Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, The Todd General Store has captured the hearts of both locals and visitors of Ashe County for more than a century.
On Saturday, June 20, the public was invited to attend a grand opening ceremony at the store, which is located at 3866 Todd Railroad Grade Road.
The ceremony lasted all day and a ribbon cutting by the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce also took place.
Members of the UNCTV production crew were present to film interviews and capture the atmosphere of the newly renovated store.
The newest owners of the historic landmark, the Connell family, have been working diligently on extensive renovations to the building and its property.
Matthew and Andréa Connell, along with their two children, Charles and Eleanor, moved to Boone from Richmond, Va., in 2017 after Andréa accepted a job at Appalachian State University teaching ceramics.
Both Matthew and Andréa previously taught full-time at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.
Andréa said she and Matt often thought about what it would be like to have their own business and would frequently drive through Todd and see the building. However, they didn’t start entertaining the idea until they made the move to the area.
The Connells started pursuing the building in December 2018 and bought it in May 2019. They have been working for the past year to get the building to its current state.
Andréa said that between the age of the building and it sitting vacant since its previous closure in 2016, there was a lot to be done.
“There’s a lot more to do, but this is the healthiest the building has felt since we got it,” Andréa said.
She said Matt has done everything from taking down siding to clean out walls, picking up boards to clean out the floors, removing tarps upstairs and opening up the roof.
As far as the renovations go, Matt said “some things you can see and some things you can’t see.”
He completed a lot of the work himself and said he is glad the store is able to experience this shift from renovation to business.
Some of the notable maintenance to the building and its grounds includes the work completed on the kitchen, the foundation, the upgraded electrical system, exposure of older walls and the removal of bars from some of the windows.
Matt said he plans to add seating areas such as booths and horseshoe seating to the store. A section of the main counter will also eventually serve as a diner-style counter where customers can sit and eat.
The building itself received a great deal of community support during the renovation process since its acquisition by the Connells in 2019. In the week leading up to the event, there was a tight knit group of younger people who came in to help Matt and Andréa organize and prepare the space.
During the event on June 20, visitors were able to venture upstairs to the gallery which was previously still under renovation.
Once upstairs, people could walk around to admire the various pieces of artwork while local potter, Millie Goodnight was “throwing pots.” Plans are in order for workshop spaces to be added to the store’s interior for artists.
She is the owner of Goodnight Pottery and she sells her work in Boone and Blowing Rock. Goodnight graduated from ASU the semester that Andréa joined the faculty so they didn’t cross paths at the college. They later connected with each other through the High Country ceramics community.
Although Goodnight doesn’t come to Todd very often, she finds it to be very welcoming.
“They’ve done a lot of work and I think it’s gonna be a great place for people to come gather and do art and collaborate,” Goodnight said.
Items available for customers to purchase during their time at the store include staples such as ice cream, candy and cold bottled drinks. There are also fresh homemade biscuits with pimento cheese, which are a crowd favorite.
Other merchandise include t-shirts, hats, mugs, bottles and bags adorned with a Todd logo to be purchased as souvenirs, as well as handcrafted items such as wreaths and pottery.
Recently ASU graduates Noah Smith and Gabrielle Knight were ringing up customers at the counter and shared some details about the renovation process.
Knight was an art management major, who was one of Andréa’s students and completed her internship at the Todd General Store.
Smith and Knight said that only four days prior to the event the upstairs was full of items and none of the walls were painted. They said the night before the event one of the people who helped complete the renovation process, Elias Goebler, installed the shelving behind the counter.
According to Smith, friends of the Connells, carpenters, contractors and electricians have all contributed to the process of revamping the store.
Thomas Colantuono is another one of Andréa’s students who aided in the renovation process and was helping serve ice cream in the kitchen.
Colantuono noted that the store had changed so much within the week leading up to the ceremony.
“They really put a lot of effort into taking care of the things that they could save,” Colantuono said. “These wood floors took a lot of extra elbow grease. They didn’t cut any corners and it just looks really good.”
The store had a soft opening on July 4, 2019 and was open until Christmas, when they closed the building to begin renovations.
The Todd General Store will be opening the first week of July and the hours of operation will be posted on the website at thetoddgeneralstore.com, as well as the store’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
For more information about The Todd General Store, call (336) 877-2881.