Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith
When Stripling’s, the everything-under-one-roof store developed by Ricky and Lisa Hardin, the sausage-making family from Warwick — that south Georgia town where it is best to obey the speed limit — decided to franchise with a Watkinsville address, they wanted just the right family to partner with.
They made the perfect connection with Jimmy and Andrea Camp and their children, Caroline, Jake and Marcus. Their recent grand opening attracted a variety of shoppers and friends.
If anybody can make a friend out of customers, it would be Stripling’s. To begin with, Stripling’s is a modern general store, with a down-home feel and a link to the past. You’ll find popular brands, and you’ll also observe the Stripling’s label on a variety of sauces, pickles, relishes and foodstuffs, including white chocolate pecans, apple butter, pork rub and wild mayhaw jelly.
There are Bulldog Grilling Sauces and a Cajun dish or two. There is everything from Dirt Road barbecue sauce to cornmeal mix; cotton candy and Skittles to marinated mushrooms. Caps, tee shirts, cookbooks, Styrofoam coolers, nuts, beans and cakes.
After taking inventory, I was surprised that there wasn’t any Prince Albert smoking tobacco. Mention of Prince Albert makes you recall the old joke about a colorful character calling the country store in the peak of summer’s heat and asking the proprietor if he had, “Prince Albert in a can.” When the answer was yes, he guffawed, “It is mighty hot this time of the year. Don’t you think you ought to let him out?” Then he hung up.
The wall decorations remind you of the rural past with artifacts like crosscut saws, churns, pitch forks, rakes, and other farm and garden implements. A Coca-Cola aficionado had painted Coke images on a oversized circle saw and created a frame for a rural painting from old Coca-Cola crates. Made you consider that in years past, a man with a garden, a modest income, and a frugal motivation often had spare time in which to explore his creative urge.
Outside there was a row of tractors — Massey Ferguson, Ford, Allis Chalmers and John Deere — to remind us that a lot of back pain was alleviated with the coming of the industrial revolution. A man named Cledus Jones of Monroe had barbecued a pig. He carved with a sharp knife. Only thing sharper was his wit.
“Spell your name,” he was asked.
“What for?” he replied.
“Might go in the paper,” he was told.
“Won’t matter,” he deadpanned. “Nobody gonna read it but you.”
Located next to him was Katie Davis Terrell and her father, Tommy Davis, who were selling their tasty recipe sauce, which they have named, “Dirt Road Sauce.” It gets my vote as the best BBQ sauce I’ve tasted in a long while. If you try it, you are sure to like it.
People came from all points in northeast Georgia, but the one who got the prize for coming the longest distance was Tiffany Froy, a Georgia graduate anchored in Chicago where she is moving on up in an advertising career, enjoying the Windy City but always pining for Bulldog football, barbecue, and a conversation where one or more speak with a Southern drawl. “I like my work,” she smiled. “I enjoy Chicago, but it would be nice if Stripling’s opened a general store there. That would make my day!”
A lady named Jill Crews was setting out samples from “Dirt Road Gourmet” of Eclectic, Ala., a business which has prospered from the marketing of casseroles. It was nice to sample a wide selection of dishes and go back for seconds.
Stripling’s bills itself as a general store, and there is plenty of evidence to support their claim. That and the fact that a visit to Stripling’s gives you the comforting feeling that inevitably arises when you are reminded about by-gone days, which is why so many people flock to Stripling’s address.
Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.