The Leadership Team and Employee Owners of the Mast General Store are proud to announce the opening of the Mast Store's newest "old" location in Summer 2011. The historic Lourie's Building on Main Street, built in 1884, will soon be home to the North Carolina-based retailer, which started in 1883 in the rural community of Valle Crucis.

'Our team is now focusing its attention on the needed historic restorations, the floor plan to create our fixturing, and developing our product and staffing mix for Columbia,' said Fred Martin, vice president of operations for Mast Store.

'We appreciate the many people who helped provide information and showed us the many attractive assets in Columbia,' continued Martin. 'Amy Stone, retail recruitment specialist, and Matt Kennell of City Center Partnership were particularly helpful.'

Others who provided assistance include the Mayor's office, the City Council, Jim Gambrell and the City Manager's team, Tom and Jeff Prioreschi of Capitol Places, and Richland County.

'We have been overwhelmed by well wishers and supporters from the Greater Columbia area. These words of encouragement are reinforcing our decision to join the long-time merchants and those embracing new opportunities on Main Street. The downtown area is the heart and soul of the community,' said Martin, 'and it is great to see Columbia revitalizing its historic stature.'

The Mast General Store is a family of stores located in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Each building is historic in nature and is located along a 'main street.' Merchandise lining the shelves of this employee-owned retailer includes men's and women's traditional clothing, comfortable footwear, cast iron cookware, stoneground grits and jellies, rocking chairs, outdoor and travel gear, and over 500 different varieties of old-fashioned candy.

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The History of The Mast General Store

The Mast General Store was built in 1882 and opened in 1883 by Henry Taylor.

In 1897 half interest in the store was sold to W. W. Mast, part of a pioneer family which settled in the valley. The store was known as the Taylor and Mast General Store until 1913, when Mr. Mast bought out Mr. Taylor's interest in the store.

W. W. and his family stocked all of the items their neighbors might need - from plows to cloth and "Cradles to Caskets," which led to the popular saying, "If you can't buy it here, you don't need it."

In addition to being the community gathering place, the store served many other needs over the years. It provided an office for Dr. Perry, one of Watauga County's first doctors. Wildcrafters brought their roots and herbs in exchange for store credit. In the aftermath of the '40 Flood, mourners gathered there to honor the memory of their lost loved ones.

The Mast family sold the store in 1973 to an Atlanta doctor and an Appalachian State University professor. Around this time, the site was named to the National Register of Historic Places as one of the finest remaining examples of an old country general store.

In November of 1977, the doors were closed, presumably for the winter season, with hopes of reopening in April of 1978. However, plans did not pan out. Many Valle Crucis residents banded together in an effort to save the old store; Exxon even helped with the drive to preserve the landmark.

John and Faye Cooper purchased the Mast Store and reopened it in June of 1980. Since that time the store has regained its reputation as "the store that had everything." The Valle Crucis Post Office reopened in October of 1980, thus giving the Valle back its identity.

The operation has expanded in much that same manner as when W. W. Mast was operating the establishment. In keeping with tradition, each location has its own unique history, preserving the rich heritage of each community.

The Annex was opened in 1982. Built in 1909, the Annex is located just two tenths of a mile from the Original Store in Valle Crucis. This location was once a competing store.

Old Boone Mercantile was opened in 1988; the downtown Boone building was constructed in 1913 and 1917. Its retail history includes The People's Bank, a five and dime, a restaurant, one of the first area radio stations and Hunt's Department Store.

Little Red Schoolhouse, built in 1907, was opened in 1989. This building housed Valle Crucis Academy, with grades one through twelve. The Coopers purchased this building and moved it to its present location.

The Waynesville store was opened in 1991; it was constructed in the 1930s and was an upscale clothier called "The Toggery." It consists of two levels and a mezzanine beautifully adorned with a pressed-tin ceiling.

The Hendersonville location was opened in August 1995. Since its 1905 construction, it has housed a variety of retailers including the Maxwell Fancy Grocery Store, Freeze Drug Store, Potts 5¢ & 10¢, and a ladies' dress shop. Other occupants included Woodmen of the World, a benevolent secret society which held its meetings in the store in the 1920s.

The Asheville store joined the Mast Store family in 1999, and has been a retail landmark in downtown since the mid 40s when it was built by Fain's.

The first location outside North Carolina is located on Main Street in Greenville, SC and opened in March 2003. A retail landmark in downtown since the late 1800s, it is probably best known as the "old Meyers-Arnold," a locally-owned retailer which carried everything from housewares and lingerie to men's shoes and linens. After Meyers-Arnold closed its downtown location, several other retailers including a public market featuring several vignettes and small shops occupied the building.

The latest "old" location, which opened in August of 2006, is in Knoxville, TN downtown on Gay Street. This building was constructed in 1898 after the "Million Dollar Fire" in 1897 and was home to the McNulty Grocery and Dry Goods Co. Other occupants include M. M. Newcomer's Department Store, Knox Dry Goods and White Grocery store.