a girl. She says she’s very happy about the reopening and has
been there twice a day since May 1.
“We missed it. We went there so much. We’re so happy it’s open again,” she said.
David Tolson has been shopping – and hanging out ¬– at the Community Store since he was a kid.
“I was just sitting there on the porch this afternoon thinking
how nice the breeze felt sitting in that rocking chair,” he said.
David is pleased with the changes.
“Susan and James have opened it up, made some space inside. But
they kept the old feel,” he said. “Everyone who goes in
there is just tickled to death.”