There is a dreamy quality that I note as I slowly round the curve and see the home where Uncle Junior, Aunt Nell, and Carolyn Sue lived when I was a child. I slow down even more for the beginning of the bottom part of the S curve in front of THE store. We always called it THE store. I've passed THE store all my life, and most of the time I have stopped even when it has been closed.
It has, in fact, been closed for years. I park in front and immediately look to the right of the store for Aunt Margie’s and Uncle Vanderbilt Cole’s house – I momentarily forget that it and they are gone. Aunt Kate and Robert Fred Cole’s house is still on the hill; but they are gone too. (One or more of the four previously mentioned ran the store most of their lives.) Their only daughter, Barbara, is gone too. Her only daughter, Sheila, and I have shared many wonderful stories about her grandparents and great grandparents running the store.
I remember walking to the store before Daddy came home in the afternoons so I could meet him there; he stopped almost every day. He would buy me a coke and peanuts; I would pour the peanuts in the coke. Robert Fred would say I could have "just one piece of candy" out of the candy case. It was such a tough decision: orange slices, fireballs, lemon drops, orange marsh mellow peanuts, chocolate kisses, or chocolate covered peanuts!
I look further west to see if I can see any part of our five generation Cole family home. It is now deserted and probably past repair, but the white lap siding typical L shaped 1900's home still brings back so many memories. I (Marcia Cole) lived there until I was 8 or 9. My dad (Bethel "Beck" Cole and wife, Alberta) lived there, his dad (Robert Washington Cole and Callie) lived there, and his dad's dad (Dr. Phylander Sylvester Cole and wife, Sarah) lived there and many cousins and others after that! My grandfather and grandmother, Robert W Cole and Callie Bates Cole, children all lived there: Lillian Cole (Winchester), Isabell Cole (McDonald), William Billy Cole, L B Lonzo Bethel Cole (Beck), Robert W Cole JR. (Their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren recently gathered at Cole Store for a reunion.)
Further west I can see where the road curves left. Just before that left is where my mom's (Alberta Gibson Cole) mother and father lived, Jim and Dona Gibson. Their home is gone now and a newer home is there. Their children were Lola Gibson, Alberta Gibson, Alene Gibson, Nelda Gibson, and Reba Gibson. Their children recently met to honor Reba Gibson; the other aunts are gone. Another cousin lives there now.
When I arrived at the store, I was by myself. No one except the previous owner of the store, the attorney, and the court house clerks knew that I was even in town. I drove up in front of the store and parked so I had a full view of store porch and the old home place. I was almost home. I felt calm and very happy.
My close friends and sisters who all advised against this effort (but knew that it was going up for auction)came to the store one by one because they knew I was obsessed. They knew I could not let my great grandfather’s Cole’s Store go to someone outside of the family. Dr. Phylander Sylvester Cole, my great grandfather, established the store. It has been his doctor's office; a post office; a place for marriages by a family justice of the peace; a bus stop; a polling place, a source for hunting and fishing license, gas and coal oil; a general store; gas station; and a community gathering place!
One friend put it this way "What kind of financial decision is it to buy a rundown store in the middle of nowhere?" Of course, it was not a financial decision – it was a HEART decision. Both sides of my family were born and lived in this beautiful area. I’ve been to all continents except the cold one, and the best place to be is in Putnam County, TN.
I was really fortunate to have Paul Shannon Winchester as a contractor for the store; joist had to be replaced as well as some floors, exterior, electricity, plumbing, etc. This store was his great, great grandfather's, so it was a special project for him too!
It would not be open if it weren’t for neighbors and friends. My family and friends have been helping me for months as well as complete strangers. The 1950’s range, cookware, the refrigerator, tables, chairs, air conditioner, vacuum cleaner, mini-museum antique collections, objects on the wall, etc. have all been donated or bought at a minimal costs because the community wants the store to be open! There are a group of Baxter boys (men) and Cole Store Community boys (men) and several local women who help on a weekly basis or we could not be open! Thank you all!!!!
Every person who enters the door is so happy - Every day we hear from 30 – 95 year olds say "I love this store – I use to come in here as a child." "I use to get baloney and crackers from Robert Fred. " "Aunt Kate was the sweetest woman." "Aunt Margie would always say – is that all?" "Joe Stout had those arrow heads…and fishing stuff" ‘Sue made great pizza." "Bunny and Earl sold worms, mill worms, and night crawlers." "The Garrison's were friendly people."
After Robert Fred Cole passed, Aunt Kate leased the store to Joe and Sue Stout, who ran a fantastic business here for years. Joe and Sue were also like family to me when I was young. Sue recently brought in the original coffee grinder from the store. After Joe and Sue retired, Bunny and Earl Baker ran the store and the Garrisons for several years. Bunny was just in the store a week or so ago.
Fortunately, David Jared, my hero, had saved the original exterior signs and brought them back to the store !
People come by, sit a while, and have a coke in a bottle with peanuts, moon pie, a piece of candy, baloney and crackers, a plate lunch, or a home made desert with Blue Bell ice cream.
The store would not be opened if it were not for the God send Tish Herald. She is manager and chef. Tish Herald's grandparents ran two grocery stores in Baxter; she knows what she is doing! Everywhere I go, someone mentions her cornbread or meatloaf! She is there to meet and greet you with a beautiful smile and good lunches! You may wish to call for reservations for the private side room that holds 20 - I use to call it the feed room ! The room held feed sacks, flower sacks, plow pints, nails, tools, etc back in the day.
We hope to have had a little pickin’ and grinin’ by local Monterey and Baxter boys and plan to have more when the weather cools!
Our goal is to offer the community an opportunity to experience a kind, warm, and friendly atmosphere similar to the original Cole Store that I remember in the 1950s; the store was established in early 1900s. In addition, we strive to serve good country food at a reasonable price.
We like to ‘buy local’ so we feature gifts of pottery by the local potter, Jay Frankenfield.
We also have some antiques and vintage items like blue mason jars and lids, juicers, scales, dishes, etc.
Cole Store is located on Highway 70 west of Baxter and Cookeville, TN, east of Carthage, TN and within a few minutes of Granville, TN on old highway 70 N between Cookeville, TN and Chestnut Mound, TN . The store is on the left in the curve just before the turn for highway 96 towards Granville
Just a note about Alberta Cole’s autograph quilt - In the 40s and 50s each woman attending the quilting gathering brought squares that she embroidered and pieced representing her family. The family member signed their own signature. This quilt was displayed for cousins and class because several people had family members names on there. Aunt Kate’s name and her daughter, Barbara is there - Aunt Kate ran the store for years ! My mom and my name is on there. Come to the store and LOOK FOR YOUR FAMILY on the quilt.