General store showcases local goods, kettle corn

General store showcases local goods, kettle corn

November 28th, 2009 by Amy Williams in Business Around the Region

Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell Jim Hornady weighs coffee beans with a scale built in 1915 at his Old Mill General Store in downtown Chickamauga, Ga.

In the old days, grandmothers made brownies, the farmer down the road milked the cow and the local blacksmith made hammers and nails, and all these things could be found for sale at the local general store.

Jim Hornady and business partners Monty Daggett and Mike Proctor paint this picture when they talk about their venture, the Old Mill General Store in Chickamauga, Ga.

"In 1940, you went to the local general store in your community and that's where you bought everything," Mr. Proctor said.

From old-time apple pressers to a cheese cutter from the early 1900s, the newly opened Old Mill General Store has memorabilia from another time in American history.

The store celebrated its grand opening last week, and its owners plan for it to be a showcase for locally made products, including Stone Cup coffee, Sweetwater Valley Farms cheeses and chocolate from the Hot Chocolatier in Chattanooga.

But the roots of the store can be traced back to kettle corn.

Mr. Hornady, who describes himself as a cook, started making Old Mill Kettle Corn seven years ago while selling the sweet treats at Rock City's corn maze.

Three years ago he started selling his kettle corn at the Chattanooga Market on Sundays. The kettle corn became so popular that Old Mill General Store was born as a way to sell it and other locally made products.

People may know the kettle corn operation by its signature bang, which Mr. Hornady said is actually done to get the corn off the bottom of the steel kettle to make sure it doesn't burn. The kettle corn now is among the top sellers at the Sunday market.

Through the store, Mr. Hornady is able to see young people enjoy a time in history they wouldn't get to experience otherwise. The other day he helped a group of young boys pop the caps off their sodas with his old glass bottle Coca-Cola machine.

"It's like stepping back in time," he said. "You hear them saying, 'Wow, that was fun.'"

But the business plan Mr. Hornady and his partners have in mind doesn't stop with the storefront. The trio plans to continue expanding the wholesale and distribution part of the business.

The owners shipped 37 cases of Old Mill Kettle Corn to 7-11 stores in the Midwest last week and they already have an agreement to sell the sweet popcorn in Chattanooga's Earth Fare store that opens in December.

"Our ultimate goal is to ship our distribution business nationwide," Mr. Hornady said.

ON THE WEB

www.oldmillgeneralstorellc.com

IF YOU GO

Santa at Old Mill General Store in Chickamauga: Saturdays until Christmas from 1-5 p.m.; Thursdays, 5-8 p.m.