816 Sidney Ave. Burlington, NC 27217, (336) 570-0906
Though suburban sprawl, new construction and this overarching need to have a Michael’s, Best Buy and Ross store right beside each other in every town across the U.S.A. is doing a great job wiping away every man-made manifestation of why I love North Carolina, some pockets of resistance remain. One such pocket is in Alamance County, especially the Hwy 87 corridor that blazes through Graham and Burlington. Driving this stretch of two lane highway alleves me of the daily anxiety of “do I live in North Carolina anymore?” Store buildings from my childhood still stand, some empty, others refurbished into new incarnations (Example, an old machine shop in this area is now painted with the colors of the Mexican flag on every side of the building, with the letters, “Furniture” written over said flag). When I am lucky, I find the original building, and the original store, welcoming customers today.
The Midway Variety Store is an example of my luck. A real Variety Store, run by the Hayes family, and in business since 1949. The store is one block off of Hwy 87, but you can see it as you drive on the highway. It is part of a one block commercial building that was most likely built to serve the workers in the Hosiery Mill a few blocks behind it, whom lived in the blocks and blocks of mill houses that permeate the area.
You may not even remember what a Variety Store is. This is where you buy “novelties” and “notions” and a little bit of everything else. This is the old “5 and Dime,” but not a chain like Woolworth’s, just one store, still eager to serve.
I stopped in just to see what I might be interested in. I left with a cardboard decoration, one of a pumpkin, to put on the front door in October, and one of a turkey, to put on the front door in November (I’ll need to go back around Thanksgiving to purchase something for December). I also purchased a pack of Sauer’s Food Coloring/Egg Dye, in the packaging (Red, Blue, Green and Yellow Dots) I remember from coloring Easter eggs 25 years ago. Before paying, I nabbed a pack of jack-o-lantern Peeps and a Cheerwine (a bottled Cheerwine, made with real sugar).
I could have purchased stationary, knick knacks, sewing supplies, hardware, enough grocery selection to get me through a week, a pocketknife, Halloween costumes (the ones in the shoebox, from 1978, Snoopy and a clown were still available), fishing tackle, pine cones and forms to make a wreath, a wash tub to do my laundry out in the yard and some birthday cards. I did not that day, but I think I might do so soon.
I don’t care how far you live from the Midway, make a trip and shop there. I’ll go with you if you’d like.