Posted on: February 10, 2022 Posted by: Sarah Giavedoni Comments: 0

Last Updated on April 24, 2023

Here's the scoop on Thompson's Store, the oldest grocery store in NC.

Saluda, NC is an historic Victorian mountain village at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Main Street is full of many distinctive modern shops, art and craft galleries, and delicious restaurants. But there’s one spot that’s nearly as old as the town itself. Walk into Saluda’s century-old grocery store and you get a whiff of oil-stained heart pine floors stirring up memories of times gone by.

Here’s the scoop on Thompson’s Store and other Saluda, NC landmarks.

Experience history at Thompson’s Store in Saluda, NC

According to town records, George L. Thompson began his mercantile business in Saluda in 1890. Since then, the family-owned business has been a staple of the town, occupying its current location on Main Street since 1940. In operation for more than 130 years, Thompson’s Store is the oldest continually run grocery store in North Carolina. Shoppers can still enjoy its beadboard ceilings and the friendly service that locals have come to love.

Today, this old-timey family business sells fresh produce and cheeses, meat market items, gourmet foods, fine wines, local beer, and more. Their full-service meat market includes the famous Charlie’s Sage Sausage, as well as a delicious deli section. New lines of healthy foods and imported foods are added weekly. Thompson’s Store also carries a selection of official Coon Dog Day merchandise, including T-shirts, ball caps, visors, and sweatshirts. The annual town festival—held for nearly 60 years—celebrates the loyal pet used for many years for hunting.

Attached to Thompson’s Store is Ward’s Grill. Since the 1950s, Ward’s Grill has been slinging hearty breakfasts and classic lunches six days a week. Whether you’re looking for a quick snack or a heaping plate of comfort food, Ward’s has you covered.

M.A. Pace’s also keeps up the pace

Oddly enough, Thompson’s isn’t the only historic store in this small town.

M.A. Pace’s traces its history back to 1899 and has retained the look and feel of an older hardware and general store. After the eponymous Pace died, his son, Robert, and the Pace family ran the store until Robert’s death in 2010. In April 2011, the Morgan family, which has been living in Saluda for generations, bought the business. But the Morgans have an older connection to the store, as well. A grandfather, Gen. Benjamin Russell, worked in the store during the 1920s for the original owner.

Today, Pace’s carries staples like bread and milk, but also other essential items for mountain life. Browse the store, and you’ll find everything from local vegetables, jams, and honey to rakes and paint. Original scales and carts are on display to illustrate the long history of the store. The giant old cash register, which Robert Pace used until his passing, sits next to the new one.

Local businesses in Saluda blend the old with the new

At the turn of the 20th century, Saluda was famous for sitting at the top of the Norfolk Southern Railway’s Saluda Grade, the steepest mainline standard gauge railroad line in the country. The town’s train depot was built in 1903 and remained in operation until 1983. Today, the historic depot houses a museum dedicated to the area.

While historic businesses like Thompson’s Store and M.A. Pace’s serve as the foundation for Saluda, other notable restaurants and destination spots help fill out the experience. Locals and visitors alike enjoy the Purple Onion. Since 1998, the location has offered a Mediterranean-themed menu with a regional flare from locally-sourced produce and meats. Another local favorite is the Orchard Inn. Originally built for railroad travelers, the historic bed and breakfast is now a popular spot for weddings. 

Off of Main Street, it’s easy to enjoy all the outdoor adventures the area has to offer. Businesses like Green River Adventures offer guided tours of the area’s many opportunities, which include hiking, road biking, swimming, fishing, camping, zip-lining, and whitewater adventures. Saluda is also within driving distance of national wonders like the Green River Gorge, DuPont State Recreational Forest, and Pisgah National Forest.

Make your own memories from your home in Saluda, NC!

Historic businesses like Thompson's Store and M.A. Pace's serve as the foundation for Saluda, NC

At the turn of the 20th century, Saluda became a favorite mountain destination to escape the sweltering summer heat of lower latitudes. The town was famous for sitting at the top of the Norfolk Southern Railway’s Saluda Grade, the steepest mainline standard gauge railroad line in the country. Since the 1960s, Saluda, NC has experienced a steady growth of people seeking simpler, more peaceful lives. Today, the town of less than 1,000 is home to many artists and craftspeople, and the downtown area is recognized as a National Historic District. A museum is now housed in the 1903 train depot.

Does that sound like the perfect lifestyle for you? Find your dream home in Saluda now!

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