Sometimes on road trips you stumble upon a real gem, a hidden piece of wonderfulness that you’ll remember for years to come. This trip to Tennessee offered one of those experiences right out of the gate. While passing through Alabama, we stumbled upon the Simmons-Wright General Store in Toomsuba, a location that’s been in business since 1884 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It certainly didn’t disappoint.
The exterior looked just as you’d expect an old general store to look. The sign out front advertised the daily lunch specials and you could see a variety of antiques through the front windows. When you entered the store, you immediately felt like you were taking a step back in time. Antiques, jellies, and plumbing supplies filled the downstairs. The signs were hand written on cardboard, and the owner sat behind the counter talking about the weather and football. The guestbook made of loose leaf paper showed visitors logging in from all over the country. You could smell lunch cooking from somewhere in the back. When we asked to use the restroom, we were given a key to a door outside that they referred to as “the outhouse.” The entire experience was very nostalgic and captivating.
One of my favorite memories from this quick stop was Reba McEntire’s Fancy coming on the radio. Amanda and I immediately locked eyes from across the room and erupted in laughter. That song reflects one of our earliest memories as friends, and it was so funny to see us search the store for one another as soon as the intro began.
The building was a two story establishment with an upstairs filled with antiques. I was simply amazed by the collection of old shoes from as early as the 1920s. There were books, kitchen items, games, records, and even a large collection of 8 track tapes. At one point I looked across the store and realized that we were each in a corner of the shop that was so fitting for our individual personalities. I was inspecting every pair of shoes in the vintage clothing area. Matthew was looking through the old games and records, and Amanda was scanning the old book titles. “How appropriate,” I thought! As silly as it may sound, I stood there for a minute and reveled in the idea of how different we each are, but yet so similar. Sometimes it’s little, minuscule moments like these that really bring light to the things around you.
After making a few loops through the store, I selected a vintage flag mug and made our way to the counter. (I mentioned wanting cool coffee mugs here and since receiving a few cute ones from friends, I think I might start a collection!) It wasn’t quite time for lunch, but the home-cooked food smelled amazing. Matthew got a piece of cornbread and I had a glass of sweet tea. You can’t stop at a place with home-cooking in the south and not get a glass of sweet tea!
The best thing about this stop was that we were searching for the next spot to take a bathroom break. We saw the sign from the interstate and decided to give it a shot, even though it was a 0.9 miles from the interstate. We couldn’t have been happier with the outcome! I think the moral of this story is to take time to “stop and smell the roses.” Sometimes taking a small detour off the beaten path can provide you with an experience you’ll cherish forever. (And tasty cornbread!) Sometimes, it’s doesn’t matter how busy your life is or how big of a hurry you’re in. Taking a minute to explore something out of your ordinary path can become a something that you’ll remember for years to come. It may end up being a bust, but you’ll never know if you don’t try.
Today I challenge you to stop at a new store. Eat at a restaurant you’ve never tried, or take a different route home tonight. You don’t have to be miles from home to try something new. It’s okay to shake things up a bit on a random Thursday. Doing something new and different can be so rewarding and is often what keeps me inspired and motivated. What can you do to mix things up today? Try something different and leave me a comment here with details. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be spectacular, I’ll still be proud of you for trying. What ideas do you have for shaking up the ordinary? I’d love to hear them!
Here’s a post from the archives with a similar message.