Wednesday, December 19, 2007

One Stop Shopping in Donaldson.

In big cities, you have Wal-Mart Supercenters. In smaller towns, you'll find Fred's or Family Dollar or Dollar General.

But in Donaldson, you'll find the Donaldson Country Store.

Highway 67 bypasses this little section of life with an overpass that takes drivers over the rail line. Most of downtown Donaldson has dried up... but there's still this little bit of life along the trackfront.

Good thing, too. This handy store has more stuff than you can imagine.

Walking in on a December Wednesday, I noticed a pack of regulars sitting at a table at the far end of the store. They nodded my direction, and went back to their conversation. I asked for permission to take pictures, and got a chuckle and a sure! go ahead!.

Within the store's aisles, you'll find all sorts of neat stuff. Paper products and Brillo pads share an aisle with car necessities. A big bin of nails and screws anchors the west wall. Nearby, all sorts of handled instruments, including gigantic snow shovels (in Arkansas?), rakes, and brooms.

Aisles bear yard signs, flour, and plumbing odds and ends in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I passed from aisle to aisle, gathering in the view of a fine spread of items you might find at a well-equipped mega-store. There might not be all that many of each item on display, but the variety was compelling.

I even managed to find galoshes... big overboots to wear in mud. They shared an endcap with gloves, machetes, axes, insect repellent, and flashlights.

Above the ice cream freezer and cola fridge, there's a brag board, featuring many of the local deer hunting heroes with their prize kills. Picture after picture taped up to the wall, featuring a guy or gal with his trophy, proudly seated in the back of his truck, complete with name and date.

Talk about one stop shopping. In addition to the wide variety of items for sale, the Donaldson Country Store also sports a proper lunch counter, complete with fine selection of lunch meats and a daily special. The store is open for breakfast and lunch, with a complete compliment of Southern staples.

The meats and cheeses are displayed with honor, the bologna and turkey and ham all properly and tightly sealed with plastic wrap, accessorized with fake ivy and cutting boards.

The eating experience isn't limited to sandwiches and biscuits, though. On each table, there's a bottle of ketchup, a bottle of hot sauce, and something I haven't seen much of around -- pickled okra. Free for the munchin' with your choice of the day. I saw several of the regulars knoshing on the tart, slimy wonders while I was there.

I was very surprised to see, featured next to the Karo syrup and local favorite Autrey's honey -- something out of my childhood. I remember my grandfather soaking biscuits in Johnnie Fair syrup and a bit of margarine, and the sight of the syrup here sparked the memory.

To get to the Donaldson Country Store, take Highway 67 to Highway 51 in Donaldson and head east. Turn left after you cross the railroad tracks. It will be on your right.

A couple more interesting notes -- though the street is a ways over, there's a stop sign at the corner of the store. No good explanation for that at all.

And there's one item outside the store that's a rare and dying breed -- an actual pay telephone. Seeing it here reminded me of how few I've seen lately.

Catch this story, along with other Tie Dye Travels, on by listening to the Tie Dye Travels podcast.

UPDATE 9/5/17.  I HAVE TO GO BACK. I just looked this place up, certain it'd probably have gone under. Au contraire. The store's thriving - and it now celebrates its hardware store status. Go take a look at the Facebook page. The "about" states:

Hardware, plumbing, groceries, gas, diesel and the best darn burgers you'll ever eat in a hardware store. Open 6am M -S / 8 am Sunday.

And there's a photo of apple cobbler from a few days ago... oh man, when do they open?

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