Steady line of diners greets opening of history-rich store

Back in the 1950s, Richard Goolsby’s parents ran a general store out in middle-of-nowhere Lincoln County, in a section near Lincolnton where dirt roads and dense forests formed the backdrop of daily life.

The store was on Bartram Trail, the winding path taken by the famed naturalist as he tramped the wilds of the Southeast in the early 1800s and cataloged the species of flora and fauna. It’s just one link with history that the Goolsbys like to maintain.

“There were a lot of sawmills that operated in Lincolnton then,” Goolsby said. “They would come in on Saturdays and buy all of their supplies. We’d always cook something just for fun, and of course it was free. Everybody would eat and visit and there was just a connection with home and food, family and the public.

“There’s an age group that comes in,” Goolsby said. “And because that store has been there since before the road was paved, I find people who remember my dad.”

It’s the same for Goolsby, who continues to operate the original store location as a Southern cooking restaurant simply called Goolsby’s Store.

“Every time I come to work it takes me back,” he said. Goolsby will tell you that his recipes came out of the generations-old oral traditions of the old rural Georgia residents he grew up around.

“I use a lot of those old tricks,” he said. The hoecake recipe in particular came almost straight out of the fields. “They would take a regular garden hoe and wash it off with stream water and take the mixture and put it on it and sit it in the fire and cook it,” he said. “You wouldn’t use an egg in those days because an egg was too important. You wouldn’t waste an egg just on bread.”

Goolsby owns a second location dedicated to seafood out in Pollard’s Corner and now has opened a third location, with a menu straight from the original eatery, in Evans on Washington Road. Open just four weeks and only for lunch, already the line for this country cafeteria trickles out the door.

“It’s about the food,” Goolsby said, simply. He said that while getting into the restaurant business was an accident, the food remains the focus.

“I was doing barbecue chicken in 1980 on Saturdays in a building behind the store just because I wanted to do it,” he said. But out that way, there wasn’t much for a working man to choose from, and the lumber and construction crews looked for two things in their meals: filling and familiar. “Guys working on the crews would say, ‘Well, we’re here for a week. What else do you have?’ We just started adding things as we went along.”

Goolsby said he didn’t know much about the restaurant business, and he’s still learning. But he quotes The Donald, which means he’s on his way. “Donald Trump said, ‘Brand yourself and toot your own horn,’” Goolsby said.

He gets it right. When Augusta residents heard that Goolsby’s Store was opening in Evans, witnesses say you could catch them with their noses pressed against the front glass and a little bit of drool on their chins. Goolsby said the response has been “fabulous.”

“We were warned that we would be rushed with people,” he laughed. And they knew they’d have to up their game.

“This is a different public than Lincolnton. In Lincolnton, if you know a guy who owns a place and you get something that’s a little off, you know it’ll be fixed next time. Down here, we don’t have that luxury. We want it to be perfect, but it has to be perfect.”

So they bring their A-game to the country-fried pork loin, barbecue chicken, hickory smoked pork loin and Southern-fried chicken tenders. Hard work goes into collards, macaroni and cheese, creamed corn, candied yams, cabbage and okra, corn and tomatoes. The family chooses to serve only the things that they can do better than anyone else around and that no one else offers. You’ll never see meatloaf on their menu, Goolsby said, until he can make one that truly knocks your grandma’s socks off. That’s because he’s passionate about giving the public the best of what he has to offer. It’s a formula that he, his wife, Carol, and their two children have worked long and hard to perfect.

“Passion is what makes you keep doing something that’s not working. If intelligence was running the show, you’d quit. Passion keeps you in it long enough to make it really something,” he said.

Goolsby’s Store is located at 4460 Washington Road, Evans. They are open only for lunch, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., but will add evening hours soon. Call 706-651-7345.

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