My wife and I had been talking about a trip to the mountains of Western North Carolina and Southern Virginia for close to a year. We had several goals; to spend a few days in a cabin in the mountains, to see the fall foliage, to visit with family in Southern Virginia, and to meet Gerald and Minnie Johnson. So, in October, 2006, we made our journey.
Gerald and I met on the Internet and had been emailing each other fairly regularly for five or six years. He had been a tremendous help to me when I was working on the restoration of my first Williams grist mill. So, I really wanted to meet him face to face. He had just finished building and opening his Blue Ridge General Store and had kept me posted as he had progressed. So, I really wanted to see it too. Finally, on Thursday, October 19, 2006, about 10:30 in the morning, we drove up to his store.
Stepping out of our car was like stepping back into time. Gerald met us with a handshake and it was just like we had known each other all of our lives. We went into the store and met Minnie. We sat down around the pot bellied stove, never lacking for conversation. My wife, Cynthia, and Minnie became instant friends. Customers came in from time to time and joined right in. Minnie fixed us a delicious lunch.
Gerald told us all about the store and how it had been a long time dream of his. The store is well stocked with essentials as well as many specialty items.
Many of the items offered as well as gift baskets can be bought online by clicking
While Cynthia and Minnie visited, Gerald and I went outside to see some of his antique equipment. Among his collection was this shingle mill. He also has grist mills, engines, an apple press, lots and lots of antique signs, and much more. Much of his collection is used at his church's annual
As I mentioned earlier, one of our goals was to see the fall foliage. We had tried foliage trips several other times in the past but we always seemed to just miss the peak by a week too early or a week too late. This time we hit it just right. Gerald told us that this was as good as or better than he had ever seen it. I can believe it. The images are literally burnt into our minds. This picture is of a ridge of trees just across the street from the store. As beautiful as it is, this picture doesn't do the colors justice. Also seen in this picture is one of the many Christmas tree plantations that dot the mountains.
We were really sad to have to leave, fearing that we may never see each other again. Thanks Gerald and Minnie for a moment in time that we will never forget.