By Jesse Wood
John and Faye Cooper, owners of Mast General Store, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past weekend with family, friends, co-workers and members of the High Country community.
The celebration took place in the lobby of the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts. Todd Wright and Andy Page entertained the crowd. Catering and refreshments were provided by Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Lost Province Brewing Co., Reid’s Café & Catering Co. and Red Moon Catering.
Several people spoke at the celebration, including Lisa Cooper, the daughter of John and Faye Cooper.
“I am blessed. If I had a dollar for every time, I was told I was the luckiest child in the world to have [John and Faye] as parents, we could open this theatre this year,” Lisa said. “I am blessed to be following in some pretty big footsteps and am charged and ready to go with the Mast General Store.”
The theatre Lisa was referring to is the Appalachian Theatre in downtown Boone. The historic theatre is currently being restored to its original 1938 art deco design. While the exterior of the project is about complete, plenty of work is left to do on the inside. John Cooper is the chairman of the Appalachian Theater of the High Country.
As is fitting, the wedding celebration turned into a fundraiser for the project. Lisa Cooper noted the tip buckets being passed around and said that the celebration netted $10,000 for the theatre restoration project.
Mary Wood manages the original store in Valle Crucis. Representing the employees across its 10 stores in North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina, Wood presented the Coopers with a photo album.
“The passion for service and community that the Coopers have, they instill and encourage in all of their employees and I am here on behalf of approximately 500 or so to say they all echo that sentiment,” Wood said.
Arriving from St. Petersburg, Fla., John and Faye Cooper purchased the historic store, which had closed down a couple years earlier, in 1979. The Coopers moved upstairs in the original Valle Crucis store while preparing to re-open the store.
“When the doors were flung open on June 3, 1980, there were two rooms filled with merchandise that would serve the local community and even a little that would be of interest to those from afar. Milk, bread, cast iron, feed, chicken scratch, mouse traps, locally-made bonnets, berry baskets, overalls, etc.; it was a long list of a bunch of little things,” according to history on the company’s website.
Just like the original Mast family operated multiple stores in the late 1890s and early 1900s, the Coopers began to operate other stores. Just down the road, the Coopers opened the Mast Store Annex in 1982. Several years later, the Mast Store’s Old Boone Mercantile opened on King Street.
The Boone store is credited with revitalizing King Street and the downtown district of Boone. In 1991, the Town of Waynesville asked Mast General Store to open a store in its downtown. This was the first store to open outside of the High Country.
Today, stores operate in Asheville, Boone, Columbia, S.C., Greenville, S.C., Hendersonville, Knoxville, Tenn., Waynesville, Winston-Salem and Valle Crucis.
The celebration was a bit of a surprise for the Coopers this past weekend. John Cooper spoke lovingly of his family, commended the Mast General Store employees and counted his blessings for being able to live in the High Country.
“We’ve spent three-quarters of our married life in this area and for us that is kind of amazing and it’s been a blessing to know so many people here, having worked with a lot of people on projects who are making this a better area to live,” John Cooper said. “It’s wonderful to be here and this is a special place … I am proud to be a part of this community.”
For more information about the Mast General Store, click here.
Additional comments from Lisa Cooper about the celebration and her parents:
“My children started talking about my parents 5oth two years ago. They wanted to research and catalogue in a book all the things they have been involved with in their 50 years together. The children did an amazing job but there was no way they would have time to find all or the things my parents have touched since they moved to Valle Crucis. I knew in my heart this community would want to celebrate and honor my parents 50th anniversary. The local community really stepped in to help with party. I am so proud of everything my parents have done with community to make Watauga County a better place. It was only natural that the theme of honoring my parents was supporting their current project… The Appalachian Theatre.
“I think back to not long ago when the Doc Watson bench statue was a focus for my Parents. I was so proud when I saw the photo of Doc Watson sitting on the bench. Almost every time I drive by someone is sitting on it and being photographed. The Theatre is another huge community project. I look forward to the day when I can see my parents celebrate the reopening.
“The employees of Mast General Store jumped into supporting the party and campaign. I would not have been able to pull off the big surprise without a team of champions supporting me. The employees have collectively contributed to The Appalachian Theatre a very nice donation to honor my parents.”