March 29, 2018

Red & White Reopening in 2018 with New Owners


After remaining closed throughout the wintertime, the historic Red & White will reopen for the summer of 2018 with new owners, but locally ingrained roots.

The landmark store originated in 1866 by locals Caleb and Alonzo ("A.J.") Stowe, who established a shop after being released from a Union prison at the end of the Civil War. Looking for a way to help islanders acquire supplies in the post-Civil War years, the former blockade runners constructed an A-frame shop with washed up wood from shipwrecks, and the current grocery store was essentially born.

Originally called “Stowe’s General Store,” the Burrus family venture naturally became a familiar icon for longtime visitors and locals alike, and has remained a fixture in the heart of Hatteras village ever since.

The shop grew with the changes to the island over the next century or so, transforming into the brick building it is today in the 1960s, but it remained the family store it had been for decades, even as it gradually became known as a local historic landmark.

The Red & White traditionally stayed open during the winter months, but it also opened its doors during hurricanes, nor’easters, and other unexpected events when islanders needed supplies the most. This is why it was such a strange sight for Hatteras islanders when the shop closed its doors for the winter of 2017 / 2018, and why many folks worried that like other local icons – like the former Channel Bass Restaurant – the Red & White might quietly disappear.

But the Red & White is expected to reopen in May with new owners. And while this will be the first time in 152 years that the store has had new blood, the Red & White will still have familiar family ties to the community.

The store was officially sold in mid-December, a little more than a year after Matthew tore through Hatteras village. Wes Sigmon is one of the new owners, and has been working hard on getting the property ready for a grand reopening.

And while Wes is new to the Hatteras Island area, he has been working with original owner Allen Burrus, and Wes’ partner Charles Graham has a deep background in the region.

“My partner has been coming to the Outer Banks forever – his mother is an Oden and is from the area, and he’s been going to the store since he was a little kid,” says Wes. “When Mr. Burrus was selling it, which ultimately resulted in us buying it, we were both so excited.”

Wes is handling the day-to-day operations, and he moved to Hatteras village with his family to start working on the shop.

“I had not been to Outer Banks until November, and was introduced to the area and fell in love with it immediately,” he says. “Once I talked my wife and kids into coming, and they said yes, I was onboard fully.”

“What made my decision easy was the history of the store,” he adds. “I knew Mr. Burrus’ family had started it, but didn’t initially know it had actually opened in 1866. The history was pretty amazing to me, and knowing that it’s been there for so long, that was a big part of it.”

“Once I got there, [the area] was gorgeous, even in the winter,” he says. “The people are tremendously nice. There’s not a single person I’ve met down here who was not excited or willing to help in any way, shape or form. And it’s nice to be part of the community, especially when you have two kids.”

The last several months may have seemed quiet for the Red & White, but there’s been ample work behind the scenes.

New coolers and freezers are being installed, as well as new technology which may include an upcoming option for folks to order groceries online.

But despite being freshened up for the 2018 season, the heart of the store will remain the same, with a number of features that longtime patrons are accustomed to.

“The salad bar is still there, and we’ll certainly have a deli with sandwiches to go and meals to go, and hopefully we’ll have barbecue in the store, too,” says Wes. “It will have that convenience factor as well, where people can get a sandwich to go. And we will still have a coffee bar where people can get a cup of coffee before they head out.”

The décor will also pay homage to the roots of the store, and while there will be a slight name change, the Red & White will more or less remain the Red & White.

“We’re calling it the Village Red & White. The front of the store will stay Village Market, but it will still be a Red & White,” says Wes. “Everyone knew it as the Red & White, and we wanted to keep that name so a big part of the history of the store will be kept intact. And many of the store’s decorations will incorporate this history, too.’”

And when it comes to what to stock and have on hand, Wes is reaching out to the folks who know best – the community members who have been going to the Red & White for generations.

“In the next two or three weeks, we hope to have an event where we can invite people to come in, and let us know what they need – like a specific spice for a recipe, or a specific product that they want,” says Wes. “I want the community to be involved and feel like they have some ownership in it, and some say of what’s in the store.”

The Red & White may also expand its reputation as a gathering place, with possible events on the front porch being proposed for the summer season - like live music in the evenings.

In the meantime, folks from all over the country have been peeking into the store to watch the progress, and to see what’s happening at a beloved store they’ve been frequenting for decades.

“I’ve met a gentleman from Toronto checking in on the progress, and I’ve had one lady look in and knock on the glass asking when we were going to open,” says Wes.  “There’s obviously interest in getting it going again.”

Wes hopes to have the store open by May 1 and has been working hard to meet the grand reopening date. True to its roots, the Red & White will be open year-round come winter 2018, which is good news for local residents.

In the meantime, Wes and his crew continue their efforts to get the Red & White looking sharp for its grand re-opening.

“I’m hoping that it will be an essential part of the community, and a store the community can be proud of,” says Wes. “It’s been here since 1866, so it will be OK – we just need to make sure it’s updated, and looks nice, and feels like a place that everyone wants to come into.”

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