By Harley Nefe
Ashe County and the community of Todd lost a historical landmark Thursday night as the Todd General Store, established in 1914, was a total loss due to a fire.
The Todd Volunteer Fire Department and surrounding fire departments responded to the flames around 10 p.m. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, and no one was injured.
The 107-year-old, three-story building is a property in the Todd Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Todd General Store has changed owners several times through the years, but it was the oldest operating store in Ashe County and one of the oldest operating general stores in North Carolina.
Originally known as the Cook Brothers General Store, the building was built by Walter and Monroe Cook in anticipation for the arrival of the Northfolk and Western Virginia Creeper railroad. The train traveled from Abingdon, Virginia to Todd’s Elkland Station twice daily.
At the time, the general store carried a wide variety of merchandise, clothing, shoes, hardware, food and more to serve the growing community.
Walter then bought out his brother’s interest in 1917 and continued to operate the business as the W.G. Cook Store. Walter was the owner of the store for 43 years.
The railroad stopped running to Todd between 1933 and 1936, which coincided with the Great Depression. The general store was one of the only stores in the area that survived the Great Depression.
Walter eventually sold the store to Kenny Goodman, who renamed it Goodman’s Grocery. Goodman ran the business for 20 more years before also selling it. The store then saw a change of hands a few more times.
Bob Peet bought it from Goodman and gave it the name it still has today, Todd General Store. Peet sold it to Al and Carol Shelly, who ran it for a couple of years before selling it to Dennis and Alice Dent, who operated it for another two years.
In 1985, Joe and Sheila Morgan purchased the store and operated it for 17 years. They undertook structural repairs to the building, including building bathrooms, introducing running water, a septic system and a new parking lot. Under the Morgan’s, the store operated year round.
In 2003, Robert and Virginia Mann purchased the store and made even more repairs and updates to the historic location. The updates provided more space for the audiences of the musical events and cultural events that took place at the store, and even added a new wooden back deck.
The store then closed in 2016 until its current owners came across the building in December 2018.
Matt and Andréa Connell are the owners of Todd’s General Store, and their goal for the store was to serve the local community, which brings it back to the original intention of when it opened in 1914.
A GoFundMe has been started to help support the Connells during this time. A link can be found here.
The Todd General Store was located 10 miles south of West Jefferson and 11 miles north of Boone, off Hwy 194 at 3866 Todd Railroad Grade Rd.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
Photos of the fire below are by Sheri Wilder and Renata Dos Santos from RiverGirl Fishing Co. and are being used with permission. RiverGirl Fishing Co. is located down the road from the Todd General Store.
Photos of the fire below are by John Lee and are being used with permission.