By DENNIS SEID
MARIETTA – Tim and Pam Long stepped back in time and brought some of it back.
The Longs opened Dixie Country Store on Saturday, selling 25-cent Coca-Colas, 10-cent coffee, 3-cent candy and 39-cent hand-dipped Blue Bell ice cream to the wonderment and delight of many.
But while the prices were only temporary, the store will be open on Saturdays from here on out.
Owning a store like this is a dream Tim has chased for years.
“I was raised up in the soft drink business, and my dad ran a route truck and that’s where I was first exposed to the old country stores,” he said. “I guess that’s where my passion started, and I always wanted one.
“Thanks to a supportive wife, I was able to make the dream come true.”
In a nod to the past, barrels of penny-candy sit on the wood floor, and on sale in glass cases and jars are old favorites like Red Hots, Pixy Stix, Cracker Jacks, Belly Washers, candy cigarettes, Gold Mine and much more.
Favorite sodas, still produced by a handful of bottlers in the U.S., are sold at the store as well. Brands and names like RC, Double Cola, Nehi, Grapette, Nesbitt, Frostie root beer, Big Red, Bubble Up, Fanta, Crush and others can be bought off the shelf hot or cold. Familiar standbys like Coke and Dr Pepper also are available.
All told, more than two dozen sodas are carried at the store.
“And they’re all made with cane sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup,” Tim said.
The Longs opened Dixie Country Store in what had been Smith’s Store from 1939 to 1992. Buster and Ozell Smith owned and operated the store in Itawamba County, selling gas and groceries to the Ozark, Houston and Kirkville communities. The building also was their home – their sleeping quarters and kitchen were attached to the store.
The Longs bought the building earlier this year and spent the last few months renovating.
When the store was built, it sat on what had been the original Highway 363. The road was paved and expanded in 1957, and the store was moved back off the road to its current location.
The store was also a Lion gas station back in the day and later a Pure gas station, and while the original pumps are long gone, the Longs have put a non-working vintage gas pump in the front of the store. They have no plans to sell gas, however.
Back inside the store, in addition to classic favorites, the Longs have some typical convenience store items for sale, too, including laundry detergent, dish detergent, motor oil, coolant, washer fluid and toiletry items.
Chips, sunflower seeds, cookies, crackers, cereal, snack cakes are sold as well.
“We figured we should have some other things people wanted to buy in here as well, not just a lot of old stuff,” Tim said with a laugh.
The customers for the store will include the nearby communities, but the Longs also hope to pull some curious visitors off the Natchez Trace, which is less than 3 miles away.
“We’re hoping to pull a few people who might like to shop at an old country store like ours,” Tim said with a smile.
Everywhere a sign
A store like this wouldn’t have that feel without vintage signs, and the Longs don’t have a shortage of them. They brought with them pieces of their vast collection, along with other antique, vintage and collectible items to complement the nostalgic feel of the store.
“I started collecting them when I was about 24,” Tim said. “I bought an O.K. Used Cars thermometer, and that’s when it all started. When I worked with my dad, we used to throw all this stuff away.”
A favorite of Tim’s is what he calls a “three-way” sign that appeals to many. It’s a Greyhound bus sign that also includes Coca-Cola and Elvis.
He also likes to collect items with local and Mississippi ties, like Southland, White Rose, Reed Bros. Dairy, J.J. Rogers and Southern Belle. Many are on display at the store – but not for sale.
But what is for sale is the candy, soda, snacks and other merchandise the Longs bought to stock the store.
“No, we’re not going to get rich on this, though my granddaughter thinks we will,” Pam said with a laugh.
The store is a nod to the past – and a future the Longs hope to share with the community for a long time.
“We really like it out here, and we’d like to find a place out here to live as well,” Tim said. “And we’re just happy to be able to bring back a piece of history back to the community.”
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